Thursday, May 03, 2007

An alternate good to God's good

I just revisited Brideshead Revisited (the BBC version with Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier--original novel by Evelyn Waugh, adaptation by John Mortimer). To me this mini-series (I still need to read the Evelyn Waugh book) is a devastating meditation on religion--and a gem of television drama. The first time I saw this series my much younger self was overwhelmed by the last episode.. The Laurence Olivier character accepts last rights (his last act in lifeis to cross himself) though he has been estranged from the church, living in sin for some twenty-five years. As a result of this episode, the Julia character (daughter) pushes away the Jeremy Irons character--because of the gulf opened up by religion and belief versus skepticism. Finishing the series tonight, I was no less moved by this episode. Found myself in tears.

Julia (Diana Quick) rejects Charles (Jeremy Irons) because she is terrified that marrying him will mean embracing an alternate good to God’s good. The good that Catholicism signifies in this series haunts me. The mother is sweet, loving, lethal. All of the children are damaged by her love and by the church.

I’m not sure the alternate good must exclude God (though I have little talent for belief myself). But a god that wins out must be on the side of life. A line from the last episode, from the nurse about the Lord Laurence Olivier character. Says the nurse. He resists dying. Not because of a zest for life but because of a fear of death. I do not want this to be an appropriate epitaph for my end, and for my life.

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