“Woody Wednesday” ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” (Part 7 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Part F, SURREALISTS AND THE IDEA OF ABSURDITY AND CHANCE AND THE EXISTENCE OF LOVE)

Woody Allen believes that we live in a cold, violent and meaningless universe and it seems that his main character (Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson) in the movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS shares that view. Pender’s meeting with the Surrealists is by far the best scene in the movie because they are ones who can understand his predicament concerning the absurdity of life UNDER THE SUN (as Solomon used to phrase it.) If we are here as a result of chance then what lasting purpose can be found? The Surrealists truly grasped the problem and it seems that Gil does too realize the full weight of the predicament. HOWEVER, DOES THE UNIVERSE MATCH UP WITH THIS IDEA OF TIME AND CHANCE OR IS IT COMPATIBLE WITH A DESIGNER? (John Cage and Jackson Pollock attempted to live their lives according to time and change and how did that turn out? How the existence of love explained by time and chance?)

Woody Allen’s main character GIL PENDER in the movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS firmly believes that we live in a cold, violent, and meaningless universe brought to us by Darwinism chance plus time. 

Let’s see what King Solomon had to say about that. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 9:11-13 “I have seen something else UNDER THE SUN:  The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant  or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.  Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times  that fall unexpectedly upon them.”

WHY IS SOLOMON CAUGHT IN DESPAIR IN THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES?  Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘UNDER THE SUN.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chance plus matter.” THIS IS EXACT POINT SCHAEFFER SAYS SECULAR ARTISTS ARE PAINTING FROM TODAY BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED ARE A RESULT OF MINDLESS CHANCE.

By the way, the final chapter of Ecclesiastes finishes with Solomon emphasizing that serving God is the only proper response of man. Solomon LOOKS ABOVE THE SUN AND BRINGS GOD BACK INTO THE PICTURE in the final chapter of the book in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “ Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

(Francis Schaeffer pictured below)

Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible noted, “Many modern artists, it seems to me, have forgotten the value that art has in itself. Much modern art is far too intellectual to be great art. Many modern artists seem not to see the DISTINCTION BETWEEN MAN AND NON-MAN, and it is a part of the lostness of modern man that they no longer see value in the work of art as a work of art.” 

Many modern artists are left in this point of desperation that Schaeffer points out and it reminds me of the despair that Solomon speaks of in Ecclesiastes as you looks at life UNDER THE SUN.  Another group of artists reached this point of desperation and it is those involved in the Dada movement and then the later Surrealist movement.

Francis Schaeffer noted:

Dada was started in Zurich and came along in modern art. Dada means nothing. The word “Dada” means rocking horse, but it was chosen by chance. The whole concept of Dada is everything means nothing. [In this materialistic mindset Chance and Time have determined the past, and they will determine the future according to Solomon in life UNDER THE SUN]…  Dada carried to its logical conclusion the notion of all having come about by chance; the result was the final absurdity of everything, including humanity.

(Surrealists: Man Ray, Jean Arp, Yves Tanguy, André Breton; Tristan Tzara, Salvador Dalí, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst and Rene Clevel, 1930.)

Jean Arp below.

Below is a portion from the Francis Schaeffer book HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE?:

Hans (Jean) Arp (1887-1966), an Alsatian sculptor, wrote a poem which appeared in the final issue of the magazine De Stijl (The Style) which was published by the De Stijl group of artists led by Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. Mondrian (1872-1944) was the best-known artist of this school. He was not of the Dada school which accepted and portrayed absurdity. Rather, Mondrian was hoping to paint the absolute. Hand Arp, however, was a Dadaist artist connected with De Stijl. His power “Für Theo Van Doesburg,” translated from German reads:

the head downward
the legs upward
he tumbles into the bottomless
from whence he came

he has no more honour in his body
he bites no more bite of any short meal
he answers no greeting
and is not proud when being adored

the head downward
the legs upward
he tumbles into the bottomless
from whence he came

like a dish covered with hair
like a four-legged sucking chair
like a deaf echotrunk
half full half empty

the head downward
the legs upward
he tumbles into the bottomless
from whence he came

Jean Arp (Hans Arp)
Jean Arp is associated with the DADA movement. His collages were of torn pieces of paper dropped and affixed where they would land. His use of chance is intended to create free of human intervention. “Dada,” wrote Arp, “wished to destroy the hoaxes of reason and to discover an unreasoned order.”


Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance


Random Collage


Torn Paper and Gouache

Dada carried to its logical conclusion the notion of all having come about by chance; the result was the final absurdity of everything, including humanity.

Pictured below: Salvador Dalí (lower center) and Marcel Duchamp (upper left) attending a bullfight.

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Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) by Marcel Duchamp

Francis Schaeffer continues: 

The man who perhaps most clearly and consciously showed this understanding of the resulting absurdity fo all things was Marcel Duchamp (1887-1969). He carried the concept of fragmentation further in Nude Descending a Staircase (1912), one version of which is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art–a painting in which the human disappeared completely. The chance and fragmented concept of what is led to the devaluation and absurdity of all things. All one was left with was a fragmented view of a life which is absurd in all its parts. Duchamp realized that the absurdity of all things includes the absurdity of art itself. His “ready-mades” were any object near at hand, which he simply signed. It could be a bicycle wheel or a urinal. Thus art itself was declared absurd.

_____

(Jackson Pollock pictured below dripping his paint)

Francis Schaeffer in his book HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? noted on pages 200-203:

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is perhaps the clearest example in the United States of painting deliberately in order to make the statements that all is chance. He placed canvases horizontally on the floor and dripped paint on them from suspended cans swinging over them. Thus, his paintings were a product of chance. But wait a minute! Is there not an order in the lines of paint on his canvases? Yes, because it was not really chance shaping his canvases! The universe is not a random universe; it has order. Therefore, as the dripping paint from the swinging cans moved over the canvases, the lines of paint were following the order of the universe itself. The universe is not what these painters said it is.

(John Cage pictured above)

(Woody Allen, Peter O’Toole and Capucine)

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(Marcel Duchamp plays white, John Cage plays black, on a chessboard modified to generate tones depending on where the chess pieces are. Toronto, 1968. Teeny Duchamp at far left, camerman in the background.  This was a performance.)

 

John Cage provides perhaps the clearest example of what is involved in the shift of music. Cage believed the universe is a universe of chance. He tried carrying this out with great consistency. For example, at times he flipped coins to decide what the music should be. At other times he erected a machine that led an orchestra by chance motions so that the orchestra would not know what was coming next. Thus there was no order. Or again, he placed two conductors leading the same orchestra, separated from each other by a partition, so that what resulted was utter confusion. There is a close tie-in again to painting; in 1947 Cage made a composition he called MUSIC FOR MARCEL DUCHAMP. But the sound produced by his music was composed only of silence (interrupted only by random environmental sounds), but as soon as he used his chance methods sheer noise was the outcome.

But Cage also showed that one cannot live on such a base, that the chance concept of the universe does not fit the universe as it is. Cage is an expert in mycology, the science of mushrooms. And he himself said, “I became aware that if I approached mushrooms in the spirit of my chance operation, I would die shortly.” Mushroom picking must be carefully discriminative. His theory of the universe does not fit the universe that exists.

All of this music by chance, which results in noise, makes a strange contrast to the airplanes sitting in our airports or slicing through our skies. An airplane is carefully formed; it is orderly (and many would also think it beautiful). This is in sharp contrast to the intellectualized art which states that the universe is chance. Why is the airplane carefully formed and orderly, and what Cage produced utter noise? Simply because an airplane must fit the orderly flow lines of the universe if it is to fly!

!Midnight in the Paris-best scene of the movie Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Woody Allen

published on Dec 18, 2012

Woody Allen talking with Salvador Dali and Man Ray and Luis Bunuel. 

