The Wondrous Bellion

A skeptic when he is shown of his falsity might be hesitant to leave it for the truth if no one shows him how to begin a truthful pathway. There is a middle ground in which the falsity is shown for what it is, and the truth is not yet fully revealed. The skeptic might be hesitant to set foot upon this middle ground if it means being in doubt of where to go – backwards to the falsity, or to stay put until he is shown the way forward? Of course, it may be pointed out that, at the least, falsity is itself not truthful, and thus we know as much. Nevertheless this middle ground is key to understanding Jon Bellion’s song “Maybe IDK,” for Bellion leads the listener on a journey to this middle ground, and upon it the journeyman courageously (and humbly) admits that he is ignorant.

The phrase ‘I wonder’ is repeated twelve times throughout the song. Why did he choose this phrase? Might we say that Bellion expressed himself as he was designed to do? For do we not try to understand something only because it has provoked us to wonder about it? Think of a child who asks questions about everything. Is it not wonder that provokes him to question? In fact, I would venture to say that we call children with that name in part because they wonder about so much. But, perhaps I am off topic. Bellion wonders about something because he was designed to wonder about the world. Is it too far to say that these things which provoke us to wonder are not designed to do so? If one doubts the world, do they doubt that they doubt the world? Are these questions not something to wonder about if you are a skeptic or otherwise?

The anaphora of the ‘wonder phrase’ aforementioned lends itself to a discussion of wonder. One does not merely wonder but instead wonders about something. What is it that Bellion wonders about? There are twelve things he wonders about, which could be reduced to these four categories: the material world, God, the fear of the unknown, and despair. He frames each wonder in a ‘why’ question. That is to say, he asks why he fears, despairs, or why his life is materialistically odd, all having to do with the design of the human being. Appropriate with the title of his album, no? Nevertheless, so too are we invited to wonder at the things he wonders at, for do we not all dream, live in a material world, fear the unknown, and despair at times (and many other things I might add)?

Ah ha, here we are opened to wonder itself if we were distant from it before or otherwise did not realize that we wonder at all. Bellion brings us to a middle ground, for if we doubted before, we surely can know that we wonder, even if we wonder at something that we doubt. But, are we hesitant to stay here? Or do we desire more truth? Do we desire to become doubtless? Here, we cannot look to the song for aid because Bellion only leads us so far on the journey – he gives us the first step. The rest of the way is a mystery for us to discover somewhere else – perhaps in another song of the album. At least, we can humbly say that for some of the things we wonder about, particularly if we only guess about them, we may not know how to entirely articulate what we see.

I appreciate Jon Bellion because he opens us up to wonder about the world and leads us to this first step towards the truth, a wondrous platform from which to ponder all of creation.

Works Cited:

Bellion, Jonathan, et al. “Maybe IDK.” The Human Condition, Visionary Music Group and Capitol Records, 2016.

Movie Review: The Quiet Place

In April of 2018, John Krasinski and others released a movie of astounding horror and wonder, for their movie The Quiet Place excited audiences with a depth of meaning, inviting all to wonder and awe at the beauty of the highest order of creation, the family. Take away the loudness within a family, and you might discover its essence through silence. Indeed, Krasinski does as much and more, for he imaginatively and ingeniously combines silence, horror, and love such that new meaning is bestowed upon sound. What do I mean by this statement?

I would like to imaginatively review the work of art here with the consideration of Dante Alighieri’s four levels of interpretation which have been historically used to understand Scripture. Why? Because these levels enlighten the imaginative genius aforementioned. The four levels are the literal, from which flow the allegorical, which for Dante consists of the tropological and anagogical because it is in the literal things of our world that we discover hidden meanings and spiritual mysteries. For example, the monsters in the horror film are literally ugly, but entirely what they are (there essence) is a mystery to us. A Christian in the audience might recognize the monsters as similar to anything that destroys life on earth, namely sin. In this sense, the monsters are not only anagogical but tropological, for a man in the audience may replace the monsters with something in his life he knows as sinful.

The movie begins in medias res, that is, in the midst of things as it were, for right away we are months into the life of the family in the aftermath of the predators’ coming without any knowledge of their origins. The family itself allegorically stands in as a monastery or place of stability for those living in its quarters, for the parents – Lee and Evelyn – strive for a stable living with their three children while three monsters lurk nearby. Furthermore, I do not believe it a coincidence that Krasinski named his characters the Abbotts (a tropological element to the story), for an Abbot is in charge of a monastery. Some monasteries practice silence for large amounts of time, sometimes indefinitely except for chanting. Krasinski mimics such silent monks with an imaginative twist in that the monsters indirectly cause the silence, for any sound made attracts the monsters to kill the person or thing from whence the sound comes from. Here in this setting we discover the essence of the family.

The essence of the family is good living, which requires firstly that there are lives to live well. The threat or antagonists to the family therefore is not death itself but the monsters who cause it. Good living demands that both parents nurture and protect their children well, the father being the role of the primary protector and the mother as the primary nurturer, for their bodies are rightly and sacredly designed for such roles. This traditionally Christian perspective on the family manifests in the movie as Evelyn educates her children academically and Lee educates them practically, though both are not solely educating one way or the other.

