Why is the Frame Important According to G.K. Chesterton?

Why is the frame important? Believe it or not, the most important thing in an artwork is the frame. Without the frame, it looks incomplete and undefined. However, if you have the right frame for it, it acquires some completeness — almost by magic. The frame allows the inherent beauty of a thing to come out.

If you take a few dry leaves and put them in an appropriate frame, you will get a herbarium. The frame limits the scope of your possibilities, and yet it reveals beauty. Beauty is revealed in and through limitations. Every piece of literature that has endured through centuries frames the hero’s adventures in some limitations.

The limitations allow the beauty to shine. Les Miserables, The Lord of the Rings, The Shack, The Brothers Karamazov, the Gospels — the more limitations the hero has the more this silent question arises in our minds, “Will he go through it beautifully or not?”

We know how our own limitations make us feel. We know they present obstacles to how much we can do. We wish them away. We wish we weren’t limited — or at least, less limited. We think without limitations, we will walk through life more beautifully. We won’t. We may get through life, but it won’t be a piece of art.

For a life to be a piece of art, limitations must exist. The question is not, “What will I do to get rid of these limitations? The question is, “What will I do within these limitations to reveal beauty?” The frame gives us the impetus to transcend our limitations without getting rid of them.

Of course, we can get rid of some of our limitations (thankfully). However, there will always be some that will stay. They are the frame within which we have the opportunity to rise above the frame. The frame is here to lead us out of our limitations. A framed piece of art doesn’t look limited. It looks boundless.

G.K. Chesterton once sprained his foot and used the opportunity to write an ode to his healthy leg. He reflects on the poetic pleasures of standing on one leg and appreciates the strength and beauty of his healthy leg. He points out that the isolation of one leg, similar to a single tower or tree, allows for a deeper appreciation of life. In conclusion, he says that to truly value something, we must realize the possibility of its loss​.

“The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost.”

And:

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

We are all artists drawing our lives within the constraints of our frame. What will I do with my limitations today? I can either bemoan them or try to rise above them. They can be either an obstacle or a beauty revealer. The question is, “Will I walk through this beautifully today?”

How Do We Understand What a Text Means?

How do we understand what a text means? How do we know what Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, or Tolkien meant? Is it enough to read their books? How do we elicit meaning?

Isn’t it curious that God didn’t come to humanity with a book? He came with a body. The ultimate knowledge of God is enfleshed in the Son of God. He walked among us, and we saw his glory. The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen, touched, smelled, and heard, and tasted Meaning. It affected us bodily. We dwelt in its Presence.

Apart from the body, Meaning is impervious. It is ungraspable at the level of the mind.

As Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht says:

“What we need is a form of thinking that is based on the possibility of presence and on the possibility of presence being related to meaning.”

Is meaning related to presence? It is. And our ability to perceive meaning arises from our contact with the Form. Meaning is read off of that Form in which it is embodied.

“That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

The Logos must be incarnate to be perceivable. Knowledge without a body is misleading at best. We don’t arrive at Meaning through interpretation; we arrive at meaning through coming in contact with its embodied Presence.

Interpretation is misleading without Presence. It is a form of narcissism — we tend to reduce the Meaning to the lens through which we choose to see the world. When we see, touch, and taste the Presence, we don’t need to interpret. We grasp the Whole.

Interpretation is necessary when there’s no Presence. Interpretation is the child of absence. In the absence of the body, texts require interpretation. In the presence of the body, they come alive. They walk, talk, and dwell among us.

We see the text, talk with it, laugh with it, eat with it — we have a relationship with it. Meaning is what happens to us as we engage in that relationship. We know without interpreting. If we have to interpret, we don’t know.

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

To know God means to touch his flesh. When we touch the Body, we know, and all texts come alive. When we interpret the text without touching the Body, it is a dead letter.

The Spirit loves forms. It loves being in the body. It creates “felt presences.” Whatever we encounter in a text, whether it’s Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or the Bible, already exists in this world as a Presence. Something that we can touch, see, and experience.

