What Do You Want In Life?

 Bread of Life

I was reading a passage of scripture the other day, just really browsing the gospels like I usually do in my time of study. Reading bits and pieces, and came across this well known tale. I decided to read it again, and a revelation struck me which I wanted to share with you.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

From John 4

This, while just one of the rich stories of John, stood out to me while reading it like it never had before. I knew the setting, the backstory, the reason the woman was there all alone… etc. etc. I imagine if you like me- a Christian having been steeped in bible stories like this for years, the shiny newness of these tales has a propensity to wear off. This is unfortunate for us, and if we aren’t careful can create a feeling of boredom while going through a passage. I certainly know I’ve been guilty of that.

Anyway, this passage struck me in a new way this time. Because I didn’t so much look at the setting, but rather analyzed the speech. It is clear Christ is speaking spiritually, while the woman is speaking physically. She’s like “Give me this water so I don’t have to come to the well anymore!” Not having to do this would save her the shame of being reminded she is an outcast due to divorce, and that she would not have to endanger herself every time she needed water. In short, a never ending supply of water meant safety and a life of ease.  That’s what she wanted. At first.

Christ redirected her though and clarified what he was saying in a way only the Son of God could. Incredibly, she understands and goes into the city immediately to tell others about Him. Her wants were satisfied in the true Living Water, which is of course Christ. How often do we want what that woman wanted. Easy living, a safe environment (physically and emotionally), acceptance among peers… We all have wanted those things. It made me ask, do I want Christ? I’ll ask you the same…

Do you want Christ?

Because I’ll be honest here. I say “I want Christ” but then in my mind add “And some comfort along with a side of success.” I’m sure we all speak “Yes! I want Christ!” but so often that statement comes with unspoken qualifications and concerns. At least the woman at the well was up front in what she wanted… ;)

I guess what I’m trying to say, and what I took away from the passage, was this- If you want Christ, with all of your being, you’ll want for nothing. Not to say that desires for stuff, relationships, success, etc will cease. No. They won’t, because in the right place, these are good things! What I mean is, when you want Christ, when you are sustained and fulfilled by His purpose, His sustenance, and His life, all that other stuff will just be frosting on the cake.

So, as you go throughout your day and this week, I’d encourage you to figure out what you truly want in life. Is it Christ? Or is it something else?

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Movie Review: Transcendence

Transendence Movie Poster

After being poisoned, Dr. Will Caster has only a month to live. His life’s work has been pursuing what we call “Artificial Intelligence” or, creating computers with personality, emotion, and self awareness. In order to save his work… his mind. His wife decides to put his consciousness, into the AI system Will has developed.

The transfer completes. Will’s body dies, and for a moment… nothing. Then, on the screen, he asks… “Are you there?”.

But is it Will caught up in Transcendence? Or it it a computer so smart, that it itself has become a living thing?

Things I Liked

In a conference, a man asks in regards to a computer system that is self sustaining and problem solving “So you want to create a god?” Professor Will responds, “That’s a good question. Isn’t that what man has always done?” One prevailing theme in this movie is “How far is to far?” What lines are there that man simply should not create machines to do? This point is best illustrated in the idealist mindset of creating computers which will solve ALL of our problems. Something we will trust in completely. A god. In many ways, it is a scary testimony to the way electricity and technology already demand and have gained our trust and dependence. We are reminded that trust in these things is not as wise or as good as usually presented.

The early partnership between Will and his wife is a precious one. We see Will making a garden for his wife, to separate them from all the troubles of their jobs. Even when Will is dying, he chooses to live the last of his life in a lab hooked to computers so that his wife may have peace in her pursuits. Their motivations in working together both are selfless and beautiful to watch. Which is important, in understanding why one wants to preserve the other, and vice versa so much.

This movie explores core questions to humanity. It makes more of Man’s soul, and less of our technology. Max, an associate, confesses to a person, and us, that the soul, our existence is more than just synapses and neurons. There’s an unexplainable quality which we will never understand. We are shown that while a machine may be able to do a great many things, it never will be able to truly feel. Something we don’t and never will understand fully.

