In Counselling

From the 1990s

A connoisseur’s movie will never last long at the box office. It is the Spielberg movie that keeps up on popularity because it can afford to cater for the masses. Yet it is “The Thin Red Line” that forces us, if we are willing, to look deep into the human psyche. The movie opens with a crocodile sliding into the water and sinking to glide to its prey. Here is the image that lies in the heart of the human person. We disown being predators but it is in our genes.

The film explores this scenario. The most civilized in our society are the most predatory. They can quote poetry to inspire mayhem. It is their poetry that fails to erase the predatory instinct , instead it subverts it. And so too does most of the education we learn.

Poetry can mask depravity. Words that trip from the lips have never journeyed from the heart. It is in this Pre- Easter week we have the time to examine our hearts, not our literary skills. Let us not be seduced by liturgy but instead stare at the horror of the Cross.

The Buddha under the Bodhi tree seems initially more appealing than a twitching Christ on a cross. But he too said that the first of the four universal truths is that every human being must suffer.

“The Thin Red Line” of course is a metaphor. And a metaphor is so much more real than a simile. The latter is a game of the mind. The former comes directly from the subconscious. The thin red line in metaphor is that fine line between the sane and the insane and all of us at some time cross that line. That is why we need to be cautious about literature and where it originates. It is not a pastime but a journey into the unconscious.

That is why it is important for us and those who we care for and are custodians of not to learn from those who have a game plan for they are mere dilettantes who trip over their words. But rather it is the Sharman who has stared into the void himself who is the truthful teacher. It was the cry of abandonment on the cross that was just that. We don’t have to pretty it up with explanations.

There is a darkness in the heart of all of us. When we reach middle age it is a constant companion. It is there and we tend to retreat into ourselves. We can so easily recoil from those precious little moments we have. Perhaps during the last days of lent we may contemplate the crocodile in all of us and then with a sense of hope realize that there is something we can do by savoring the beauty of a moment and realize it preciousness. And while we live with darkness and we see it in the many Kosovos we confront and are crippled by in being human we also know that it is the void we face that in a paradoxical way that ultimately makes sense of an at times senseless world.

John Hill


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