Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Real

We finally got around to watching Lars and the Real Girl. This is one of those movies about which one probably shouldn't hazard a synopsis. But it's about a guy named Lars and the life sized mail order doll named Bianca who becomes his girlfriend.

Lars, I probably don't need to tell you, is delusional. But the movie is a cinematic wondering about whether a delusion might be a community matter more than one person's pathology. Lars's community decides to accept his delusion, holding out the possibility that Bianca is a symptom of something collective, something amiss, awry, or at least something at work in the life of a family, a church, a town.

But I think the movie is also about how we're made real. It's something of a Velveteen Rabbit without the miracles. In The Velveteen Rabbit, you may remember, toys are made real by the love of a child. And 'real' means that they live and breathe and hop off into the forest under their own volition. But as Lars's community pretends that Bianca is real (eventually they elect her to the school board) we sense that none of us may begin real. Perhaps we're made real by others.

Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." And we (in the West, at least) haven't looked back. We've taken his statement as a self evident truth that reality is an individual matter.

But theologian John Zizoulas once wrote that "one person is no person". In fact, in Being as Communion, Zizoulas lays out the mysterious Christian doctrine of the Trinity as an acknowledgment that God is one, but God is not an individual. There is community within God's very self.

This is heavy stuff. But it's heavy stuff that matters, I think. It mattered to the little Minnesota town where Lars lived. In making Bianca real, everyone was made a little more real.

After Bianca's burial Lars asks Margo to go for a walk. She's been in love with Lars all along. But even though its Lars who no longer feels human touch as pain, even though it's Lars who no longer lives alone in the garage, even though it's Lars who let's go of his mail order girl, it's not just Lars who gets real. Lars is as involved in making people real as he is in becoming real.

What if being really is communion, not just for God, but for us? What would change in our families and churches and towns if we believed that we're only and always made real in communion?

Believing such a thing would mean that the real "real girl" in a movie might well be harder to spot (is it Bianca or Margo?). But believing such a thing might radically change the way we conceive our politics, our families, and ultimately our selves.

What if my only truly inalienable, self evident right is to be in communion? What if?


James and Mona said...

Scott, I saw this film several months ago and loved it, too. The reality that the people decide that Lars is worth making themselves a bit "silly" is a beautiful thing. And, yes, you're right, they become closer, better, more aware because of it.

I'll be in Arkansas in July. You still up for a pint?


Scott Walters said...

I haven't checked the blog comments lately, James. But I'm definitely up for a pint. You can find my email on the Christ Church website. Let me know when you're going to be around.


trey merritt said...

Having tried it both ways, I can attest from personal experience, community and relationship has the creative life giving energy that makes us real and alive. Alone, problems get bigger, solutions more improbable, pains and fears magnify. Together, we divide our burdens, show each other what works, comfort each other in pain and fear. And as James and Mona said, making ourselves a little silly in the interest of indulging each others fantasies is a beautiful thing. I think it was Bonhoeffer who said "disillusionment is the beginning of community." But once past that threshold, embraced, seen, vulnerable, the illusion of one body becomes a living reality. Being a part of that saves my life every time I walk through the door, and I'm grateful.