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Birdman and the Search for Meaning

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Each year I aim to see all of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. I fell a bit short of that goal this year, but I did see Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) at one of my favorite independent theaters in Denver.[1] In February, Birdman won the top prize at the Oscars in a race that was quite tight. As a philosopher specifically interested in existentialism,... Read More

What’s Love Got to Do with It? Theodicy, Trauma, and Divine Love

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Recently, I sat in a circle of students who had just read Eleanor Stump’s chapter on the book of Job in her seminal work on theodicy, Wandering in Darkness. In that chapter, Stump walks the reader through each trying moment of the story, including the conversation between God and Satan that paves the way to Job’s distress. She presents a compelling interpretation in which every... Read More

A Birdman Habitat: Heroics and the Mundane

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Birdman doesn’t shy from eccentricity.[1] Indulging a comic side largely absent in earlier work like Babel and Biutiful, director Alejandro González Iñáritu has created a world in which characters strut through Times Square in their underwear and order tanning beds delivered to their dressing rooms. The auteur’s tendency toward magical realism results in a liberal display... Read More

Making Culture in the Consumption Echo-Chamber

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I. In the fall of 2013, I loaded into a fifteen-passenger van in Grand Rapids, Michigan, heading for Toronto. We wove north of Detroit, across the bridge and over the Canadian border, destined for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). On my last night in town, I sat in the back row of a packed theater to watch the premiere of Jason Reitman’s Labor Day. The moments of... Read More

They Do Not Realize We Are Bringing Them the Plague

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The basic thing about analysis is that people finally realize that they’ve been talking nonsense at full volume for years. —Jacques Lacan, Écrits   Sailing into New York Harbor, Sigmund Freud stood on the deck with Carl Jung and gazed out at the statue illuminating the world.[1] Their arrival was a much-anticipated event for American psychologists so very curious of what this... Read More

Welcome To Earth

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Welcome. This film documents an event that has yet to take place. —The Visit   The Visit is a documentary about the earth’s first encounter with alien life form. Although this event has yet to take place, this is not a sci-fi or end-of-the-world narrative film. This is a documentary that presents real-life experts with the what-ifs of an alien encounter. It includes the... Read More

Trauma and the Technology of Participation

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The history of humanity is one of boundary, which we wish to conquer, and technology, that by which we conquer. We see this in all forms of technology, from the earliest stone axe to the latest iPhone iteration. In the West, secular and religious cultures still adore technological advance, and while modern technological advance has afforded us many incredible gains in power and... Read More

How Cancer Made Me Less of a Bastard (and More Human)

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There is a beloved story among whiskey-drinking Nashville Christians involving the regional oddity that is Will D. Campbell. He was a double-traitor of sorts, first to poor, white southerners when he became a civil right activist and then later to his fellow activists who wondered what would possess a man to minister to the racists. The story goes that an unbelieving friend, who... Read More

On Boyhood, Tralfamadore, and the Meaning of Life

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I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five   Tralfamadorians, of planet Tralfamadore, where flying saucers come from, cast a bleak vision of life outside time. These extraterrestrial... Read More

Salvific Communities and Practices of Resistance: A Feminist Theological Response to Trauma

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In Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman argues that trauma healing is only possible within healthy relationships.[1] She says that survivors need an empowering community of support in order to heal. In the United States, the normative community is the nuclear family, but how do survivors of domestic violence heal if that community is a source of violence and trauma? Given the familial... Read More