The moment we discover that Presence and engage with it, we discover that the text is not outside us to be interpreted. It is inside us to resonate with. We start looking for those resonances everywhere because we fall in love with the celestial Music they reveal.

What is the Meaning of Aslan’s Name?

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What is the meaning of Aslan’s name in Narnia? I have always found it curious that the name of Aslan caused such different reactions in the Pevensie children. In fact, when I first read that passage, something jumped in me too:

“At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

There was something relatable about it. Surprisingly, there was something relatable even in Edmund’s reaction to the name.

“But Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror.”

It felt like some judgment was going on. Not externally but internally. The name of Aslan was the ultimate revealer of what was in a person. It amplified the contents of your heart. If there was light in it, you could almost touch it. If there was darkness there, you couldn’t help but feel horror.

When I read John 3:19, it all came together:

“This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light.” 

What is the meaning of Aslan’s name in Narnia? When the light comes, it reveals what is. There’s nothing else to judge. Judgment is internal. It jumps from within us every moment we encounter the Light. We either delight in the light or hide from it. Depending on the state of my consciousness in the moment, the Light will either make me lighter or heavier.

The same curious thing happened in The Lord of the Rings when the company entered Lothlórien. The effect of entering the realm of the Lady was such that all the company felt the presence of some inexplicable magic.

For some, it was a delight. For others, torment. Tolkien seems to suggest that the whole land was Galadriel’s mirror — not just the stone mirror itself. As the fellowship walked through the enchanted wood, they saw their secret thoughts and desires revealed as if in a mirror.

Some liked it; others hated it. But they couldn’t hide from it. They stepped into a land of the Last Judgement unfolding 24/7. Galadriel wasn’t the Judge — she was the revealer of what was in each person’s heart. The Judgement was internal, not external.

For Boromir it was torment. For Aragorn, it was a delight. Boromir said,

“It is said that few come out who once go in; and of that few none have escaped unscathed.’ ‘Say not unscathed, but if you say unchanged, then maybe you will speak the truth,’ said Aragorn.”

In the final analysis, we are all judged by how we respond to our encounter with the Ultimate Beauty. For some, it is an eternal delight. For some, eternal torment. If you come with a pure heart, it is a delight. If you come with an idol, it is a curse.

The Light is always sweet for the one who allows it in. It is a horror to the one who doesn’t. The encounter with the Ultimate Beauty can be either heaven or hell — depending on what is inside one’s heart already.

What is the Symbolism Of Pygmalion and Galatea?

What is the symbolism of Pygmalion and Galatea? As we walked around a quaint souvenir shop in Wytheville, VA, called Wilderness Road World Trading, I found myself gazing at some of the statues for minutes. Dancers looked like they had frozen into their position a moment before I glanced at them. Faces looked so real that it seemed they could raise their eyes back at you any moment. They made me think of Pygmalion and Galatea.

The story of Pygmalion is really simple but deep. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved. The statue was so perfect that he wanted it to come alive. He prayed to Aphrodite and asked her to make the statue come alive. Aphrodite granted his wish.

Michelangelo said,

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Every artist understands Pygmalion’s feelings. When you pour your soul into something you make, you want it to come alive and have a life of its own. You want it to be separate from you. You look at the work of your hands, you love it, and you want it to be free.

Love, by its nature, wants to free its object. Separation is a necessary overflow of love. Love diversifies. And yet, deep down it knows that the more separate you are from the one you love, the more you are one with the one you love. This is a chief paradox of love. You want the object of your love to be free, separate, and yet, it does not lead to division. It leads to unity.

Divisions are always the result of forced, contrived unity. The devil forces unity to divide. God diversifies to unite. The devil erases all differences and causes splits. God creates distinctions and causes unity. Pygmalion wanted Galatea to have a life of her own so he could love her. It’s the only thing love can do. Love must free its object. Hate must swallow its object — consume it into itself.