This is the transcript of

DALI: We met, earlier tonight…At the party! Dali.

GIL: I remember!-

DALI: A bottle of red wine!

GIL: It can’t be… Yeah….So?

DALI: Another glass for this man, please. I love the language!The French! The waiters? No.You like the shape of the rhinoceros?

GIL: The rhinoceros? Uh…Haven’t really thought about it.I paint the rhinoceros.

DALI: I paint you. Your sad eyes.Your big lips, melting over the hot sand,with one tear.Yes! And in your tear, another face.The Christ’s face!Yes, in the rhinoceros.

GIL: Yeah. I mean, I probably do look sad. I’m in…a very perplexing situation.

DALI: Diablo…Luis! Oye, Luis!(Damn. Luis! Hey, Luis!)My friends.This… is Luis Bunuel…and…Mr. Man Ray.-

GIL: Man Ray? My Gosh!- How ’bout that?

DALI: This is Pen-der. Pen-der. Pender!- Yes. And I am Dalí!- Dalí. Yes.You have to remember. Pender is in a perplexing situation.

GIL: It sounds so crazy to say.You guys are going to think I’m drunk, but I have to tell someone. I’m…from a…a different time. Another era.The future. OK? I come…from the 2000th millennium to here.I get in a car, and I slide through time.

MAN RAY: Exactly correct.You inhabit two worlds.- So far, I see nothing strange.- Why?

GIL: Yeah, you’re surrealists!But I’m a normal guy. See, in one life,I‘m engaged to marry a woman I love.At least, I think I love her.Christ! I better love her! I’m marrying her!

DALI: The rhinoceros makes love by mounting the female.But…is there a difference in the beauty between two rhinoceroses?

MAN RAY: There is another woman?Adriana. Yes, and I’m…very drawn to her.I find her extremely alluring.The problem is that other men,great artists – geniuses- also find her alluring,and she finds them. So, there’s that…

MAN RAY: A man in love with a woman from a different era.I see a photograph.

LUIS BUNUEL: I see a film.I see an insurmountable problem.I see……a rhinoceros.

Let me make a few points here. We see that Gil Pender’s perplexing problem is that he is in love and this goes against his views that we are not put here for a purpose, but by mindless chance. God created us so we can’t deny that we are created for a purpose and when a person falls truly in love with another person then they have a hard time maintaining  this is only just a product of evolution and has no lasting significance.

Solomon wisely noted in Ecclesiastes 3:11 “God has planted eternity in the heart of men…” (Living Bible). No wonder Bertrand Russell wrote in his autobiography, “It is odd, isn’t it? I feel passionately for this world and many things and people in it, and yet…what is it all? There must be something more important, one feels, though I don’t believe there is. I am haunted. Some ghosts, for some extra mundane regions, seem always trying to tell me something that I am to repeat to the world, but I cannot understand that message.”

Bertrand Russell playing chess with his son (1940).

The Bible teaches that we all know that God exists and has made us in his image and if we deny that then we are suppressing the knowledge of our conscience in unrighteousness.  Romans 1:18-19 (Amplified Bible) ” For God’s wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness REPRESS and HINDER the truth and make it inoperative. For that which is KNOWN about God is EVIDENT to them and MADE PLAIN IN THEIR INNER CONSCIOUSNESS, because God  has SHOWN IT TO THEM,”(emphasis mine).

I wanted to share a portion of a review of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS that caught my attention by   , “The Charms of a Pessimistic Workaholic,”  February 11, 2012:

Being in Woody’s shoes is not the most cheerful place to be: he sees the universe as a cold place, with no ultimate meaning; transient, unsatisfying; with nothing to hold onto other than temporary distractions from these cold truths. Allen’s favorite distraction is getting absorbed in work (which explains the volume of his creative output). Another distraction we fall into are relationships with other people.

