I've been thinking a lot about the Lord's Supper recently, and why I find it increasingly crucial and comforting amidst the manifold discomforts of 21st century life. It has struck me that the Lord's Supper is a bit like time-travel. The weekly eucharistic ritual, enacted by millions of Christians every Sunday, transports us simultaneously to the past, present and future. And each of these modes is beautiful and nourishing.
I sometimes imagine that in heaven, one of the joys of living in eternity will be that we'll have the ability to re-live the best days and best memories from our earthly lives. But I know that in heaven, all these transient things (such as 24-hour periods we once called "days") will be quaint memories compared to the "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" we will be experiencing.
The other night was a Santa Ana Winds night. Southern Californians know what this means. The hot, dry winds come raging down from the high desert, through the San Bernardino mountain passes. They carry dust and debris and the sage-scented shrapnel of the chaparral. They fuel fires and defrock the palms. They howl with glee as they rattle windows and send trash cans tumbling. They tip over semis and send Jacaranda purple blossoms everywhere.
It may be true that “You cannot conquer Time,” but the attempt to conquer it through moment-capturing art and particularly cinema can be quite beautiful. This pretty much sums up Richard Linklater’s "Before" trilogy, his "Boyhood" masterpiece and his just-released "Everybody Wants Some." Linklater is a filmmaker who knows well the powerful potential that cinema has to capture that peculiar, elusive mystery of time.
I think it was Kierkegaard who said that while life is lived forwards, it can only be understood backwards. Certainly most art proves the truth of this statement. While life presses on breathlessly and leaves nary a moment for sense-making, artists are the ones who press pause and rewind, arranging the pieces, plot-points and colors for us in such a way that the full (or fuller) picture is seen.
A professor I admire once said — while discussing the films of Yasujiro Ozu, or maybe it was semiotics (can’t remember) — that watching the sun set can be both a thing of incredible beauty and deep sadness, often simultaneously. I thought of this as I watched Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, which includes a scene of a couple sitting by the sea in Greece, watching the sun slowly dip below the horizon. It’s there, there, there — and then it’s not there. A fleeting flare of arresting orange. Present and then absent. Perhaps the beauty and sadness of a sunset has to do with the fact that it’s the process in nature we humans most identify with. Ours is a context of ephemerality.
Why are rituals such a blessing? Why are they so comforting? Why—after spending 10 days seeing amazing things on another continent—was I so excited to return to the routine rhythms and rituals of my "normal" life back home? Why am I confident that some day, I will go to bed at the same time every night, have the same breakfast cereal every day while watching the same morning show, and love every minute of it?
From the outset of Toy Story 3—where we discover that Andy is going off to college and must either give away, throw away, or relegate his toys to the attic—there is a profound and universal sense of loss. Things change. Nothing is permanent. Everyone grows up and must leave their childhood behind, once and for all.