Love is by its nature trinitarian. The Three Divine Persons are totally separate from each other and yet, totally one. Every Person of the Trinity wants the Other to be as Other as possible, and yet, the more “other” they are, the more one they become. They are totally free from each other and yet, inextricably bound.

If you love something you make, you want it to exist separately from you. Pygmalion freed Galatea from the stone slab so she could love him back. True love feels the trinitarian dance between separation and unity. It is after harmony. It won’t settle for less.

What is “Through the Looking Glass” About?

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What is “Through the Looking Glass” about? One of my favorite quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland runs like this:

“Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.”

“It makes perfect sense,” I thought after reading it. Since that fateful morning when she followed the white rabbit into the hole, she wasn’t quite herself. Everything was topsy-turvy, to say the least.

That’s probably what the disciples felt around Jesus when he would say things like,

“You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

When you have been around Jesus for a while, you are not quite yourself anymore. He always says something that blows your mind into smithereens. How can you give something you don’t have?

Apparently, you have much more than you think you do. Apparently, you are other than what you think you are. It’s just the sort of jaw-dropping reaction that Jesus is after. He is creating a nonsensical situation that helps people make sense out of life. He turns the world upside down for us to see what it looks like.

G.K. Chesterton said: “Paradox is truth standing on her head to get attention.” We all have more than we think we do. As Eckhart Tolle said:

“Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.”

Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you already have, but unless you allow it to flow out, you won’t even know that you have it. This reminds me of the “Looking-glass cake” that Alice was trying to cut before handing it out. It didn’t work — the pieces would join back together.

“You don’t know how to manage Looking-glass cakes,” the Unicorn remarked. “Hand it round first, and cut it afterwards.”

It sounded so nonsensical that Alice got up and obediently carried the dish around. The cake divided itself in three pieces as she did so.

We are more than we know. We have more than we think we do. The world is upside down — it must be put on its head for us to see what it really is. By going through the Looking-glass, we, like Alice, will be changing several times until we find ourselves. To make sense, everything must be other than what it seems to be.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.” Alice

We can only give what we don’t have. We can only have what we have given up. We can only know what we don’t. We can only win if we surrender. It is so nonsensical that we get up like Alice and obediently carry the dish around. Surprisingly, as we do so, it works!

What is St. Francis of Assisi Best Known For?

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What is St. Francis of Assisi best known for? In Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun and Sister Moon, all of Francesco’s friends believe that Francesco is out of his mind. One by one, they go to the ruins of San Damiano, where Francesco single-handedly restores an old church, to reason with him and bring him back to his senses. However, after looking into his eyes, they join him — one by one.

It’s all about someone’s eyes. Subconsciously, we always look for the eyes that radiate divine electricity. That’s why we are mesmerized by children at play. We are mesmerized by birds, fish, mountains, rivers, and clouds. They all exude the light that we are drawn to and want to participate in.

All the greatest world movements start from catching that Divine electricity in someone’s eyes. The person creates a magnetic field that draws us in. They are like a magnet that creates an electric current in all conductors. You feel it stirring in you, and you want to pass it on.

All major movements were born out of that spark. As long as this initial spark is there, the movement exists and is alive. When that spark goes, the movement dies and gets institutionalized. The institution is what remains after the electricity is gone. It is the only way to keep the form where there’s no substance.

The scene in the Pope’s palace in Brother Sun and Sister Moon is telling. Pope Innocent III played by Alec Guinness sits on his high throne encircled by cardinals. When St. Francis walks in with his disciples, they look like a bunch of bums. They are dirty and dressed in rags. But something shines in their eyes.

As St. Francis talks about his vision, the camera zooms in on Pope’s eyes. With every sentence out of St. Francis’s mouth, his eyes grow bigger and bigger. You can tell that he is drawn in. The cardinals want to drive the vagabonds out, but the Pope rises from his seat and walks down the steps. And then, the most unexpected thing happens — he kneels before St. Francis and kisses his dirty feet.