Woody is keenly aware why the life feels unsatisfactory, and he is good at unmasking the fallacies of the usual ‘coping strategies’ (such as hoping to achieve satisfaction by leaving something behind which would outlast oneself, or even his self-prescribed absorption in work). Because of this, our life and Allen’s films are full of illusions that we build like walls between ourselves and the reality….At the end, the protagonist gets the point: “That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.” The problem is not in the when or where we live, but it is inherent in the experience of living. Allen’s films are moving because there is the realization of the distraction being just that, a distraction, but embracing it never-the-less because it is the best thing we have.

I am grateful for having Allen’s movies as beautiful distractions. It is hard for me to distinguish whether Allen’s worldview happens to coincide with mine, or whether my views were shaped so much by watching and admiring his films since my early teenage years. Where we differ is that I also hope that when we face the cold universe – as we do from time to time whether we want to or not – we can wait a while before blocking it out again, and perhaps discern something that has a real value amidst the fleeting time. But Paris might still be the preferred place for this.

I know that there are many people like  out there who do not accept the existence of the supernatural and if there are correct then I would agree with them that all we have left is the “cold universe.” But let me respond further with the words of Francis Schaeffer from his book HE IS THERE AND HE IS NOT SILENT (the chapter is entitled, “Is Propositional Revelation Nonsense?”

Of course, if the infinite uncreated Personal communicated to the finite created personal, he would not exhaust himself in his communication; but two things are clear here:
 
1. Even communication between once created person and another is not exhaustive, but that does not mean that for that reason it is not true. 
 
2. If the uncreated Personal really cared for the created personal, it could not be thought unexpected for him to tell the created personal things of a propositional nature; otherwise as a finite being the created personal would have numerous things he could not know if he just began with himself as a limited, finite reference point. In such a case, there is no intrinsic reason why the uncreated Personal could communicate some vaguely true things, but could not communicate propositional truth concerning the world surrounding the created personal – for fun, let’s call that science. Or why he could not communicate propositional truth to the created personal concerning the sequence that followed the uncreated Personal making everything he made – let’s call that history. There is no reason we could think of why he could not tell these two types of propositional things truly. They would not be exhaustive; but could we think of any reason why they would not be true? The above is, of course, what the Bible claims for itself in regard to propositional revelation.
(Francis Schaeffer pictured below)
DOES THE BIBLE ERR IN THE AREA OF SCIENCE AND HISTORY? The Bible is true from cover to cover and can be trusted. Charles Darwin himself longed for evidence to come forward from the area of  Biblical Archaeology  but so much has  advanced  since Darwin wrote these words in the 19th century! Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject and if you like you could just google these subjects: 1. The Babylonian Chronicleof Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem, 2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription.13. The Pilate Inscription14. Caiaphas Ossuary14 B Pontius Pilate Part 214c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.
The only alternative to believing that we were made for a purpose by God is to embrace the chance universe that Woody Allen has demonstrated so well in his films. Below is such a scene from the movie PLAY IT AGAIN SAM.
The Best Art References in Woody Allen Films Image via Complex / APJAC Productions

Film: Play It Again, Sam (1972)

In 1972’s Play It Again, Sam, Allen plays a film critic trying to get over his wife’s leaving him by dating again. In one scene, Allen tries to pick up a depressive woman in front of the early Jackson Pollock work. This painting, because of its elusive title, has been the subject of much debate as to what it portrays. This makes for a nifty gag when Allen strolls up and asks the suicidal belle, “What does it say to you?”

______________

Woody Allen in Play It Again Sam

Uploaded on May 20, 2009

Scene from ‘Play it Again Sam’ (1972)

____________

Allan: That’s quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn’t it?

Museum Girl: Yes, it is.

Allan: What does it say to you?

Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.

Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?

Museum Girl: Committing suicide.

Allan: What about Friday night?

(Below: Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943)

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Francis Schaeffer pictured below:

 

Related posts:

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