The Salvation of Thomas Becket: Thoughts on the film Becket (1964)

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings, but mercy is above the sceptered sway. It is enthroned in the heart of kings and earthly power doth then show likest God's, when mercy seasons justice." ~ William Shakespeare

What defines the measure of a man? It is usually his actions over some long period of time that define him. Where Thomas Becket, confidant to Henry II, was concerned, he was nearly as corrupt as his king. When the king caroused, so did he. When the king required female companionship, so did he. And when the king required something of him, Thomas did it, unquestioningly. One would think this man to be irredeemable. Except that no one is irredeemable. It may take years to find God, or it may take only a single moment to make a choice. In the case of Thomas Becket, it only took a moment. Thomas Becket loved his king, as much as he was capable of loving anyone. He and Henry were so close that it irked Henry's wife and mother to no end. When Henry needed consoling, he went to Thomas. When he needed friendship, he went to Thomas. And when he needed someone to manipulate, he went to Thomas. All because Thomas understood that he could do nothing to change the king.

Ironically, it was Henry's manipulative nature which finally cured Thomas of his placatory behavior. In one fell swoop, the Archbishop of Canterbury died. Henry conceived a magnificent plan to have a new Archbishop placed, one who would support him. And who better than his oldest and dearest companion, Thomas Becket? It was the biggest mistake of Henry's life and the best thing that could have happened to Thomas. Becket was suddenly thrust into a religious life. He had always experienced a great respect for God. But it wasn't until Thomas Becket received the robes of Archbishop that he began to seriously consider the state of his immortal soul. All that time he spent with Henry, he was trying to earn his king's respect and love. And Henry did love him. But it was a selfish and manipulative love that did Thomas Becket no good.

Suddenly, Thomas realized that trying to honor Henry wasn't working. He couldn't reconcile himself to the two warring factions within his own heart. It was a fruitless labor and one that only brought a deep dissatisfaction. One day, as he knelt before the altar, Thomas Becket found God. And everything changed. In one fell swoop, Henry II lost not only his confidant but his closest friend and ally. Richard Burton's Becket said it best, "He has not yet forgiven me for choosing God over him." Just as Becket found peace, both with himself and with God, Henry II watched his world be torn apart. Love. How does love appear when it refers to men loving men without sexuality playing a role? Some make the claim that Henry II was in love with Thomas Becket. I utterly deny that point. Women were for sex and Henry II loved his women. Men were for love and respect.

Thomas was the best, honest, and most trustworthy man Henry ever knew and he gave him his love utterly and completely. It had nothing to do with sexuality, but of two people bonding as if they were brothers, or even closer than brothers. When Thomas realized his fulfillment was through God and not the king, it broke Henry's heart. All Henry ever desired was Thomas' good opinion and support. When that was stripped from him, he reacted as a man suddenly desolate. Women gave him pleasure, but Thomas stimulated his mind. There is a moment in "Becket" that is extremely poignant. Henry is now conceiving ways to wreak vengeance upon his former friend. He speaks with his barons, the most trusted men in his realm outside of Thomas Becket. All of a sudden, Henry clutches his heart. He cries out in realization that despite the pain and anger and hatred, a part of him still loves Thomas Becket and grieves for the loss of their friendship. He falls upon the floor and utterly weeps as the immense loss washes over him. His weakness lasts only a moment. He then utters the quote that most people recognize, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest!"

And this serves up Thomas Becket's death sentence. The barons take Henry seriously and martyr Thomas Becket. Henry lifts his head from the table where he collapsed as his men leave to commit their crime and he murmurs, "Thomas." There is no way to tell whether Thomas Becket's religious actions as Archbishop really stemmed from religious fervor or from ambition to steal Henry's power. But this film presented a man already torn in two directions by Henry and who finally decided that he needed God's approval more than man's.

Regardless of reality, the Hollywood story of Thomas Becket moved me to tears. He was indeed martyred and made a saint by the same man who pronounced his death sentence. Thomas Becket is living proof that a man can commit horrible, unclean, and perverse acts and yet still emerge as a child of God in the end due to a contrite heart. No man is perfect, Thomas Becket least of all. But he gives us hope that if he can be saved, so too can any man. If people only focus on their imagined vision of homosexuality in "Becket" then they've missed the point. This film isn't about Peter O'Toole or Richard Burton and their remarkable talents. It's about a single man who learned that he no longer needed to please man but only God. And that's something worth seeing.

Cautionary Warning: This film does contain some sexual content and brief partial nudity of a woman. The story couldn't have been told accurately otherwise.
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Attending a concert with The Three Phantoms

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nothing makes me feel more romantic than listening to the beautiful voices of three former Phantoms resounding throughout the Pikes Peak Center. *sigh* Tonight was the night. Mark Jacoby, Craig Schulman, and Brad Little were hired to perform for hundreds of Phantom enthused fans. And perform they did! It wasn't just Phantom either. They performed numbers from "Kiss Me, Kate," "Les Miserables," "The Most Happy Fella," and a score of other songs that I had never heard before. The most haunting may have been Craig and Brad's duet of "Lily's Eyes" from "The Secret Garden." It nearly brought tears to my eyes. But the best song of the evening, performed by all three, was "Music of the Night." If you think one Phantom singing it is good, than you can't imagine the ecstasy that three of them invoke. I think my heart literally stopped at that one crescendo he hits, or in this case they hit. The sound just reverberated, like nothing I've ever heard before. Wow, what an evening! I think I'm still on cloud nine.

