Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: December, 2009

Revisiting the Wasteland

The nice thing about good poetry (or any other media) is that even if you don’t completely get it your first time, you can try again and get a little more every time you read it.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
and I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

We cannot peak about the roots and branches under the ground, because all we can see are the broken images and senses that the sun beats down on. Our view is hindered. We know only about the land of the living. And the land of the dead, beneath the red rock (a grave-maker?) is hidden and fearful. The shadow under this rock is different from the shadow at morning (youth) or from the shadow in the evening (old age).

How many poets have written about death? How many times have men and women of genius and insight been terrified by the handful of dust that awaits them?

But, I wonder, why do we look at the shadow?

Why do I look at the shadow striding behind me in the morning? Why do I gaze at it when it’s in front of me (though it is right before my eyes) in the evening? Why would I not, rather, look at the sun?

My shadow (the badge of mortality) is a small thing. It is not a part of me though it is related to me.

I cannot pretend to know exactly what happens under the red rock. I’ve never seen anything more than this heap of broken images, where the sun beats. But I find myself convinced that the sun somehow beats even under the red rock, though I’m not equipped to see it now. The shadow is a scary thing for me, true. But I don’t have that final fear Eliot is trying to express. I think that’s because I’m trying to look at the sun rather than my deepening shadow of morality.

It’s interesting, I think, that this poem was written years before Eliot converted to Christianity. I wonder what it would have said if he had written it after?

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Scar is probably my favorite Disney villain.  Voiced by the amazing Jeremy Irons, he’s got everything a great villain needs.  He’s intelligent, motivated and ruthless.  He knows what he wants and he is willing to do anything to get it.  And, unlike many villains, he’s actually smart enough to pull it off.

But, like all villains, he has a fatal weakness: he doesn’t really want to be king.

How can that be?  That’s what he’s obessed with from the very first scene!  He talks and works for nothing else than becoming king.

But I really think that he doesn’t really want the job.  In fact, I think he doesn’t know what he wants.

To be king means to take responsibility for a kingdom.  It means having your citizens rely on you for their needs.  Scar definitely doesn’t want that; we can see it clearly by the way he runs the kingdom when he finally gets it.  It’s not that he’s unintelligent.  He was wiser than Mufasa, in a lot of ways, and I bet if he had put his mind to it he’d be able to run the kingdom admirably.  Shoot, I wouldn’t be surprised if he improved on Mufasa’s methods.  So why did the kingdom plunge into a depression when he took over?

Because he didn’t want to be king.  I think he wanted what most of us want: vague sense of power, authority and control.

And when he got it, it turned to ash in his mouth.

Scar at the end of the movie, clothed in all his glory, is no happier than Scar at the beginning.  He reached the top, took all the power and control he could, and it did nothing for him.

I wonder, sometimes, what I’m chasing.  Am I chasing a vague sense of control over my life like Scar did?  I hope not.  Because Scar not only lost that control in the end.  It turned on him and tore him apart.

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