Thursday, July 31, 2014

"We Never Really Die": A Review of "Lucy"

Sigh. Where to start on Lucy? (WARNING: SPOILERS)

The film starts out well enough: a young lady studying abroad in Taiwan gets caught up in a drug smuggling ring that nearly kills her. But instead of killing her, the triad running the ring decides to use her as a carrying case for their latest drug, guaranteed to be the stuff "European kids will go crazy for." This new stuff, however, proves to be something far more potent than even the triad boss and his cronies could have imagined: synthetic CPH4, which after it leaks into Lucy's (played by Scarlett Johanssen) bloodstream gives her superpowers by unlocking the potential of her neurons and brain, allowing her inhuman amounts of access to her cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain. With those powers she ultimately defeats the bad-guys and is able to stop the drugs from going mainstream.

If only it ended at that, I would have enjoyed the movie more. Unfortunately, it goes far beyond that into the realm of quantum physics, of philosophy, and the nature of the universe, with Lucy coming to the conclusion that it is time, not God, not experience, not love, not mere existence, that gives life meaning. Time becomes god, and by transcending time via the drug and achieving 100% use of the brain's capacity, Lucy somehow unlocks the deepest secrets of the universe by becoming one with time, diffusing her existence across time and space and even into the time before Time to the point of her dissolving into matter and sending a text message to her French partner at the end, saying "I am everywhere."

While the graphic and cinematic artistry is great, the entire message of Time being the giver of meaning made me sick. So...that's it? Nothing more? It's this kind of pseudo-scientific rubbish, worthy of Richard Dawkins, that makes me question theoretical science and all the power that Scientism claims to have. Lucy should become Scientism's commercial face, for all the good it will do. It's essentially Transcendence with a much better looking lead (Sorry Johnny Depp: you're a great actor, but you're not my type or gender preference). It is one of the most blatant modernist messages I have witnessed in years: if only man could harness the power of science and unlock the power of the brain, we may become as gods ourselves. That's the claim that the modernists and progressivists propagated for most of the XX Century, and the history shows that humanity is all the worse for having bought into the mantras of charlatans spouting false science and scientific ideology. The body count is all the evidence one needs to come to that conclusion.

Beyond the naked propaganda for bad science, what really sickened me was how Lucy becomes less and less human the more and more CPH4 she ingests. The more powerful she becomes, the more and more she resembles a monster; no, worse, a machine: cold, calculating, utterly ruthless, unburdened by morality and ethics, and murderous. In effect, she becomes a beast-machine, burdened only by natural needs such as food and...entertainment. The message of the ascension of the beast-machine with control over all things is terrifying but more to the point outrageous and disgusting to those of us who believe in something More than mere existence.

It is true that we exist in Time and Space, but that fact is not the sum total of our existence. Our choices, our beliefs, our loves, our hates, our being, means more than that. Further, I would like to point out that everything that Lucy experiences is sensate: derived from the senses. And that, she seems to say, is all one needs. But human nature and history reject this notion: from the paleolithic age to this day, man has been aware of a higher existence, something that transcends, in the truest sense of the word, the sorrows and shocks of mortal life. Man, endowed with a soul, has not been satisfied with his mere material existence. And he has come into contact with that Higher Form, in one way or another, that Christians and Jews and Muslims call "God." So did the Greeks, Sumerians, Egyptians, Harrapans, and ancient Chinese. The Romans drew upon the Greek understanding and applied the laws of heaven to nature, noting that life adheres to orders that had to have a beginning, that could not have existed or come into being on their own. Thomas Aquinas makes the same observation.

If Time the Devourer was the sum of everything, then why do we exist? We are just some cosmic joke or anomaly, according to that logic. Yet no civilization has ever believed that. Something had to have changed their minds or have given them the initial impression. We Christians call that Divine Revelation; call it what you want, it has existed in every civilization, and since I don't believe in coincidences, that each action and idea has a distinct consequence, something is there, beyond time and beyond space and yet also of them. For me, that is God. And do we really slip into time, forgotten? What about memory? What of the soul? Lucy seems to reject the notion of the soul. Can we really be so callous and cynical about the truest essence of our Self? One of my favorite authors makes the observation that yes, man might just be a bundle of atoms and cells. That energy, though, never is destroyed, but is converted. What is to say that the only energy we are converted into is the dirt beneath our feet? What if the energy of our soul continues to exist beyond the mortal realm?

I also take issue with Lucy's final act: the conversion of the sum of all knowledge into a computer chip and then saying "Now you know what to do with it (all the information in the universe)." To quote Eliot, "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" Here's my question to Lucy: You never told us what to do with it. We have it, but we have no way to apply it. And guess what? Humans being what they are, will soon abuse the information you have given us and use it to destroy themselves, if not in physical existence than in spiritual being. Conceivably, the knowledge would destroy our planet. You're a false prophet: in Christianity, Jesus explains to us what our purpose is and how to apply God's grace and gifts to better ourselves and those around us and our planet. You would reduce us to beasts, something less than human, not more.

The fact that humans only use 10-12% of their brain's capacity is not a handicap. Look at what we've been able to accomplish with it at just an average 11%! We've built great civilizations and systems and works and machines. We are pushing the boundaries in everything. We are greater when we are human, capable of so much. Yes, we might be so much more if we had more brainpower, but then again we might be so much less, as well, as Lucy's beast-machine goes to show. I firmly believe that there are some things that we humans are better off not knowing, and that to try and make ourselves into something we are not would destroy our identity and uniqueness as creations made in the image of God. So thanks but no thanks for the claims to godhood.