There’s silence in the hall. No one knows what’s happening. Franco Zeffirelli’s camera zooms in on Alec Guinness’s eyes. You can tell that the Pope wants to join them. You can see it in his eyes. They sparkle. The cardinals see it too. They start panicking and pull him away from St. Francis. They put the tiara back on his head so he won’t be carried away.

After a moment of “insanity,” the Pope is reminded of his duties. The sparkle goes out of his eyes. He allows the cardinals to put all his papal regalia back on him. His eyes grow dim. He is the Pope again. The moment of insanity is gone. But you can see the immense sadness behind his eyes. He succumbs to his duties of being the head of the institution while his heart wants to be moved by the Divine electricity.

St. Francis stretches his hands toward him but is pulled further back by the cardinals. The church starts singing “Gloria in Excelsis Dei.” As St. Francis and his disciples leave, he turns around and looks back twice. He is searching for the Pope’s eyes. You can tell they are kindred spirits. But the camera never shows the Pope’s eyes. He is back in his role. The role that doesn’t allow for electricity.

The Dream of Dalai Lama About the 21st Century

I heard a dream of Dalai Lama on YouTube the other day where he said he had been dreaming that in THIS CENTURY, the world would become one big happy family.

I thought, “Oh… Sounds like wishful thinking. Based on how this century began, I really doubt that the continuation will be any different. Humanity is too sick – just like most people it consists of, including me.”

But then he added something interesting. He said we would only need one thing for it to happen – a realization of the oneness of all humanity.

I scratched my head: “He’s on to something here.”

And then he said that this one realization would be enough to uproot the very cause of all war and conflict.

I found myself thinking: “Yes, of course.”

The problem is that I don’t see myself in anything except me. Then I thought, “Hm… often, I don’t even see myself in me either.”

Then, I thought, “How interesting – when I don’t see myself in others, I don’t see myself in me. And when I see myself in others, I see myself in me.” Serendipitously, a phrase by Jesus popped up in my mind that I had read recently,

“Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.”

When I look at the other person, what do I see? How I treat them is secondary; how I see them is primary. Do I see God in them? If so, God is in me. If not, God is not in me.

In other words, if I didn’t recognize Jesus in another person, I don’t know him, and he doesn’t know me. I miss out on Heaven, and I am in hell. Conversely, if I do recognize Jesus in the other person, I know him, and he knows me. I am in Heaven.

Recognizing God in the other is the ultimate litmus test for whether God is in me. The hell we are seeing around us is a sure sign that God is not in us. If he is not in the other one, he is not in me.

When there’s no sense of connection between me and the other person, I have lost God… and myself. But how do I recognize myself in the other? It happens when I start looking beyond appearances. If I start with an assumption that there’s more to a person than meets the eye, I will start getting glimpses of the Divine in them.

C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory,

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

There is divinity behind every appearance. Sometimes, it is distorted, but it’s there. If I see it, I have redeemed the appearance. I have glimpsed through. I have seen the divine spark.

Meister Eckhart says there’s only one way to attain this divine soul spark in yourself and in the other:

“Therefore, I say, if a man turns away from self and from created things, then – to the extent that you do this – you will attain oneness and blessedness in your soul’s spark, which time and place never touched.”

There’s no ethics before seeing this divine spark. All ethics flow out of it – ethics spring from esthetics. The moment we let go of self and all created things, we sink into the stillness and darkness that is brighter than light.

According to Meister Eckhart, we attain the divine spark not through any effort or “addition” on our part but rather through the process of gradual subtraction.

“Everything is meant to be lost so that the soul may stand in unhampered nothingness.”

To attain true knowledge and commune with the One, we need to recover our inner silence – the language of the primordial Void in which the worlds were made. Then, in this unhampered nothingness, we will start hearing the Music of the One incarnated in the many. 

The fragmented world will disappear, and all things will become one, just as it says, “God will be all in all.”