While the power of technology is great, we are shown dangers of crossing lines which are unnatural. We see regeneration of physically dead bodies, nanotechnology creating humans with powers of superman, etc. We are shown the computers to monitor how someone is emotionally through certain hormones. All of this is shown to be unnatural and completely revolting… Even if it does make the lives of some better.

Many people take a stand against the Transcendence, even though they don’t know how. They know it is wrong and has to be destroyed, and in doing so risk their lives for, essentially, humankind who is not yet infected with the Transcendence.

Things I Didn’t Like

God’s name is profaned half a dozen times, and there were two-three other swear words.

RIFT, a terrorist organization against the Artificial Intelligence technology, kills many professors through poison, bombs, and guns. One attacker kills himself after shooting a professor. Transcendence defends itself from government agents through people it has joined with. People are shot, but not killed due to nanotechnology. One is caught and blocked from signal. RIFT lets him die so they they can learn a weakness about the transcendence. Cars are tossed by the Transcendence when people are in them. Mortars hit a person and they are shown with immense amounts of blood.

Evelyn has disturbing dreams and nightmares about Will as the Transcendence. We see her kissing her (now dead) husband and then him exploding into black technological veins when he begins to force his way upon her.

Closing Thoughts

While my partner may want to change the world, I simply just want to understand it. ~Will Caster~

What is the soul? What is self awareness? What is individuality? What makes us… Us? What makes humans… Human? These are questions people have wrestled with for thousands of years. With good reason too, because to know these answers, is to know humanity. Philosophers have addressed this through forums and “isms” and “ists”. Religions have addressed this through divinations and books. Writers, have addressed this through Science Fiction. Where anything is possible, because in Fiction- no rules apply.

Transcendence addresses these questions through the idea of the name. A human, with its soul wrapped in electric synapses and systems. After all, isn’t that all the brain is? An organic computer system? We are walked, with beautiful cinematography, through this idea. The idea of a computer system having the knowledge of a man… Or a man having the power of unlimited computer access. The two are made to seem one and the same, but the further we are led the further we are shown how different the two are.

This film isn’t about providing answers. Because that’s not the point of true science fiction. It serves as an exploration of humanity as it truly is through means which in the real world, are impossible. The point is that you, the watcher, ask these questions of yourself. To reflect upon what the soul is. To seek out answers in this real world. It isn’t about “How was this done?” Nor even about “Why was this done?” No, the question this movie asks over, and over, and over is this- “What is man’s Soul?”

We are given a partial glimpse that while a machine may imitate, even duplicate a person, their experiences, their speaking patterns, and even their emotional reactions… It can’t replicate the soul. Because the soul cannot be replicated. We are shown that part of our humanity does indeed transcend any technological creation or advancement. Perhaps, with this in mind, we can point to a God who created this soul. And then show through the Son, and a Sacrifice, we already posses the perfect unexplainable capability of eternal Transcendence.

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Solider

captain_america_the_winter_soldier-wide

The Captain is back in his Red, White, and Blue colors eager and itching to take on the newest threat to his country. Unfortunately for him, that threat is more obscure than he, or anyone would like. S.H.I.E.L.D. has created drones which can take out any person at any time. “They’ll stop threats before they even happen” Nick Fury tells Steve. “I thought the punishment came after the crime” Steve replies.

With S.H.I.E.L.D. taking more and more liberties to protect the world, Steve has to defend the freedom which S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to preserve (and in doing so, destroying) “This isn’t freedom, this is fear!” Steve states to Director Pierce but alas, they refuse to listen because “S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is. Not as we’d like it to be.”. With that going on, add on an assassin who has killed dozens of people- over the last 90 years. The Winter Solider. His next hit strikes close to home, so close that Captain America can’t help but be hit by the shrapnel effects of losing someone so close.

Now with two clear threats threatening the freedom Captain America swore to uphold, he has got his work cut out for him. With the lines of good and bad blurring more and more everyday though, even the Captain doesn’t know who he can trust, or who is on his side. The side of freedom.

Things I Liked

Steve is one of those rare, idealistic guys who everyone likes, but no one gets. He is so perfect and good in every way, that most don’t believe he is real. Indeed, his moral aptitude and choices are indicative of  his accentuated nature. So much so that most of the time, he is not relatable in anyway, because he is so far to the side of moral perfection in regards to freedom. This results in several actions which are admirable and commendable.

