Sunday, June 01, 2008

Friendship, Family and Fantasy

Yesterday I was working on a little project while my wife watched DVD's of the first season of the ABC show, "Brothers and Sisters". I kept joking with her that the basic plot of every episode involved people yelling at each other and crying. It reminded me of something I'd wanted to blog about for awhile now which were some spiritual themes central to two recent fantasy blockbusters, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

In the case of The Lord of the Rings, a central theme was the importance of friendship. Massive armies clash on various battlefields, but it is ultimately steadfast friendship embodied primarily by the character of Samwise that ultimately wins the day and saves the world.

"Be ye a refuge to the fearful; bring ye rest and peace to the disturbed; make ye a provision for the destitute; be a treasury of riches for the poor; be a healing medicine for those who suffer pain; be ye doctor and nurse to the ailing; promote ye friendship, and honour, and conciliation, and devotion to God, in this world of non-existence."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 72)

Equally important is the theme of friendship across races symbolized by the bond between Legolas (an elf), Aragorn (a man) and Gimle (a dwarf) who emerge as a virtually unstoppable team, providing a glimpse of a future world of peace and unity.

"If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 29)

If friendship is the heart of "The Lord of the Rings", family is the heart of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." The Pevensie kids from England bring their family baggage with them into the magical world of Narnia, precipitating the betrayal by one of the children of his siblings which places the fate of the whole world in jeopardy. Family unity and reconciliation (with a little help from a certain Lion) defeat the forces of evil and become a strong foundation for a promised kingdom.

"Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation. Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)

Did you see these films? What, if any, spiritual themes did you see in them?