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Interpretations of The Fall
My recently published short film, The Fall, is a metaphysical parable that arose from my anguish during the time of Covid. The insanity around the pandemic brought to a head the pervasive wrongness of the civilized world that has often made me wonder, “What the heck am I doing here? Who marooned me on Planet Crazy?”
This film offers an answer to that question.
It is the same feeling that makes so many people now reluctant to have children. Why bring a child into such a world?
The insanity and the unnecessary hellish suffering of this world have become so completely normalized that, either, we are hardly aware of it, or, we take it for granted as just the way things are. When one awakens to it, it seems so monstrous, so inconceivable, so intolerable that one cannot understand how others so readily accept it as normal. The result is a profound sense of alienation.
For the last year or two, when someone observes to me aspect of the wrongness or insanity of the world, I have taken to remarking, “Well, that’s just the way it is done in the sixth or seventh circle of Hell.” The topic might be an outright horror, like the “baby factories” in Nigeria where teenage girls, usually mentally handicapped, are imprisoned, repeatedly raped to make babies who are then sold to human traffickers or dismembered to harvest their organs. Or it might be a wrongness more muted: the children addicted to their video screens, the 90% c-section rates in some places, the degradation of food and soil, the pervasive ugliness of the modern built environment, the phoniness of political speech…. the confinement of exuberant life into the boxes of modernity. That’s just the way it is done here. Over two generations, the “roaming range” of American children has dropped from three miles to a few meters. But I cannot say life is worse than it was in the times of chattel slavery or witch burning or foot binding or public torture. It's just hard to say it is better. Thus, my resigned quip about the sixth or seventh (I can’t decide which) circle of Hell.
While the locus of the suffering shifts through the ages, it changes little in breadth or intensity. Nonetheless, many of us —- and even on some level all of us —- harbor a secret understanding that there is indeed a way out of what seems like the inalterable “human condition.” Not a way to transcend it, but a way to transform it, however hopeless it may seem. And further, that each of us has a role to play in that transformation.
In the film, wise and luminous people journey from far and wide to gaze upon a disturbing spectacle, a pit that has opened up in the earth. It is indeed the Pit of Hell. They gather around the Pit, holding hands, and gaze into it. What they see horrifies them beyond anything they could imagine. Nothing in their direct experience has ever suggested such misery could exist. What they are seeing, we recognize as scenes from this earth. The people around the pit join hands in solidarity. They look at each other. They understand what they must do. They nod in agreement, in shared understanding. Their horrified, shocked, tearful countenances relax into serene purpose. As one, they pitch forward into the Pit, They are angels, carrying love, peace, and healing into the Pit of Hell.
They fall into the Pit, releasing each other’s hands, letting go of the beautiful world they are leaving, so that they may be born into this one.
This story reconceives the theological idea of the Fall. It is not that we have rebelled against God, and are therefore cast from the heavens. It is not that we are here as punishment, to work off our accumulated karmic sins. Nor is it that evil is taking over the universe, corrupting one realm after another on earth and beyond. We are here on purpose, and we are here with purpose.
The answer to the question, “Who marooned me on Planet Crazy?” is “I did.”
But we are not truly marooned here. You may still feel the lingering touch of your comrades on your palms, from before you took the Fall. You may, in your mind’s eye, gaze through the veils of Hell and see more of the luminous ones gathered at the edge of the pit, who understand the task you have taken on, who are confident in your ability to achieve it, and who are awaiting your return.
The transformation of Hell does not mean the elimination of all pain, hunger, violence, or suffering, just as Hell itself — at least this circle of it — is not without pleasure, joy, and beauty. Hell and Heaven interpenetrate each other to create Middle Earth. The weave of creation is magnificent and mysterious, and a film such as mine cannot do it justice. Though a parable, its truth is not in its interpretation. It too is in the weave: of the music, the images, the story. Take it over-literally, and you may assume that some few of us are here as saviors to rescue the benighted masses from Hell. Not so. The fallen angels do not incarnate as some people and not others. They incarnate not just “as” but also “in” each one of us. Within you is a memory of the Fall of compassion. Thank you all for joining me here.
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