A Tale of Two Worlds

Last week two music videos dropped that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.  The first was Cage of Bones by Son Lux which will be on their remixed EP entitled Stranger Forms. The second was Coldplay’s third single release, Up & Up, from their latest album, A Head Full of Dreams.

SLCP

Separated Due To Artistic Differences

Both of these videos are artistically stylish in their own fashion, but dramatically different in form and focus. Up&Up is all about smashing different worlds together in a way that makes them look like one. Most shots are only held for 2-3 seconds with some kind of perspective or scale shift that integrated the beauty of the earth with the beauty of mankind.

Yeah, it’s pop vintage in feel, has an Inception ascetic lurking through it, and could do without the band members being larger than life, but man is it cool and imaginative. I don’t even know what the words to the song are now that I think about it. The blink of an eye compositions grab your attention and makes you want to see more, yet the unresolvedness of some scenes allows the mind to dream rather than fall into a cynical logic of “well what would happen if that were true.”

Through it’s visual feast of motioned surrealism, Up&Up is avant-garde, though in a poppy kind of way, which I get kind of makes it not avant-garde.  Cage of Bones, is also visually appealing, but is not just there for the eye-candy; it has some intense things to say. You might not always know what questions are being asked in each of it’s acts, but you know it is asking/saying something.

In reality, the Son Lux music video, is just a remix from the director’s (Jean-Paul Frenay) previous work: the short film You Are The Canvas. Frenay trims down the first of his five tableaus (a picturesque grouping of persons or objects; a striking scene) to fit with the Cage of Bones orchestration. The scene titles which help to hint towards context, are…

  1. Consume in Agony
  2. Welcome Singularity
  3. Interact in Segregation
  4. Healthier Fragrance
  5. Love and Share

Each of these has a feeling of interpretative division… meaning if a group of people saw these live in a museum, half would be crying or standing in awe while the other half would be rolling their eyes saying “WTF is this trash? Somebody’s trying to appear smart.” It all reminds me of the BBC series Black Mirror.

See for Yourself… But Wait…

So before I post the videos for you to watch, you need to know that in the last full scene, Cage of Bones has graphic nudity, specifically a woman bare chested. There’s no peek-a-boo with the nips, they are looking you straight in the face. It’s artistically sexual and has meaning, but I don’t want to lead anybody into temptation.* So, at time signature 3:05, stop the Cage of Bones film if your conscience or covenant with loved one is telling you to do so.

What will you be missing… haha… oh I’ll tell you… because it’s my favorite scene… and no, not because there are boobies in it, but because it has to do with Digital Gnosticism, which is so near and dear (unfortunately) to my heart.**

Again, the scene is called Love and Share. A woman and a man are naked on a bed. The man’s foot is handcuffed (well, I guess ankle-cuffed) to the bed post. The woman is on top, cowgirl positioned, towering over him. They are not looking at each other at all. What are they doing while having sex (there is no motion)? They are each taking a selfie of them self; the man, stoic and strong looking, the woman, posing the best she can. Not only are they taking pictures of their selves, there are also 50-100 cell phone cameras floating around them snapping shots. It’s such a timely scene about image and (lack of) intimacy. We’d rather look at ourselves having sex than look at the one who we are having sex with. It’s a tragic combination of shame-full, shame-less narcissism. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are the videos.

A Brief Cultural Midrash*** on This Mashup

There are a couple words in the New Testament Scriptures that can be secretly confusing because they are used at different times positively, negatively, or in a neutral manner though they are the same word. Flesh (greek: sarx) is one of these words that can mean simply the skin/physicalness of the body, or, more usual in Pauline theology, as the corrupt, carnal, evil, sin nature.

The problem comes when you take “flesh” out of context and push it to places it doesn’t belong and then get theology of the body that says our physicalness is where all our problems lie and if we could just escape this “cage of bones” and become disembodied spirits everything would be better. But in the resurrection of Christ, we see a bodily resurrection (there was no old body still in the tomb but a transformed body) which undercuts and speaks so much against the early church heresies and modern heresies of today.

Another one of those words that can be tricky is world (greek: kosmos). This could mean on one hand, the created world, on the other hand, the whole of humanity, or on the third hand (???) the evil, carnal, broken system that is the result of sin and the turning of man away from God.

The apostle John in 1 John can say “Do not love the world or anything in the world and if you do God’s love isn’t in you” while also saying in his Gospel that God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus to rescue it without contradiction. John isn’t saying that God loved the evil system and that it was oh so snazzy and decided he wanted to help it out… he’s saying that God loved the creation (both nature and {broken} humanity) and wanted to bring it back in proper relationship with Him.