Pros: Great cinematography, graphics, interesting premise initially
Cons: forgettable characters, half-baked science, unrealistic finale
Final Grade: 4/10

Friday, April 11, 2014

Did I Botch It? Contemplating Experiences (with Rhythms)

As I sit here, caught in the thoughtful daydream that remains ever-present in the back of my mind, I wander into my subconscious and beg the question to the gentleman seated at the desk in my mind-study: did I botch my life already?

The man glances up, then returns to his writing, but does ask me back, "What do you think?" He dips his quill into an ink-bottle, and the scritch-scratch of letters continues.

Me: "Well, you are me, so what do you say?" I flop myself down into the large chair opposite the Second-Empire desk and dejectedly scan the volumes of the surrounding bookcases. Every book an experience and the lessons gleaned from it.

He doesn't look up. "I am merely a figment of your subconscious, a small part of you developed to manage your mind. See here, I don't really have time to go too deep into the realm of the metaphysical today, so stop beating about the bush and just spit it out: what's on your mind?"

I look at him and look away. "I feel like I have wasted a good portion of my life."

He finishes his record-sheet, puts it in a drawer, and draws out his pipe. "How so?"

"Mind you, it could just be my insecurities, but I can't help but feel like I'm going nowhere and have gone nowhere."

He puffs on his pipe a little. "Nonsense." He gets up and spins the large globe next to his desk. "You've had experiences some people would kill for, and no I'm not exaggerating too much when I say that." He looks me dead in the eye. "What's this about?"

I sink further in the chair, 'cause I know he's right. "Well...I just don't know where I am going, and that bothers me."

A small smile of sympathy crosses his face and he puffs on his pipe some more. "That's nothing unusual, old boy. I'd say that's pretty par for the course for everyone."

"Yes, it is," I say, "but I'm not just anyone. I need a plan, I NEED to know where it is I'm going. I feel like the wonder of the world, the so many varied experiences of life are passing me by because I'm too cowardly to seize it."

"Enough of that coward talk. You aren't and shant be, if I and the Good Lord have anything to say about it." He leans against the desk and we both settle into a brooding silence.

At length, he responds: "I certainly understand how you feel. I've been there every step of the way, so I understand better than anyone, save One. You want to be important, you want to be remembered, you want to leave a legacy for others to remember you by. You want to be a moral man, an upright man, and you are correctly prudent with your life." At this the small smile returns. "But you are a man, and men are made for action. You long to break the chains of modernity and go and experience the world. And I can't blame you." He looks at the globe again. "The world is a big place, and there is so much to see and do in it."

I look at him and say "I'm sensing a 'but..' somewhere..."

"The 'but' is this: you are young, and indeed your life has barely begun. You stand on the cusp of adult independence, which is a mighty precipice to be sure, but every man, every woman, comes to it at one point or another in their life. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything, and just so: your time will come yet, my boy, as will the adventures. Others have said that Fate and God have big plans for you, and of that I am sure. But you must be patient, and in the meantime not lose your sense of self, your sense of who you want to be, of who you are meant to be." He leans forward and puts a hand on my shoulder. "Until that day when Fate calls upon thee, seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. By what choices you make each day, you will be a good man...or not."

He returns to his chair and pulls out his quill and a clean sheet of paper. "Now off with you! You keep adding new articles to this collection and I can barely keep up! I've got much work to do and not enough time to do it."

I get up to go, but he does add "...though I should say do come by more often. You and I share an affinity for good scotch, and as Chesterton says about burgundy and beer, though we shouldn't have too much of it, we should thank God for them with a proper appreciation."

I smile as I open the door and respond. "Will do. Ступай с Богом."


(This article best read while listening to

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Plea to both Ukraine and Russia

Friends, brothers, sisters,

The latest news out of the Ukraine is nothing short of disturbing: a floundering government in Kiev and armed incursion in the Crimea by mercenaries are just the latest signs that Europe is once again standing on a precipice. I understand from my studies and own experience that feeling and tension on both sides is high and exacerbated by long-standing grievances and crimes by anyone's estimation. And yet I feel that I must write this post, overlooked and ignored though it may be, to plead for peace.

Why must both sides continually bicker over territory and the blood that flows in one's veins? Are these the sole factors that determine one's fate and identity? Are you both so deeply entrenched that the only way to settle the issues is to end up fighting one another? Because from where I sit it very well looks like you both seem to feel this way. WHY???

The questions that nobody seems to be asking are twofold: one, why must it be Europe or Russia? Why can't Ukraine decide her own destiny without being bullied or badgered by one side or another? The other is the one that is most crucial, so I ask, here and now, to both Ukraine and Russia, as a fellow Christian:


Face it, those you might see as your adversaries are not only your fellow man, who Christ calls to love and forgive and show grace to, but they are also mainly your Brothers in Christ. You both worship the same God, you both pray to the same kinds of saints and angels, you both follow more or less the same rituals, you both read the same Holy Scripture...I could go on and on. So why are you so ready to shed your brother's blood? Will you be a modern Cain, slaying your brother or neighbor Abel? Is land and blood more important than salvation and shared faith? Can there be no recourse but to war over things that matter nothing when one stands before God?

If blood runs thicker than the current of your faith, then you both deserve what happens. But if faith is stronger than blood, if love and grace are stronger than hate and bitterness, then perhaps we as a world can avoid a conflagration which would do little than to set brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, destroy what so many have endeavored to build, to tear sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, apart and to destroy the lives of children and the helpless. You would do nothing more than to scar your own souls and cause Christ to weep. If you truly love your countries, your families, your neighbors, your faith and your God, then by all that is Holy, do not let the Night take hold and the unholy fire ignite. Go with God, друзья.