Our parking situation was a tad funny too, from a certain point of view. I couldn't find a parking space and the show was going to start in five minutes. So I literally tossed Caitlin from the car to go get her seat (I was NOT going to let her miss the opening). Then I drove around a bit before finding a parking garage that made me slightly nervous, especially since it was a block and a half away from the theater. This is downtown Colorado Springs, at night, and I don't do downtown Colorado Springs at night. But I parked the car (parking was free for some reason), made sure it was locked and bolted for the theater. Five minutes later, I handed my ticket to the lady waiting inside the door, trying desperately not to gasp for breath since I'd sprinted almost the entire way. I only missed a smidgen of the selections from "The Sound of Music." Which was fine because the gentlemen were not singing at that point.

Like I said, the concert was beyond excellent. We met up with one of my coworkers who also happens to be a close friend and she and her husband offered to drive us back to the parking garage. I could tell by the look in Mal's eyes that he wasn't sure about letting us walk back into the garage since it was late and anything could happen. But Caitlin and I persevered and marched into the belly of the beast. There were a few lingering people that made me nervous, especially since the truck next to our vehicle had its doors open. So I unlocked the car with the beeper, crawled through from the passengers side door with Caitlin right behind me. A minute later and I was pulling out with the doors safely locked. There were a couple of suspicious looking characters waiting by a car down there too as we rounded a bend. It looked disturbingly like a possible drug buy, so I didn't slow down even at the corner.

We tore out of that garage and were thrilled to see that Mal and Lynn had waited for us at the top, just to be sure we were safe. We rolled down the windows, thanked them and said goodnight, and then headed for home, safe and sound. Not only did we have a marvelous experience at the theater, but we had an adventure in the parking garage as well. Next time, I'm remembering that there's a garage right next to the Pikes Peak Center. No more of this gang banger business for me, thanks very much.
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Olympics 2010 Opening Ceremony and Voltaire

Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole in How to Steal a Million 

Why am I awake at this ungodly hour (if an hour could be ungodly)? Because I just finished reading the silliest bit of fluff ever written. And by Voltaire, no less. Unless you want your head to spin round and round like a top, never pick up a copy of Voltaire's Candide. It's not worth your time and effort. I have a happier view of life than him, which explains why his philosophies manage to annoy me. *bleh* Thank goodness the discussion ends tomorrow. A small relief and than I'll never think of Candide again.

On a happier note, I did get to watch bits of the Olympics opening ceremony. Canada did a first-rate job. I was very, very impressed. What a shame about the 4th section not lifting for the lighting of the torch, but nothing's perfect and I thought it was brilliant regardless. Now I can only hope that Bodie Miller behaves himself this year. And I can hardly wait to watch the escapades of the figure skaters. It won't be the same without Alexai Yagudin, but he was tops. You only get someone like him once in a century, if you're lucky. Okay, I have work tomorrow (I'm sorry to say), so this is a remarkably short post.

But I can't prop my eyelids open anymore and I still want to watch a favorite scene from How to Steal a Million before I sleep. 'Night!

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Thoughts on Lawrence of Arabia

Friday, February 12, 2010

As Lawrence sets out across the desert with Daoud and Faraj. 
Auda abu Tayi: You will cross Sinai?
T.E. Lawrence: Moses did!
Auda abu Tayi: And you will take the children?
T.E. Lawrence: Moses did! 

What do you do when you come to the end of your rope? You either allow yourself to fall or you start pulling yourself up one painful handhold at a time. In the world of T.E. Lawrence, he reached the end of his rope. And he simply wanted to fall. An arrogance proceeded Lawrence throughout his tour in Arabia. He believed he could do anything and emerge unscathed. At least, until he was captured by the Turks. Than he found he was just a man and like any other man could be harmed, even killed. Lawrence found himself dangling on the end of that rope. It's not a pleasant thing to face mortality head-on. The young are especially gifted with thinking themselves immortal. I'll never die so I will ride motorcycles as fast as I can. I'll experiment with drugs, alcohol, and other vices because they can't hurt me. I'm young and infallible. If only this were the truth. But it's not the truth.

Lawrence was a remarkable man with many feats of bravery to his name along with many acts of foolishness. How often are we like T.E. Lawrence? We enter a situation, fully confident in ourselves and needing no outside help. Only to find that the outside help might just be the thing that saves us. I never want to reach the end of my rope and actually consider falling. Lawrence was placed in a situation so heinous that he found no other way. The fall didn't kill him, not yet, but that act of mentally giving up certainly left its mark on him. There will never be a time black enough to make giving up an option. It can be so hard to pull yourself up, but once you've done those first few pulls toward freedom, there are always hand to help you the rest of the way. They may be human hands, but more likely, they are the hands of a Savior. Watching Lawrence of Arabia was a remarkable event for me. It opened my eyes, not only to an amazing cinematographic achievement, but to the weaknesses found in everyone. Lawrence's adventures might have been singular, but his struggles, his failings, and his choices were not. In a way, I am T.E. Lawrence. It is for me to decide whether to give up living because of bad circumstances, or to fight my way through to the end.

It may seem foolish, but I wish I had been there to help the real Lawrence fight through his struggles and emerge the victor. I wish I'd been there, to comfort, and listen, and understand. Everyone needs a comforter. Mine is found in both close friends and in my Savior. Lawrence really had no one. And that's the shame of it.
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