“All that a man has here externally in multiplicity is intrinsically One. Here all blades of grass, wood, and stone, all things are One. This is the deepest depth.” Meister Eckhart

Until I let go of self, I can’t see the divine spark in the other. Holding on to self blocks my spiritual vision. But if I let it go, I exclaim like Bilbo Baggins after he had dropped the One Ring,

“I have thought of a nice ending for it [my book]: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.”

The Connection Between Groundhog Day and the Fall of Numenor

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I have done a somewhat sloppy job explaining myself in the previous article on the fall of Numenor and “the encircling of Arda.”  As many of you have pointed out, I have not demonstrated why the ring-shaped Arda (after it was made round) spiritually corresponds to grasping for immortality by the Numenoreans.

As I pondered about it, a new mythological connection emerged in my mind, which, I believe, will make the connection more succinct. In the famous movie Groundhog Day, Phil, the protagonist, finds himself stuck in one day, February 2, repeatedly.

Here’s an interesting summary of the movie I found on IMDb:

A weather man is reluctantly sent to cover a story about a weather forecasting “rat” (as he calls it). This is his fourth year on the story, and he makes no effort to hide his frustration. On awaking the ‘following’ day, he discovers that it’s Groundhog Day again, and again, and again. First he uses this to his advantage, then comes the realisation that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing every day.—Rob Hartill   

What caught my attention here is the reference to a “rat” and the “doom.” For a good part of the movie, Phil’s quest is to take advantage of his “immortality,” but he soon realizes that he is feeling like “butter spread over too much bread.” (Bilbo Baggin’s feelings after possessing the Ring for a long time).

Phil finds himself stuck in the rat race of life, repeating never-ending circles. As this circling continues, he slowly realizes that his newly acquired “immortality” does not deliver. So, he’s grasping for more and more “advantages,” believing that he might finally achieve happiness in the rat race he’s caught in.

But the more he grasps, the less it works. By the end of the movie, he realizes that he must let go of Self to survive his “doom.” He lets go – relinquishes control and drops the Ring of Power, so to say. He starts living for others because nothing else satisfies him. He’s not striving to break out of his prison anymore. And he doesn’t feel doomed anymore.

To his surprise, one day the endless circling ends. The vicious cycle is broken. Using Tolkien’s words, by accepting the doom (or gift) of Men, he has freed himself from the circles of the world. And this is exactly what the great mariners of men discovered after the fall of Numenor and the encircling of Arda.

What caused the downfall of Numenor?

Numenor craved immortality to such a degree that they tried to take it by force. This resulted in a curse – the drowning of Numenor and the encircling of Arda. Spiritually, this curse corresponds to the craving of their hearts. The wanted immortality at all costs but found themselves stuck in an endless circle of death.  

“Thus it was that great mariners among them would still search the empty seas, hoping to come upon the Isle of Meneltarma (Valinor), and there to see a vision of things that were. But they found it not. And those that sailed far came only to the new lands, and found them like to the old lands, and subject to death. And those that sailed furthest set but a girdle about the Earth and returned weary at last to the place of their beginning; and they said: ‘All roads are now bent.’ Thus in after days, what by the voyages of ships, what by lore and star-craft, the kings of Men knew that the world was indeed made round.”

This roundness mirrors the shape of the Ring of Power. When you seek immortality through some external means (the Ring as the ultimate technology), you are trapped in an endless circle. You perpetuate what you want to escape – weariness and death. You feel weary – like butter spread over too much bread. You are in a Groundhog Day.

Continue reading “The Connection Between Groundhog Day and the Fall of Numenor”

What is The Curse of Pandora’s Box or Why Sometimes It is Better not to Look

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What is the curse of Pandora’s box?

Speaking of the laws of fairyland in Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton explains that in all fairy tales “the vision always hangs upon a veto. All the dizzy and colossal things conceded depend upon one small thing withheld. All the wild and whirling things that are let loose depend upon one thing that is forbidden.”