In the combination of the setting and essence of the family sound has its “role,” for by it the ‘Judas’ character gives in to his despair, the son Marcus saves his mother and her newborn child, and the father in Christ-like fashion gives his life away for those he loves. How so you may ask? I leave the answer a mystery for you to discover in that I recommend watching The Quiet Place for its depth of meaning manifested in its portrayal of the family.

Works Cited:

Krasinski, John, director. The Quiet Place. 2018.

Entranced of Humility: Part 2

In my previous part about humility in The Merchant of Venice I talked about how Portia was a humble character. Henceforth, I would like to observe her outlook towards others under the influence of the virtue of humility. This blog may bear a similar critic to that of my previous piece about Beowulf except in light of a virtue instead of a vice. Why would I like to observe Portia’s perspective of the world as it were? Because by it Shakespeare reveals the essence of good husbandry and the hamartia of the hero of the play. How so?

The virtue of humility points to virtue itself, for all virtues are essentially good. Indeed, we know from Bassanio that Portia is “fairer than that word” (1.1.169) can describe, for she is of “wondrous virtues” (1.1.170). Portia is wholly virtuous aside from being merely a humble character. Her virtue permeates her perspective on the world, but particularly concerning her suitors, for she describes them “according to [her] description level at [her] affection” (1.2.37-38), meaning she describes her suitors in accordance to her understanding of their goodness or rather lack thereof. Thus, a look at her perspective of the suitors is in order.

The first suitor Portia judges is the Neapolitan prince. She judges him to be a “colt” (1.2.40), a syllepsis pun between the meanings ‘a young horse’ and an ‘inexperienced young boy trying to be a man’ (OED). Indeed, the prince only boasts of his horse and how he takes care of it as any adult would do (1.2.40-43). One can see not only the humor in this pun but the prince’s vice of pride. Pride is certainly opposed to humility. Portia notices those opposite in quality of herself.

The second suitor is the County Palatine. Portia judges him to be a sad fellow, for “he doth nothing but frown” (1.2.46) even after listening to a merry tale. She fears, rightly so, that the earl would grow to be pessimistic towards others because of their better fortune than he. The man seems to be sad at the good fortune of others. His attitude is certainly “unmannerly” (1.2.50) if not unchristian-like. A sad man does not give of himself but only sulks about what he has not gained. Portia does not wish to marry such a man.

The third suitor is Monsieur Le Bon, the French lord. Portia sympathizes with the man insofar as he is a creature of God’s creation. She thereby demarcates herself from a whiner, for a whiner does not desire to sympathize. Additionally, to whine also means to judge without a good justification (if one at all). Portia judges Monsieur Le Bon to be an every-man who has all the world to himself (so-much so that he is like twenty-husbands) and yet smiles no more than the County Palatine. A marriage to him would be a lifetime full of unrequited love, for what could Portia give him that he does not already have? Portia believes that this reason justifies not marrying the French lord, who has all to give in the world and would only whine about gaining more things.

Alas, I will skip the fourth suitor, for he has nothing to do with virtue or vice but rather with a difference of language between him and Portia. Portia recognizes that it might not be fair (no “pennyworth” (1.2.71) existent) for either of them to be married in such a situation where there would be a deep lack of communication. The fifth suitor is a Scottish lord who is charitable so long as his borrowings are insurable. In other words, he gives only if he is insured he will gain back that which he gave. One may ask is if such an exchange is good when it deals in love? For Portia deems otherwise that this prideful reciprocation is no good for marriage because it reduces marriage to a civil union of use.

The sixth suitor is a young German nephew of the Duke of Saxony who at his best is no gentleman and at his worst is only slightly better than a beast (1.2). He is so vile that Portia considers refusing him a chance at the objective test for her hand in marriage. Of course this consideration of Portia’s shows her fallen nature, but she is quickly corrected by her good friend Nerrisa. In the end, Portia values good husbandry by declaring those faults in any bad husband, whether that be of pride, pessimism, or the lack of love. Shakespeare even reveals the flaw of the hero in light of the essence of good husbandry.

The hamartia or ‘tragic flaw’ of the hero resides in how the hero Bassanio shows his fallen nature, for after having promised not to give his marriage ring away, he gives it as a gift to the disguised Portia for her aid in judging the villain Shylock for his crimes at the end of the play. Alas, Bassanio, who is ever kind, succumbs to a foolhardy action, and Portia, after revealing herself, rightly judges that he “would not have then parted with the ring” (5.1.218) had he judged its value or his own honor radiating from his humble character. For if he had done so he would have realized that a honorable man would not cast aside the sacred marriage ring as if it was a toy given to another at Christmas. Here we find that Bassanio’s over-generosity (i.e. his heroic quality) fails him as a humble character and potential good husband. Thankfully for him Portia is forgiving (The Merchant of Venice).

Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, FOLGER Shakespeare Library, 1993. Print.