There are two films this morning I can’t get out of my mind. One I watched last night on public television. Thanks to PBS, a person can travel the world from their couch. That’s not a bad idea when the globe is struggling with a pandemic and old bones don’t like 12 or 14 hours in airplanes.
The film gave us a picture of a country of castles and churches. Some of the castles were in ruins. Others were tourist destinations with tour directors; one offered frightening theatre meant to scare and enlighten you as you explored the interior. The distant past came alive in these human creations of stone and mortar. One wondered about those who dwelled there; their passions and purpose; their loves and losses. What moved and motivated a castle dweller? What swayed their spirit?
The other gripping church scenes were iconic. It was an old cathedral; constructed in the 13th. or 14th. century. There was a picture of Mary. Just looking at the artist’s rendering of her could create converts to her story. Other time-worn iconic figures, surviving the ravages of time, temperature and treachery, could make a believer out of a viewer. The intensity in those pictures, rendered so long ago, remains!
Increased tourism to Slovakia would fit with our modern mentality of “more is better.” We would want Slovakia to have more trains to carry more tourists to visit more castles and churches to boost the economy and in the process, forget the songs and dances of the past (except for show), the beauty and timelessness of the forests and the mountains, (except as they draw more tourists).
There are those in our society who don’t want us to look to the past. They are afraid we will see things there that were life-giving, but now lost. They are afraid we will see things that needed correction then, and still need correction now. They are afraid we will remember our more intense relationship with the world of living things around us, and relinquish our desire for things and more “stuff.”
They don’t want us to “look up.” They don’t want us to see the sun and the moon and the stars. They don’t want us to see a sacred pattern to the universe with everlasting messages for us. Instead, they offer us material satisfaction and spiritual starvation. As “Don’t Look Up” makes clear, we have a choice, We need to heed what religion and science tell us about our relationship to Creation and the world around us; to falling castles and iconic images; to village life and alpine forests. Two films; one choice; more or enough!