Monday, 15 March 2010

Pitch Black

I haven't forgotten my new blogging manifesto from a few weeks back, my promise not to waste my time and words on trite matters. I'm not going to witter endlessly about how cool the aliens are in Pitch Black. I have slightly loftier ambitions than that.
For those of you who who haven't seen it, Pitch Black is a sci-fi film from 2000, starring Vin Diesel (star of The Fast & The Furious, XXX and a bunch of other stuff very few of us have seen) as a convict being transported on a freighter along with some random passengers, when it is forced to crash land by a meteor shower that catastrophically damages their ship.
The planet they land on has three suns and therefore permanent daylight. This is fortunate, since light-sensitive creatures live underground who like the taste of human flesh and have very sharp teeth and claws. An abandoned human settlement with a transport ship is found and with it, the prospect of escaping from this hostile, dry planet. All they need to do is take the energy cells from their stricken ship and transfer them to the new vessel. Oh and then there is a solar eclipse, which brings the light-sensitive beasties up to the surface for a feeding frenzy.
If that all sounds like typical B-movie shlock, then to an extent it is. However, there are some genuinely thought provoking moments that bear some consideration.
Firstly, towards the end, one character who is one of the few who can pilot the ship is offered a chance by Vin's character to leave the remaining survivors behind but refuses the opportunity.
"Would you die for them?" says Vin. "I would try for them", she replies. "Answer the question", he insists. "Yes", she relents, "I would die for them". It is not clear to what extent he is moved by her attitude to change his own course, but rather than abandon all of them, he agrees to go back and help rescue the remaining survivors. A hardened, violent criminal, inspired by the example of selflessness he sees in another to change his course and live more sacrificially.
The remaining survivors make it back to the ship and Vin gets cornered by two of the underground creatures. Although he survives their attack, he is badly injured and the pilot come back for him, to help him back to the ship. Sadly, she is then grabbed herself and dragged off into the darkness. "No!" Yells Vin, "not for me!" He knows what kind of man he is, what kind of life he has led, how undeserving he is of this sacrifice, that it would cost someone their own life to save him. He almost cannot live with the idea that someone would do that for him, when he knows what sort of man he is.
But grace and compassion are like that. They do not look to what we deserve, but what we need. We may find it hard to look at the sacrifice of another for our benefit and struggle to accept it. "Not for me!" We cry, "I'm not worth it. I cannot live with the knowledge that though I deserved nothing you still did this for me". But He did. He did it anyway and we can only sit back in awe and then move forward in gratitude, humbly offering our lives in His service as a thank offering.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


I confess that the first I heard of this man getting a life sentence for fathering 9 children (7 of whom still survive) with his two daughters, was when the findings of a major case review were published yesterday. Apparently over the course of 25 years they fell pregnant 19 times, with 9 full-term pregnancies and then 2 newly born deaths. Horrendous, horrific, disturbing.
The case review was focused on the failings of agencies and institutions who perhaps should have identified what was happening within this family and done something about it. The names of the family members have been omitted in order to preserve anonymity, understandable with both daughters and their seven children still living with the devastating truth of what has happened.
It makes me want to cry. I am not so naive as to think that such things do not happen, that such behaviour is not possible. I know it is, but on a personal level I cannot fathom how a father would act in such a way. He will be branded an "evil man", no doubt. Perhaps even "inhuman" or "a monster". I've lost my temper with my kids plenty of times, been frustrated with them as I suppose all fathers do from time to time. But how does one get from that to the fate of Family Q? Labelling the father evil or inhuman may help to distance him from the rest of "normal" society, may help reassure us that he is an aberration and does not reflect on the rest of us, but the reality is that whatever happened to him as he grew up, whatever influences were exerted on him that helped to shape/mould/warp/mutate his character, he was once a helpless newborn baby, just like the rest of us.
What happened? No-one wakes up one morning and decides to become abusive. These things must surely fester, grow, develop. What happened to him? I'm not trying to excuse him. To suggest that he is a victim in all of this, that he could not help it because of the way he was brought up would be a ghastly simplification and a possible excusing of behaviour that was in some way, at some point, a conscious decision. What he did was horrific, inexcusable and all of my sympathies lie with his daughters, his son and the seven children who came into the world in the some of the most horrendous circumstances imaginable. I have prayed for God's grace and peace and healing to be with them, for the pain, the scars, the trauma to heal. I do not know them so I can do no more, but perhaps even if I did know them there would be nothing better I could do for them.
I don't know what the future holds for them, or what the rest of his life holds for the father. Does he now understand that what he did was wrong, the most horrific betrayal of his role as a father? Does he see no wrong in himself? I know that God is just and the judge of all mankind and will do what is right. Beyond that, I do not understand.
I hugged and kissed my children a lot yesterday, much more than usual. I told them that I love them and will continue to say it, mean it and show it. They are so precious to me and so much of their life, especially as grown ups will trace its roots back to how I raise them now. I have an awesome responsibility, an opportunity to help shape their lives and characters in the most profound way. Like the day my daughter first appeared in the kitchen in her ballet outfit and asked me, with eyes all expectant, "how do I look Daddy?" So much hung on my next words and thank you God, I got it right that day.
My God's grace be with all of us to be the men, the fathers God has made and called us to be. May our children be blessed to have us and may they feel the impact of our fatherhood throughout their lives.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Chaos and Upheaval

It has been a momentous few days. An online glitch with the Playstation 3 led to some online contributor calling yesterday, "the day the earth stood still". Meanwhile, there is "chaos" amongst the Pussycat Dolls, as two of their members leave. Like I said, a momentous few days, but I have hope that we will come through this time of turmoil intact and find ourselves stronger for having steadfastly endured such turbulent times. Gamers will hopefully not have lost any online trophies they have accumulated and fans of The Pussycat Dolls will still be able to enjoy their back-catalogue and maybe, who knows, find another band to follow and appreciate.
For heavens sake people, is this what qualifies for news, calamity and upheaval these days. Do we remember Haiti? A few weeks ago, nearly quarter of a million people died and although the news has moved on, no doubt the lives of Haitians remain as chaotic, miserable and problematic as ever. Hundreds have died in Chile, millions remain displaced in Darfur. For the love of God, let's focus our lives, our energy, our thoughts, our time on something of genuine significance. By all means enjoy playing games and listening to pop music, but have some perspective. At a time when so many are suffering so much, the question of whether two men are going to shake hands or not when they meet is of less than no importance.