Wonder Woman

rs-wonder-woman-dc030a5f-1b81-44bc-b7ca-ac7bab2ef991I’ve now watched this film three times: once on the big screen, and twice at home. Tonight, my 7-year-old daughter chose it. I know, it’s probably not ideal for her age group. But she has older siblings, and she’s seen it already. For at least a week after she first saw it, she pressed me to explain on a daily basis why I hadn’t named her Diana. And she’s not a girly girl: usually she wants to be Captain America. So I couldn’t say no.

It occurred to me this time through that the ‘wonder’ about Wonder Woman is twofold (at least). Of course, Diana is a wonder. She stops bullets and deflects bombs. She’s amazing with a sword. She vanquishes the god of war. And she does it all exquisitely: she’s stunningly beautiful. She’s wonderful.

She is also full of wonder. Little Diana is wide-eyed at the myths her mother tells her. She wants to fight like the rest of the Amazons, little knowing what will come of her training. When she sends Antiope flying across the field, she is amazed at her own strength. Even her meeting with Steve Trevor fresh from the healing pool is a scene in which she seems full of wonder. I could go on–so much about her time in London is characterised by wonder.

For Diana, the most unbelievable thing, it seems to me, is the way in which human beings are able to compartmentalise, to seal themselves off from the suffering of others far away, or to turn a blind eye to the wounded and needy right in front of them. She passes soldiers returning from battle–missing a leg, unable to walk, bleeding, staring vacantly past her. And all she can think is, ‘How can I make this stop?’ When she encounters the woman (totally out of place, of course) in the trench (really!), she cannot walk away. She cannot believe that anyone would–which is a different facet of that same wonder, I think. So she crosses no-man’s-land. (So much about this is a historian’s nightmare. I know, because I am married to one.) She saves a village and then has a fresh  experience of wonder when it starts to snow.

I know why I couldn’t say no to my 7-year-old when she suggested that we watch Wonder Woman. Like my 7-year-old, she is full of wonder; like my 11-year-old, she is sure that she can defeat the baddies–and so she does. But she does it without swagger. She does it because it needs doing. She does it with a sense of amazement and hope that I find refreshing. She never loses that sense of wonder. And maybe that–even more than an ass-kicking superhero–is what we most need from Wonder Woman. I know I do.

 

 

 

Advertisements

David Foster Wallace and the practice of love

A few years back, I posted about David Foster Wallace. Having just (a bit behind the times, admittedly) listened to his 2005 Kenyon College commencement address, I was taken by his candour and sensitivity. Where is he now? I immediately began to search the internet. And then, of course, I remembered my first introduction to David Foster Wallace by a colleague, who told us that Wallace had committed suicide. A very bright light has been extinguished.

Last year, I published an essay in Church Life, which has just been re-issued on their new website. Reading it over again–because David Foster Wallace is so compelling–I am once again floored by his insight, wit, and sensitivity. I give thanks for his life, and grieve his tragic death all over again. Also, I give you the link to the essay, in case you want to know what David Foster Wallace implies about the practice of love in that commencement address now more than ten years old.

I know my readers are few and my followers even fewer. I give thanks for all of you today.

Deo gratias.

Wednesday of the third week in Lent

Take care, and be earnestly on your guard not to forget
    the things your own eyes have seen,
    nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.
                                     Deuteronomy 4:9
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
                                    Matthew 5:17
Abba Agathon said, “Unless he keeps the commandments of God, a monk cannot make progress, even in a single virtue.”
*     *     *    *

How on earth are we to keep the commandments? How does remembering help? What does Jesus do that fulfills the law and the prophets? The psalmist reminds us that the law is specially given to Israel: God has not given the law to any other nation. And God’s promise to Abraham was that he and his descendants (innumerable as they were to be) would be a blessing to the nations. Israel’s chosenness was to be for the restoration of the whole world. Memory helps by keeping God’s people in view of God’s promises as well as God’s law, and of the purpose for which God called Abraham and the whole particular people of Israel. A people’s identity (perhaps even more than an individual’s) is bound to their memory, to their ability to narrate the story of God’s wonderful works and God’s saving acts.
Testimony does just that: the witnesses to the Gospel, both in Jesus and the apostles’ days and in our own, serve an important function in preserving the memory of the people. In the earliest days of Christianity, many of those people testified with their lives and are numbered with the saints. The martyrs reveal the path of discipleship in a particular way. Following Christ means having always in mind the whole of his life: his life of love and ministry and preaching the gospel and healing, his agony and passion, his ignominious death on the cross, and his resurrection. Somehow, it is in following that we keep the commandments of God and so make progress in virtue.

Matthew’s gospel suggests that this narrative, this life, death and resurrection story, tells us what it means to satisfy the law and to heed the prophets. For in this One all that God desired for Israel is fulfilled, so that Paul can say of Christ, “All the promises of God find their yes in him.” God keeps his promises through Jesus. Lent is a time of imitatio Christi in which our focus is on the humility, the self-emptying of God in Christ; we obey the tradition and keep days of fasting and abstinence, we pray, we do works of charity, we give. We also, in the midst of all this, hope joyfully as we look forward to Easter. Having put the sinful self to death by our Lenten discipline, we look forward to rising with Christ on the judgement morning. We taste that joy at Easter as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ whom we follow, through suffering and even death, to be raised to life eternal.