If you would ask me for an interpretation of these two music videos mashed together, I would say that they are a tragic and hopeful compilation of the world and the world.

In Cage of Bones, we see the darkness that we have given ourselves over to, of the focus of our time in consuming idols like products, image, false-realities, approval, self. Although we knew God, we neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, and so our thinking became futile and our foolish hearts were darkened. We have loved the world (humanity/system that divorced God) and are lost and don’t even realize it.

In Up & Up, however, we see hope. We see a world where things that we didn’t think could possibly go together do; where heaven and earth are brought together, where the macro and micro are valued for their distinct beauty. We are seeing visions and dreaming dreams of a creation and a humanity on it’s way in redemption, being healed and transformed, of a world being set free from the bondage of decay.

It’s not perfect; there are still walls that must come down, tyrants whose house-of-cards-kingdoms must topple, and refugees trying to make a home. But overall it affirms that salvation is about more than just people (really it is about all of creation) while also placing a proper greatness on man as God’s image-bearers. Additionally, to alleviate some of the weight of seriousness, the music video is also just fun and whimsical.

Last week, I also read this from Francis Schaeffer’s Death in the City which speaks into the mashup of tragedy and hope and the identity of mankind…

I am convinced that one of the great weaknesses in preaching in the last years is that we have lost sight of the biblical fact that man is wonderful. We have seen [in the secular world] the unbiblical humanism which surrounds us, and to resist this in our emphasis on man’s lostness we have tended to reduce man to a zero. Man is indeed lost, but that does not mean he is nothing. We must resist humanism, but to make man a zero is not the right way to resist. You can emphasize that man is totally lost and still have the biblical answer that man is really great. In fact, only the biblical position produces a real and proper “humanism.”

The Only Thing That Can/Will Bring True Humanity

We are sinners. We are lost. One of the reasons God rails against false prophets so much in the Old Testament is because they are trying to restrict God’s mercy from going forth. The false prophets usually were false because they said, “Everything is okay; peace, peace” when there was no peace. They didn’t call forth the righteousness of God and mankind’s rebellion and so because here was “nothing wrong”, mercy and forgiveness, which God is rich in, could not to extended and then received. I don’t need to receive God’s grace because there is no need for repentance.

But we see at the Cross of Jesus that we were wrong… that we are wrong. The cross is the foolish place where mercy and truth meet, where righteousness and peace kiss. Any person or community that does not have the power of God (which is the cross of Christ) and the communion table at it’s core will continue in deformed humanity.

That’s not to say that non-Christians don’t do good or that God doesn’t use them. That is to say that only through the blood of Christ is there peace and the reconciliation of all things. Jesus is the greatest, and the love of God that comes through Jesus conforms humanity into His image so that all who would  receive him, who believed in his name, would be given the right to become children of God.

I found in my research (read: internet googling) that Frenay (director of Cage of Bones) also made a music video for one of my other favorite musicians: My Brightest Diamond. And please indulge my midrash for a moment longer.

On the one side, I can dream my future
On the other, I can feel my nature
I am a lover and a killer

There are two things I love about this video. [1] The black darkness putting it’s hands over the eyes of the people. One way or another we have been hurt and we have hurt others, including ourselves. Often times we feel like the way to set things into right standing is to take things into our own hands when this happens, but that ends up just making it worse. [2] the ending third of the video where the man and the woman are running from what they have chosen to do. They are at their breaking point, screaming in the midst of the cloud (fog) and then we see them “dead” in the water rising up. They then come out of the waters and face “themselves” again, but their dry/old self ends up falling away.

This video points (unintentionally and enigmatically) to the beauty of the sacrament of baptism, visually displaying new birth, the old person being buried, and the new rising with the resurrected Christ. This is (in sincerity and truth, not empty-ritual and sentimentality) the way God is, has, and is going to bring about a redeemed humanity that dreams and acts on things that seem impossible, and yet in the love of God reveal His glory and renew the face of the earth.

This is His work that He is doing and will bring to completion, and not only are we receivers of this grace, but we are called to be partakers and partners with Him in this grace. How crazy is that? The world is fading and will fade away; but God, in Christ, is reconciling the world to Himself.


* At some point I’ll post about the destructiveness of pornography, about seeking renewed vision of the naked body in certain contexts, and the contemplation of how the heck does this father of four redemptively parent  his daughters in the realm of body-image and sexuality in a culture that wants to shame them either in over-exposure or under-appreciation.

** I semi-frequently look up the parent guide for movies to see how much sex is in them… I can handle fake violence, but real bodies are a different scenario for me on a moral level… however I have found that sometimes the description of the sexual acts is so much “worse” than what actually ends up happening on screen, which imaginatively is counter productive.

*** method of spiritually interpreting stories

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