The greatest action I remember was that of truly loving his enemies. At one point he can let an enemy die, or he can save that person. He chooses the latter, at the risk of his own life, even though they were shooting at him only moments before. Steve shows a quality which most rarely consider, much less put into practice. That action showed that his character was not of circumstance, but of innate integrity.

Steve also knows in himself what is right in terms of American Freedom, and pursues this completely. It is his moral law, and if something goes against that law, then he will keep the law and break the command given. He also truly serves selflessly at all times, and decides to trust people, even though it is dangerous.

Things I Didn’t Like

While Captain America may be morally respectable, the other people in the movie are not as much, if at all. One of the greatest things I struggled with in this movie was the lack of clear good and bad. At one point a solider asks Steve “How do we know the good guys from the bad?” To which Captain Rogers replies “If they’re shooting at you, they’re bad.” S.H.I.E.L.D. and some other organizations are shown to be on shaky ground at best, while completely deceptive at worst. While Captain America may be part of S.H.I.E.L.D., he certainly isn’t fighting for them, or any other organization, as they all are questioned on motives… and something which we are never really given answers to.

Couple the blurry line of good and bad with some intense fight scenes, and you get a battle where you wind up rooting for just one person. You guessed it… Captain America. The violence in this film shows dozens of people getting gunned down, blown up, knifed, and strangles. The Captain deals his fair share of painful looking blows with his shield, fists, and feet. However, like batman, it never is implied he kills anyone. He just has no qualms about others doing it for him. Other action includes Captain America falling out of a building, blowing up a few planes, and getting pummeled by the Winter Solider.

The Winter Solider was also a peeve of mine. He is the main antagonist of this film, yet so much remained shrouded about him, you hardly find out anything save for how he got his metal arm. In the final battle, there is no resolution with the character, so again, no growth or lessons learned. The only thing we do learn is in a fight, he can beat up Captain America pretty badly.

The Black Widow (Natasha) kisses Steve to avoid being caught by enemy agents. She teases him later about being out of practice.

Cursing is prevalent in the movie and come in pairs. D—, S—, a–, b—- all come in twos. Hell is used out of context, and I think God’s name is profaned twice.

Closing Thoughts

The price of freedom is high, and it’s a price I’m willing to pay. You told me not trust anyone and this is how it ends- Everything goes. ~Captain America~

As one of the most anticipated films of this year, Captain America 2 is breaking records in the box office. This comes at no surprise really. I mean, what better way to kick off the summer movie season with a superhero blockbuster? We are going to have plenty of those this year. The Spiderman 2…. X-men… More Marvel stuff… Hollywood has settled into a routine of sequels and reboots that satisfies the public craving with a sound and sure recipe for financial success. This recipe is honestly no different in this movie.

As heroes go, The Captain is the same guy we know and love when we first saw him in his debut, and then in Avengers. He is honest, courageous, selfless, dependable… the list goes one. He is the perfect solider. Perhaps, too perfect. See, in this movie, we are shown early on Steve being a little bit lost in life, and a little bothered S.H.I.E.L.D., and a little puzzled as what to do next in life. When conflict comes, that is all tossed out of the window and replaced with Steve fighting and striving for the standard of freedom he swore to uphold.

While what The Captain does is admirable, and how he does it praiseworthy, I honestly was not impressed by the film as a whole. It honestly felt rushed, convoluted, and lacked the depth it could have if only more time had been spent on the internal conflicts (and subsequent developments) of the characters- Specifically Captain America and The Black Widow. And less time spent on “How many fights can we setup where Steve gets to use his superhuman powers?”.

In the end though, I’m not surprised they went this route. We’re seeing progressively more and more violent films from Marvel, because that’s what the world wants to see. This disappoints me, because there is so much more lasting depth available to be expounded upon in all of these characters. Steve may be hero, but he is also a solider, and this movie never lets you forget this fact.

Ultimately in this film, Captain America is still the honorable and respectable hero we all have come to love, but that heroicness is almost drowned out by the vast amounts deaths and violence shown, the blurring of right and wrong apart from the Captain, and the lack of resolution regarding the Winter Solider. This movie isn’t completely without a cause for freedom, but it certainly isn’t anything revolutionary either