The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. A Fistful of Dollars. A Few Dollars More. To some people, these may just seem like disjointed, poorly constructed sentences, but to me, they represent one of the best movie trilogies of all time, the saga of The Man With No Name. These iconic Clint Eastwood movies are some of his best work, the rugged hard-mouthed no nonsense cowboy who is in complete control of the Wild Western landscape and society around him. The distinctive music, with the loud whistles and sweeping orchestral instrumentals composed by Ennio Morricone, gets to me every time I hear it, reminding me of the appeal the recently untamed West held for Americans. Even in recent film memory, with hits such as 3:10 to Yuma and the more modern No Country for Old Men, the idea of a man against the wild captivated millions of people, a “modern” day shepherd, seeking his destiny in the rough rural landscape of the Wild West.
In the wake of the falsely proclaimed ‘end of the world hoopla that engulfed the country for a couple of weeks, I am reminded of my upbringing in the Presbyterian Church and a keen interest I once held in the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelations. In this book, John receives a ‘revelation’ concerning Judgment Day, when the earth would shatter, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would ride from heaven to exact the vengeful wrath of God upon the non-faithful on Earth. While this book reads more like a high budget Old Testament fire-and-brimstone Hollywood movie than the standard ‘Good News’ that the New Testament consists of, its dire warnings have caused many modern ‘prophets’ to foretell of the coming Doom in an attempt to change the present day or the way people live their lives. Continue reading
I spent a great deal of my early childhood watching movies while my father worked in his office the next room over. The Brave Little Toaster, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Howard the Duck, pretty eclectic stuff for a four-year-old to watch in place of traditional Disney-type movies. I did dabble in the standard childhood cinematic fare, such as Bambi and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a classic), but upon reading Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience by William Blake, there was one pairing of poems that resonated with another mainstay of the VCR: Mary Poppins.
“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.”
Human beings are shaped by their experiences, yet no two people perceive the same circumstance with equal result. Differences in perception lead in turn to differences in thought, action, and behavior; when two personalities are brought together, conflict results. Conflict does not necessitate strife and discord, but can merely represent a summit of minds, a collusion of varying opinions. As Chuck Palahniuk states, “We learn so little from peace.” It is when stressful situations strike that one can learn about themself, mature, and return the better for it.
In pastoral literature, this developmental truth is no less ubiquitous. Despite the idyllic countryside setting that is typically associated with classical pastoral poems, such as in Virgil’s Eclogues, struggles abound. The standard ‘man vs. man’ conflict that typifies the rise of a hero or maturation of a protagonist in a literary epic is still present, but the calm quietude of nature adds another character to any pastoral scene. Continue reading