Saturday, August 30, 2014

John Donne Meets the Tortures of Cancer: Wit (2001)

Christian theology screws a lot of people up. At this point, this is a truism, but it is partly true because people do not understand the basic, everyday terms of the original idea. Take "salvation" for instance. The original idea of "salvation" isn't spiritual or other-worldly at all, but it means moving from a state of need to a state of the satisfaction of need, from starvation to being filled, from neglect to honor, from sickness to a state of wellness. When we spiritualize the simple, then we complicate that which is very basic, and turn what we understood at our mother's knee into a state of confusion and anxiety.

Poor John Donne. When observing the sufferings of Professor Vivian Bearing, the "treatment" which is no such thing, we observe the flayings of Donne upon his soul who wishes to be forgotten by God, because he cannot bear under the sight of a God whose vision is so cruel as to judge that which cannot change.

If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
Cannot be damn'd, alas, why should I be?

This is not unlike the sufferings of Vivian, but while Donne spiritualized his sufferings, imagining the loving Mother who seeks him no matter how much he might hide as a horrible abusive monster, even so Vivian doubts that compassion and touch and a simple act of kindness could be a greater balm than the deepest understanding of the medical profession. How we complicate that which is quite simple, really, and then find ourselves of need to walk through a morass of maze-like corridors to come back to that which we learned at our mother's knee.

But that doesn't speak to Emma Thompson at all. Suffice it to say, I could listen to her speak all day. The fact that she is reading some of the greatest lines ever written, just causes me to close my eyes and bask in the delightful lyrics. But only briefly, because she is like Dryer's Joan of Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc), beautifully deformed by her anguish.

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