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Thoughts

The Commandments… and Other Ramblings

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(I’m feeling really tired and would love to just close my eyes and go to sleep right now, but it’s only 6.30PM* and I’d just ruin my sleep cycle further if I did that. So I’m going to ramble. On and on. Expect sudden topic changes.)

For this week’s Theory class screening, we watched Dekalog (or “Decalogue”). The premise was interesting; it’s actually a series of ten Polish films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments. Don’t go getting any illusions though – I didn’t see anything particularly spiritual about the two that we saw. (Then again, that could be due to the fact that I was floating in and out of consciousness throughout, no thanks to my being unwell on Sunday and having to stay up all night to finish the second draft of my thesis proposal and then having to attend a workgroup discussion in the morning.)

Before the screening started, some of my classmates were joking about the whole Ten Commandments thing. One thing that stuck in my sleep-deprived mind was that they seemed to consider the fifth commandment – to honour your parents) – somewhat irrelevant. I think what they were saying was why that commandment when there are “more important issues like rape” or child abuse.
(First – please, please, please don’t think that I’m judging my friends, okay? They were probably really just joking. But even if they weren’t, I don’t consider them “lesser” or anything for their points of view. I may disagree with them completely, but I certainly don’t think I’m better than they are. It’s just that that part stayed in my mind and so that’s where I’m starting off here.)

I didn’t say anything there and then because I’m particularly bad at this sort of thing. (Also, I couldn’t tell how much of it was a joke and how much of it was serious.) It takes me ages to turn things over in my mind and formulate a coherent answer for myself. I don’t mind discussing stuff casually, but the instant the discussion turns into a debate, that’s when I would stop. I don’t like arguing over these matters because I think it’s so unlikely that you’d ever get the other person to suddenly agree with you. Discuss and agree to disagree; that I don’t mind.

… What was I saying?

Uhm… Oh. Yes.

Well, they did have a point. I mean, I wouldn’t replace that commandment with something else because I think it’s important as well – and I may get back to this later (if I remember to) – but there are all these other awful things that go on. So why just ten commandments? Why not more? The automatic answer that jumps to my mind is: Because ten is a nice round number and besides, imagine how hard it’d have been to learn fifty commandments in Sunday School rather than just ten! As it is, recalling all ten in the right order is hard enough! (…True. I was absolutely horrified just now to realise that for some reason I just could not remember what the second and third commandments were – I’d somehow appended the second to the first in my head and so ended up with a “missing” commandment – and that I couldn’t remember the sixth to the ninth in the right order.)

But a few more minutes of thinking provided a better answer. (It’s amazing that I managed to think at all with such a foggy mind.) It’s all covered by the first commandment – you shall have no other gods before [Him]. If God is first in your life, then everything follows. The rest of the commandments and more just kind of come automatically if you’re really trying to please Him because you love Him. (I suppose it’s rather like if you have a crush on someone, you naturally want to do things that please them? Enh. Something like that.) And in fact, more important than that commandment are the ones that are in the New Testament:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
– Mark 12:30-32

Looking at it now, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” is pretty much the first of the Ten Commandments. It’s basically the same thing. Huh. How come I never quite thought of it that way before? 8D

Those are probably some of the hardest orders to follow. Love God totally, and love your neighbour too. Like, how?! I still wonder a lot if I really do “love God” and how do I know if I do? And then sometimes I worry that I don’t actually love Him, but how do I go about doing that if I don’t? And as for my neighbour, ha! That might actually be the hardest one of all. God is perfect, so (theoretically) it’s easier to love – or at least to like – Him. But other people? Hahahahahaha! And to love them as myself? Er… I don’t know if I love myself all that much; there are plenty of things I don’t like about myself. So that’s kinda problematic from all angles.

I still think C.S. Lewis explained that part the best though, and I can’t quote the entire thing because it’s too long but I’ll pick out excerpts:

Now that I come to think of it, I have no exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently ‘Love your neighbour’ does not mean ‘feel fond of him’ or ‘find him attractive’. […] Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either.

… Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. […] But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometimes, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.
– “Forgiveness”, Mere Christianity.

That last line just made me think of Star Wars. Specifically Luke (in Return of the Jedi) being convinced – or at least hoping really hard – that Vader still had some good in him and it just needed to be coaxed out again. Speaking of Star Wars, I just told Jemma that I wish I could use the Force now so I could make my dinner cook itself in the kitchen while I sit here in my room. lol. I’m so random.

All that aside, in my workgroup meeting today (which was actually really good!) I was thinking that if I hadn’t been in this class, in this course, in all likelihood my classmates would hardly know a thing about Malaysia. Sometimes I wonder if “Malaysia” even registered in my friends’ minds before they met me. (I think the answer is “no.”) It’s like this weird vacuum. I think people generally know Singapore and Thailand, but Malaysia seems to be… vague. lol. Even though we’re sandwiched right in between Singapore and Thailand! Gosh. How utterly insignificant we are.

So much of film studies seems to revolve around Western cinema; Asian cinema feels so neglected to me. Well, there’s a great deal written about Chinese cinema and quite a bit about Japanese cinema too. But it’s painfully – and annoyingly – obvious that at least in my theory classes, Asian cinema is almost never mentioned. You get rare mentions of Kurosawa or Mizoguchi but that’s about it. And I’ve not once heard the names Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou mentioned in theory class, which kind of puzzles me since they’re like THE big-name directors in Chinese cinema. What, is Asian cinema not “artistic” enough or not “conceptual” enough for you theory-lovers? Hm… Or perhaps that really is it. It’s not as abstract. No wonder I like my Chinese cinema class sooo much better! Even though I really don’t know much about the particular segment of Chinese history that we focus on (i.e. the Communist Party era and after).  hahah!

And I’m going to shift topics again. Random curious thing I noticed. Chinese directors, Chinese actors – they get to have their names written (in academic texts) the correct Chinese way: Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Jiang Wen, Xie Jin, etc. But Japanese directors are more often listed the Western way: Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu. I wonder why? It sounds so much better saying Kurosawa Akira, Mizoguchi Kenji and Ozu Yasujiro… Or maybe I’m just more accustomed to hearing East Asian names that way.
On that note, I rather miss being able to write/say my name as “Chew Yuin-Y” rather than “Yuin-Y Chew”. It flows so much better in the former method, doesn’t it?

* Well, it was 6.30PM when I began typing this entry…

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