Thursday, March 07, 2019

Nothing to live for

Apostates routintely glamorize atheism as liberating. That's a transparent way to rationalize apostasy.

On rare occasion, that's a half truth. Some apostates had a rotten religious background, so there's a sense in which apostasy was liberating in relation to the bad religion they put behind them. But while atheism is sometimes liberating for what it's from, it's never liberating for what it's for. 

Of course, many apostates and atheists will dismiss that assessment as Christian propaganda. Which brings me to my next point. Recently, as I was skimming Ross Douthat on Twitter, he drew my attention to an interview with Peter Bogdanovich:

I was mildly curious because he directed The Last Picture Show–which I saw when I was about 12. That's too young to get the point of the film. I watched it again later in life. 

Now, I'm not recommending that you read the interview. Once I got into it I had to decide if I wanted to keep reading it. I had to force myself to finish it.

Aside from the fact that it's saturated with profanity, he led such a tawdry life. And not only him, but the whole social circle he moves in. His life is a great demonstration of a life "emancipated" from any Christian direction or restraint. The same holds true for his social circle. And in that respect it punctures the mystique of a godless life. Theirs is a world in which everyone is faithless in friendship and romance. A social world of unrelieved moral ugliness. A backbiting world without fidelity or forgiveness. No one reading the interview can suppose that he had a happy, satisfying life. 

And that's why The Last Picture Show was such a great movie of its kind. Its rootless, aimless, joyless characters mirror the real world of Bogdanovich and the actors. A trail of broken lives. The Hollywood subculture.

The characters long for something better, but they have no concept of what better would be. They have no perspective beyond this world. They have no ideal of goodness. Nothing to aspire to. Just their insular secular vacuity. 

The movie is successful at that level because it's a projection of the director's worldview. Art is allegorical because art is autobiographical. The insufferable, inescapable claustrophobia of the movie allegorizes the life and soul of the director. 

That's also why, despite his great talent and promise, he made so few outstanding films. You quickly run out of good material when you have such a rancid outlook on life. Trapped in a nautilus shell. Instead of backing out into the fresh air and sunshine, they keep inching inward into an ever more constricted and stifling existence. 

That's why many Romans were attracted to Judaism and later to Christianity. Pagan morality wasn't liberating, but poisonous to the soul. 

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of Hugh Hefner. His parents were Methodists. His mother wanted him to become a missionary.

    It was sad to see him pathetically shuffling with his walking frame just before he died.