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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ascent from the Descent

The Descent

A few months ago, at my brother's house, I watched a horror movie called "Descent". It was a group of women who were going spelunking (cave exploring), apparently in a cave that was for "beginners" although they were all very experienced. As it was, apparently one of the women had accidentally discovered another cave system and so lead them into that.

And the new cave WAS very difficult, and they found,after a crawl space collapsed behind them, that they had to keep going; they could not escape through their original route. It was at about this point that they learned they were not where they had planned to be, thanks to the deception of their friend. From that point on, it became a survival movie; now enter the horror element: flesh-eating human-like creatures. I won't go through the gorey details (which they were); I will only say that only one of the women made it out alive, and even there, her sanity, gone. It was a movie completely without hope, and completely without any redeeming value whatsoever.

I literally had a nightmare a couple weeks later that placed me in the cave with them, unable to escape, and when it got to the scene involving the lair of the beasts, somehow I managed to wake myself up so I wouldn't have to "live" through the horror.

I used to love horror movies, and I'll admit I still have a few I remember nostalgically. Maybe I enjoyed them as they seemed so forbidden (Mom didn't want us watching them), but also because they were unrealistic. Although now I don't know if I'd watch them again. It seems my compass has been reset.


Back when I was in college, planning for a career in law enforcement, I knew that I would see some pretty awful things. And I knew, that, as a girl, people might watch for my reactions to the most difficult things. I knew I had to be "tough" and so I set out to desensitize myself. Horror movies, Faces of Death movies...anything I could get my hands on. I didn't want to react when I saw bad things. I wanted to be stoic about it. I knew that my ability to do my job would depend on whether I could be in control of my reactions.

As it was, that's what happened. But somewhere I think it went too far because to a certain degree, I also became "unfeeling". Something in me "broke" when I fed my mind with so many images, many of which were real deaths of real human beings, even very inhumane deaths, including executions.


Those images are still burned into my brain and I have to work to shift my mind away from them. Over time, I'm becoming more horrified at what I used to watch and the things I can never un-see. Things I looked at voluntarily. Recently I read an article about a young man who leaped to his death somewhere in the UK, while a crowd of other young people egged him on. Afterwards they crowded around his body, snapping pictures with their camera phones.

I thank God I never descended that far for I never willed the death of another for entertainment purposes, however, I can understand why those people did what they did. After all, given all the violent images available to us, ranging from the news, the web, horror movies, and available footage of actual intended deaths (such as some in Faces of Death movies), well, it's the next logical step.

Consider for yourselves; what's next?

In a world that does not know God, and does not respect life, can we expect anything different?

It is as I am still emerging from my self-imposed darkness that I'm seeing these things, and understanding them. I want to erase what I've imposed upon my intellect, yet I can't, and perhaps that's my penance.

I am comforted, though, that horror movies no longer have the draw they once held. I am comforted that watching "The Descent" literally gave me nightmares, for it means that I am far healthier than I have been in a very long time.

We all have a choice in what to watch or what to read, and the ideas of others literally enter our souls through our eyes and our ears. With what are we feeding ourselves? What effect will those images or words have on our moral life? What influences us?

Proponents of pornography or horror, graphic metal music or rap, violent video games, etc., will cry out in anger at the suggestion that such things mold them into something they should not be. And yet the evidence is obviously apparent. It was apparent in my life, and it is apparent in theirs. That event in the UK is only a symptom of how deeply people have been affected by the violence in our entertainment industries.

In class this semester we have an essay question involving Plato's cave analogy, and suddenly I realize why part of that analogy horrified me to a certain degree. I'm one of the cave prisoners who has emerged from the darkness. It's not possible to understand the light and what's in the light, and the source of the light if one is trapped in darkness and believes the backlit images are the only reality.

I thank God for my nightmares; they have given me hope that perhaps, finally, I have left the darkness of the cave behind me forever.


Mark said...

Your post would make a brilliant homily/reflection on the meaning of Matthew 6:22-23 - "The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!"

Melody K said...

I think for some people, violence is a form of pornography. Mark, your quote expresses it exactly.
I do sort of enjoy mildly creepy movies, such as "Sixth Sense", but have never been able to watch the seriously horrible ones. I got nightmares as a child from from the cannibals in "The Time Machine" (which is mild by today's standards).

Banshee said...

I'm okay with movies where bad things happen, but only if I have some assurance that in the end, the good guys will win and survive, and survive in a good way.

Critters is a good movie for that -- people survive by working together and thinking ahead.

Adoro said...

Mark ~ I hadn't considered that verse, but it would be a great addition to this post. Thanks!

MelodyK~ I agree. And I also enjoyed "Sixth Sense" and like movies, although I'm still mildly disturbed that I like's the use of the occult that tries to make it acceptable that bothers me, even though it's legitimate fiction.

Maureen ~ I get irritated that people don't ask God for help...all horror movies are COMPLETELY Godless, and that's disturbing. Even if the ending is good, God is absent...and so there's no real good ending.

And yet on my shelves, I still have a couple movies I enjoy that I know I should throw away.

* sigh *

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Even though movies are fiction....participation in evil is never a good thing. I got rid of all of my horror movies a while back...(though a secret, I still enjoy some once in a while)

uncle jim said...

still today, the plato cave shadow version of reality comes back to me from time to time and i gotta get back away far enough to find the source of the light ... i can get bound-up by the unreality i think i see because of unseen unreal chains

man ... i don't think that made any sense

good post

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of when I was in my teens (and long before I became a Catholic). The youth pastor of the Pentecostal church I was attending thought it would be a good idea for our youth group to celebrate Halloween by having a haunted house. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy myself, partly because I am such a wuss in these things but partly that I objected to this sort of event. As I said to him later, if we as Christians believe that perfect love casts out all fear, then what on earth are we doing deliberately trying to scare ourselves. He didn't agree with me, but at least respected my convictions.

Anonymous said...

Ug, this post reminds me of my "bad old days" in the heavy metal scene. Like the movies you can't "unsee", there are some awful songs I can't "unhear".

But on a more hopeful, if not downright unbelieveable note, a lot of the old headbangers are converting. Dave Mustaine of "Megadeath" has become a Christian and Peter Steele of "Type O Negative" now says he is a Roman Catholic. These guys were Satanists in all but name. Even one of my old band buddies is a missionary in the Amazon for crying out loud! I still can't get my mind around news like this!