In all fairy tales known to mankind, an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition. A box is opened, and all evils fly out. A word is forgotten, and cities perish. A lamp is lit, and love flies away. A flower is plucked, and human lives are forfeited. An apple is eaten, and the hope of God is gone.

But why? Why should something be withheld?

Chesterton writes,

If Cinderella says, “How is it that I must leave the ball at twelve?” her godmother might answer, “How is it that you are going there till twelve?”

It is magic. In fairy tales, the condition is just as incomprehensible as the fairyland itself. The fairy godmother is working magic before your very eyes, which is just as incomprehensible as the condition she lays down. Just like Mary Poppins, she doesn’t explain anything. She is magical enough to silence all our questions.

And yet we want to look. We want to know. What we feel is Pandora’s itch as she gazed upon that strange gift of Zeus – the “magical” box she was forbidden to open. Pandora received her name from Hermes himself – her name means “all-gifted.” She received from the gods every possible gift, but Zeus gave her the strangest gift of all.

He gave her curiosity and a box that she wasn’t allowed to open. What an irony!

When I read this myth to my son, his eyes grew large,

“What?” he cringed. “Isn’t it cruel?”

“Hm… I guess it may seem so at first,” I answered after a pause. “But think about it. To trust means to accept not knowing. If you must know, you cannot trust. And if you can’t trust, you cannot be happy.”

“Ah…” he nodded and went about his business, leaving me alone as I sat there pondering Pandora’s dilemma.  

You have been granted every gift in the world, and yet you are told to accept one small condition. You must not look into the box.

Why?

No explanation is given. The only feasible “explanation” is to trust that it’s better. But Pandora’s desire for knowledge gets the better of her. “What if there’s something there that will make me happier?” she muses.

The moment she opened the box, all the miseries and evils imaginable were unleashed into the world including sickness and death. She tries to push them back inside but can’t. It’s irreversible.     

Exhausted, she looks inside the empty box and sees a simple ray of light – a comforting gift from Zeus. When she looks away from her troubles and onto the ray of light, she feels hope and relief.

Pandora’s dilemma is a human dilemma. By trying to get knowledge at all costs, we let loose unthinkable evils into the world. Not everything should be done that can be done. Sometimes it’s best not to look under the lid. Some things, if let out, can’t be undone.

Knowledge is good. Our craving for knowledge is bad. When we can’t trust and accept a “no,” we are ignorant because we cannot attain true knowledge, which is a relationship.

When Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it wasn’t because God was holding out on them. He was inviting them to a deeper knowledge – the knowledge that comes from “not knowing.” The knowledge of unknowing is always based on trust!

To unknow means you accept the idea that you are not god. We cannot know everything. We cannot predict everything. When we leave the role of God to God, we become divine.

There’s no true knowledge without accepting one little “no.” Knowledge only works when there’s room for trust – not knowing. There must be this happy tension between knowing and not knowing for knowledge to work.

Without this essential paradox, knowledge becomes a curse. So, what is the curse of Pandora’s box?

What is the main point of The Question Concerning Technology?

Martin Heidegger’s essay “The Question Concerning Technology” might be a case in point. According to Heidegger, we don’t seem to notice when we cross the line between using technology for our purposes and when technology starts using us. To make his point, he described what happened to water mills along the Rhine River.

Before the 20th century, there were many individual water mills along the Rhine. They were all “built into” the river. In the 20th century, a huge power plant was built at that spot, interlocking the river entirely. The river is now built into the power plant, not the other way around!

This is a fine illustration of what is happening with technology in our time – a slow and gradual change from “using a tool” to “being used by the tool.” Just as the Rhine is now built into technology and serves it, we are building our lives around the “instrument-defined reality.”

A tool must be a tool. It should help us get things done, but it cannot take up the entire space of our lives. When technology becomes the overarching reality, we build everything into it.

When technology has become the overarching principle of life, it’s no longer a tool but an artificial reality. The rhetoric “but it helps us get things done faster and more efficiently” no longer applies. This rhetoric works only in the case of a tool that we use for a while and then put down to do something else. With modern technology, we rarely do “something else.”

In J.R.R. Tolkien, the One Ring is the ultimate technology. It promises us the world but always takes away what it promises to give.

What is the name of Annatar?

The One Ring was wrought by Sauron himself who was called Annatar, “the gift giver.” It is said that since Sauron was behind the “technology” used in creating the magical rings, he had full control over them. The one who creates technology holds the power.

The Elves were deceived by him – they thought the technology Sauron offered was “neutral,” and they could use it for a good purpose. Eventually, they realized that Sauron knew their minds every time they put them on.

He was the Master of all the rings – even those he didn’t forge – because his technology was used in making them. Some elves took off the rings realizing that otherwise they would be forfeiting their freedom.

There’s only one way not to be controlled by the ring – take it off. Using Martin Heidegger’s analogy, a tool must remain a tool. When it takes up the whole space of our lives, it’s no longer a tool. It has a different name. It’s an idol.  

The Secret Meaning of the Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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The meaning of this movie is just as hidden as the life of Walter Mitty. When Sean, the photographer, takes his eyes off his heavy-duty camera somewhere in the Himalayas and stares at the snow leopard in the distance, Walter asks him quietly,

“When are you going to take it?”

Sean, still awe-struck, answers,

“Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

The famous photographer, whose passion drives him to chase after the most stunning natural phenomena around the world, does not take the opportunity to take a picture of one of the most furtive animals in the world – the “ghost cat.”

Something is more important for him. Everything else is a distraction. Art itself is a distraction. He doesn’t want to miss it. He knows how such moments feel. There’s a definite “suchness” to such moments.

Sean knows he’s in it for the suchness – everything else seems secondary. It’s in this undefinable suchness that has given his art meaning. But what is this “suchness”? It defies definitions. It’s a bridge between this time-space reality and the Spirit.

When you get a glimpse of this other realm, you forget the earth. As Silouan the Athonite (Russian: Силуан Афонский) said,

“Because of the sweetness of God’s love, we forget the earth and sing…”  

The past is gone, the future is not real. Nothing else matters. So, Sean gets up with a smile and joins the rest of the group playing soccer near the camp at a distance. But before leaving he turns to Walter and calls him the “ghost-cat.”

In Sean’s experience, Walter is someone who had always given him the same experience of “suchness” before. By looking at his work in Life Magazine, Sean felt the same communion between heaven and earth. Walter didn’t know that. He lived in his own dreamworld where he wanted to become someone.

He was someone. For Sean, he was more than someone. Walter didn’t know his true name yet – the ghost-cat. Until you know your true name, you don’t know who you are. You live in a dreamworld. You dream of becoming. Yet, your true secret name lives in you, ready to be revealed at an opportune time.

This is the name written by God on a white stone, and no one knows it except the one who receives it.

I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. Revelation 2:17.        

Our true name is as long as our journey. It is our journey manifested in a sound.

When Frodo first set out of the Shire, he didn’t know who he was. All he knew was that he was a hobbit, and hobbits don’t meddle in the affairs of the Big Folk and Wizards.

Well, he did meddle in them. He was chosen to be the one who would destroy the Ring. No one else in the entire Middle-Earth could do it.

“Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance. ‘If I understand aright all that I have heard,’ he said, ‘I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.”

Frodo’s journey was the gradual unfolding of his secret name – as the only one in the entire Middle-Earth who could carry the Ring all the way to Mordor. No one else was up to the task.

He was the only one, and he did it by sacrificing his own flesh. His new name, Frodo of the Nine Fingers, was put in a song by a minstrel of Gondor,

A minstrel of Gondor stood forth… and behold! he said: ‘Lo! lords and knights and men of valour… now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom.’

Receiving your true name is the ultimate initiation into the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It is a transcendental wake-up call when you realize that the Divine, who was somewhere out there, has moved inside.