Saturday, June 27, 2009

Weighty with Max Planck's Quanta

Make no mistake:
if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell's dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That--pierced--died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike, "Seven Stanzas at Easter"

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Soul of Survivor

The king of reality television is Survivor. It was one of the first and it remains one of the most popular. One could argue that it created the genre. For nine years American audiences have watched players outwit, outlast, and outplay one another in a game in which people are “voted off the island.” Double-crosses, alliances, tricks and strategies are standard in getting rid of others so that the winner is the last person left. The Sole Survivor takes home a prize of $1,000,000.

I struggle to succinctly state what it is about Survivor that bugs me. I believe that Survivor taps into the “Survival of the Fittest, Dog-Eat-Dog” mentality that embodies the worst values in our culture. It’s not just a game. Long before Survivor, unrestrained competition with others has been a problem. We fear the stranger. We fear those who can harm us. We fight over what we regard as limited resources. Outwit, outlast, and outplay is more than a catchphrase for a game show. It is a marketing of our basest impulses.

I don't like the end of Survivor. The final outcome is all wrong. After all the alliances and backbiting, the game comes down to two people. A jury decides who will get the $1,000,000. This is revealed on a built-up final episode in New York where the winner celebrates and all the losers usually act like good sports accepting their 15 minutes of fame as a consolation prize. If Survivor is going to be true to its creed (Outwit, Outplay, Outlast) then I think the sole survivor should be left alone on the island with the $1,000,000. After all, if the point is to get rid of everyone else, then really do it. Vote the runner-up off the island, then leave the winner with the a briefcase of cash and a note that says, “Congratulations. You got rid of everyone else. You outlasted them all. Here’s the cash. Now use it to get off the island.”

That would be a more fitting conclusion I think.