[Baxter] is rejecting his previous failure, and doing it because of what he now knows because of his relationship with Fran. He isn’t expecting a reward, as his departure and packing make abundantly clear. He’s doing it because it’s the right thing, goodness-wise.
We humans excel at convincing ourselves that intrinsically evil actions are either not truly evil or somehow do not apply to us. But only slightly less destructive is the ability to assure ourselves that "smallish" evil is acceptable if committed for the sake of some "larger" good. To build upon the paraphrased wisdom of Keyser Söze, while the Devil's greatest trick may be to persuade us that he does not exist, his greatest subversion is to convince us that he just wants to help.
Fear, failure, suffering, and sin are inescapable components of our fallen human condition, and while we can resist them in this life, they will never be eliminated from "this vale of tears." Heroism and the confrontation of evil—a confrontation most often achieved through suffering—is the only way to truly grapple with the problem. To paraphrase Alfred, we must learn to get back up; to rise again, and press ever forward towards the light.
Essentially, the good doctor is a character witness. While sometimes bemused at his unshakable faith, we have no doubt about the veracity of his insights. Our trust of this simple, kind-hearted man and our confidence in his judgment runs far deeper than our distaste for Holmes and his ego-centric tendencies.
Questions of honesty, intent, and the danger (or value) of lying—questions that have produced much consternation and controversy (and genuinely helpful conversation) in the Catholic blogosphere—drive the film's most obvious moral problems. But beneath those questions lies one that has long been lurking on the outskirts of my conscience: Why does the Psalmist's warning concerning idols and their makers center around the chilling reminder that "They that make them are like unto them?"
The importance of education; the way our drive for freedom impacts everything we do; the power of perseverance—all are explored by the film in timely (if not always profound) ways. But the most intriguing insight offered is a reminder of how important it is to be grateful to our political and cultural forefathers, and how vital it is to recognize both their extraordinary accomplishments and their inevitable mistakes. Few things will guide our futures as well or as clearly as remembering those who came before us, and upon whose shoulders we stand.
How easily we lose sight of why exactly God is giving us something, overemphasizing the things we desire the most in that which He grants us, ignoring what is most valuable for the sake of lesser goods, and missing the point of His generosity altogether. We humans are not just in the business of looking gift horses in the mouth; we want to turn them into unicorns.
Mary and Martha, so often relegated to opposite sides of the spiritual spectrum, would doubtless recognize that I am not focused on my kids instead of God; I'm focused on them because of Him. And that praying through the distractions of my family does not render my devotions powerless, but imbues them with more power than I could ever have achieved on my own. Was it not He Himself that commanded us to let these little distractions come to Him?
Yet He takes us back to Him even after the brutal betrayal of the Cross, and He has done it every moment of every day since that afternoon on Calvary. God does not do it because He needs to "move beyond" the Cross; He does it for no other reason than our own salvation. He has nothing to gain, and we have everything. How absurd and all-consuming is God's forgiveness; how impossibly unlike human forgiveness.
None of us would knowingly place ourselves in a position as extreme as Lear's, embracing or banishing one's family on the strength (or weakness) of their fawning. Yet in a subtle way, we are all susceptible to Lear's fatal weakness, often giving more weight to the opinions and suggestions of those who praise us than to those whose words are designed to help us grow, but may sting a bit, as well. Demanding protestations of love as a prerequisite for acceptance, and measuring out the size of our rewards in conjunction with their avowals is far more common than we would care to admit, and who among us can honestly say that we bear criticism as well as we relish praise?
Like the lamb of Isaiah, little, long-suffering Balthazar does nothing to merit the cruelty he experiences. The silent patience with which the tiny donkey embraces all that befalls him is rendered more extraordinary because we recognize how undeserving he is of such suffering. By contrast, a human being—even the tragic Marie—can never be seen as completely innocent. She, like all fallen humans, carries within herself the seeds of her own destruction, and while we grieve at her lost innocence, it is impossible to consider her a "spotless victim."
Just as Pieter's singleness of vision wore down the boundaries between the world in which he lived and that he sought to portray, so too we—by diligent adherence to our Lenten observances—will narrow the gap between the person we are and that which we wish to be. Eventually, the rediscovery of our Lenten selves will cease to be an annual exercise in frustration, becoming instead a reflection of our true selves.
I remember those days of young love well, and cherished every moment of them. Yet, six sons into the adventure, I find such fare a great deal less appealing—not because they deal with something untrue or even unimportant—but because they deal with it on such a superficial level; it's the stuff of beginners.
Despite the insistent clamoring of Modernity, happiness is not something to be grasped at; paradoxically, the more we pursue it, the less of it we actually have. A failure to recognize our own powerlessness will leave many more sorrowful than they were when they first began this pursuit, for we humans will never succeed in "capturing" the peace and contentment we so ardently desire.