Sunday, May 12, 2013

Gatsby, Love, Death, and the Elusive, Green Light

Last night I saw Baz Luhrmann's mesmerizing film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and given the state of transition that I find myself in currently, the film struck many chords in my heart and mind on multiple levels. I was particularly impacted by what the film seemed to say about the perils of holding to the past too tightly in an attempt to prolong something that is no longer relevant to the present. This I would like to explore with some thoughts from my own musings with God in the Bible the past few days, and a U2 reference thrown in for good measure. If this sounds like interesting food for thought, please, join me as I digress.

For those of you familiar with the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald or who have recently seen the new film adaption (or the old one, for that matter, though I don't know how good it is), the affluent Gatsby spends an incredible amount of time, thought, and personal resource towards reclaiming a past love that in his mind is meant to be his again. (Spoiler alert, important info coming up, fyi.) However, as the story unfolds and Gatsby's plans play themselves out, he is left with little more than a fleeting phantom of the love that he once shared with the ethereal yet earth-bound Daisy. Ultimately, Gatsby's attempts to recreate and reform a fractured past disintegrate in a beautifully tragic sequence of his great love retreating back into herself, away from Gatsby and the subsequent death of our tragic hero. Were this a Greek tragedy, we might say that hope, while his greatest strength, also turned out to be Gatsby's tragic flaw, the hamartia leading to the hero's impending death. Much like Gatsby's fixation upon the green light across the water, flashing on and off in the distance signaling the hope of a dream deferred yet sought after again, so also the object of his desire in Daisy proved to be a waning light, on, then off, beckoning in the distance, yet never to remain steady.

Okay, are you depressed yet? If so, this is not my intent, but I suppose you may be feeling the weight of the above scenario as I am as I write this. Thus, I would like to introduce the hope. If hope can be a flaw, a hope to reclaim a past that is no longer supposed to be or able to be, then where is the place for present hope? I believe it comes in putting the past to death and beginning a new journey, letting the green light fade, and finding a new direction in which to focus one's gaze. Some may take this to mean something relationally, as if I were implying that this is simply about saying goodbye to and old season of love and finding a new object of affection to fixate upon. While this can certainly be the case, I think the concept of hope in a new direction applies in a much broader way. It has to do with new experiences, a new ways of living, being, new environments and circumstances, and a willingness to leave the familiars of the past in order to step into these fresh gifts with eyes and heart clear and open. We've got to leave the state that U2 so poignantly sings about with in their album All That You Can't Leave Behind: "You've got to get yourself together. You got stuck in a moment, and you can't get out of it."

I was in a food establishment recently where I had heard the chai was most excellent, and the time of day finally allowed me test that mettle of this praise. To my great delight, the accolade that this chai had received was well deserved, and I felt supremely blessed to have to found another good place in Chicago to enjoy really GOOD chai (something the quality of which is quite hard to find in a restaurant or cafe). Why do I bring this up? Well, in this time, I was reminded of the rewards that can come with risk in seeking out new avenues of sustenance, new environments and opportunities to engage with which can sometimes only be experienced if one is willing to step out of a comfort zone and risk the disappointment or pleasure that the unfamiliar may provide. In this case, the unfamiliar was Native Foods Cafe, a place that I was familiar with in so far as their Vegan chili (Vegan though I am not), yet not certain as to whether or not the chai would meet my expectations. I am thankful that it did. In that same environment, I was also met with another experience which further affirmed this venture into change. The waitress asked me later if I wanted a refill, to which I replied, "Surely it is not a free refill since it is chai, right?" I was pleasantly mistaken, and upon savoring the substance of another round of that heavenly liquid, I thought how in life God also provides us re-fills once our cup is empty (or almost empty), and how in order for a refill to take place, an emptying to some degree must precede it.

Empty your cup. Give it to Jesus for a refill. The old was good, but it's gone. Time for something fresh. New light. New, green light.........GO.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.22“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” -Jesus, in Mark 2:21-22

"You've got to get yourself together.
You've got stuck in a moment,
and you can't get out of it.
Don't say that later will be better.
Now you're stuck in a moment,
and you can't get out of it."
- U2, from their album All That You Can't Leave Behind

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning-- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby