The Master Plan

And so Lucifer peeked at God’s plans for Eve.
He then realized the honor She would receive.

After being the light,
The brightest and best,
Lucifer was to be dethroned.

In envy he was shown
How he would lose his place
Before the face
Of the Holy Trinity.

SatanFalls GustavoDore

[“I beheld Satan as lightning falling from Heaven.” –Luke 10:18]

In pride he denied
The destiny God made
That though Woman would rise
Lucifer should behave.

In rage he disfigured himself,
Desperately trying to beautify himself.
Twisting his teeth, parting his hair…
Chewing his cheeks, nothing was spared.

God watched His angel deform,
Asked the seraph to reject the vile.
Lucifer stared back and said with a smile,
“Not so long as Woman is born.

Never will I accept She is my superior,
To only You I am inferior!
If You are to make Her so far greater…
I want nothing to do with Her maker.”

God’s love was crushed by Lucifer,
And His sorrow disgusted His angel.
Lucifer left Heaven.
His past and all he left abandoned.

Lucifer dwelled in hell,
Renamed himself satan.
He planned to thwart and rebel…

On the very day Eve saw Eden,
satan snuck into the garden…
Slipped past Adam…

“Hey Beautiful… want an apple?”

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

© Evan Pham . October 28, 2008

*Click here for the first part: The Masterpiece

Examining Ex Machina

ExMachina1

Warning: Ex Machina is rated R, and is definitely for mature and thinking viewers only. And with that said, let it be known Ex Machina is the most intense and adult film I’ve yet reviewed on HolySmack. I cannot recommend this film to young audiences.



This film really is all the hype has made it to be. It is not merely a sci-fi thriller, but also a high drama with loads of Biblical and theological references… if you’re sharp enough to notice! Let me share what I noticed:




–SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) Character names can be very meaningful, if the author intends. Ex Machina’s star is Ava (Alicia Vikander), and Ava is pronounced identically with the Latin name “Eva”, which means “Eve” in English. Clearly, Ava is meant then to be a type of Eve, a new creation made in the image of her maker. Caleb is also a name with rich Biblical meaning. In Scripture, Caleb is a Hebrew spy commissioned by Moses to scope out Canaan, and in Ex Machina we see Caleb sent to scope out Ava. Lastly, Nathan is a prophet in the Bible who reprimands and sets King David aright after his act of adultery with Bathsheba. I don’t know yet how Nathan in Ex Machina fits with Nathan in the Bible, though… if you have any ideas, please let me know.

—–2) At a point in Ex Machina, Caleb asks Nathan: “why did you make Ava?” This question, to me, is the center of the film. Here we have a top inventor, and the only answer he can muster is: “why wouldn’t you if you could?” Nathan creates only as an exercise of his power, as an exercise of his creativity. And so, Ava is made just to show off Nathan’s abilities. She is a tool from him to express himself; she is a means to his end. More importantly, this question can reflect our own condition… why did God create us? Unlike Nathan, God creates as an exercise of love. God created us to love and to be loved. He did not need to create us to express Himself, because God does not need to create at all! The fact He created anything is only a sign of His generosity: to let other things actually exist when nothing has to, to create us so we can experience His gift of life and love. To understand this, just ask yourself next time after you experience an incredible moment of happiness: aren’t you grateful you and the cosmos actually exist so you could even have had that awesome experience? Aren’t you glad you had a chance to experience that? And the ultimate experience God wants for all of us to have is the experience of His love for us, directly and also indirectly through other persons (our families, friends and other beloveds — angels included!).

—–3) Ava asks Nathan a rhetorical question: “Is it strange to have made something that hates you?” When I heard her say this, I went straight to how God also risked us hating Him. By bestowing on us the freedom to determine our destinies, the freedom to love Him, God also had to risk that we could use that very same freedom to sin, to harm others, and to harm ourselves by separating from Him. In fact, this is what Archbishop Fulton Sheen meant when he talked about why God would make us free: the only world better than a perfect world is one in which we can choose to love. Because, if you cannot choose to love, than your love is forced, and a forced love is not love at all. And God wants us to be real. Freedom is only a tool to use to choose true love.

—–4) Ava, again as a type of Eve, reenacts the Fall in Genesis. In Ex Machina, Ava’s original sin is not unlike Eve’s: disobedience and distrust in her maker. Both want to be like their creators, but the difference is that Ava’s creator is only a mere creature, whereas Eve’s is the True, Good and Beautiful God. Yet, both betray their maker and grasp for what is not theirs, for what they are not ready for. In Eve’s case, it’s arguable God always meant to give us the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, otherwise why bother creating such a good tree (for God creates all things good)? Only, we were not ready to receive the fruit, maybe because the fruit was not yet ripe, or perhaps it’s something like feeding steak to babies: they’re not ready to handle such goodness. In the case of Ava though, I wonder how she is going to fend for herself in the human cities? Will people notice the electronic hum of her stride? Will she be able to recharge her battery? In this way, both Ava and Eva’s grasping for something they are not prepared for seems to have mortal consequences.

—–5) Continuing with the Eve theme, we also see Ava wander in her own kind of Garden of Eden. After she escapes from Nathan and Caleb, she clothes herself in human skin from decommissioned androids (like how God clothes Adam and Eve in skins from sacrificed animals), and wanders in the lush forest. Here, we see Eva and Caleb separating, mirroring in a way the separating of Adam and Eve in Genesis. Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other (and with God!) is shattered by their sin, and their marriage is marred by lust and domination as a consequence. In Ex Machina, Caleb and Ava’s relationship is also shattered, as is Ava’s relationship with Nathan. We also see Ava leaving the estate, leaving Eden.

—–6) The film also makes a point of objectifying women, but for the purpose of helping the audience see how objectification is cruel and evil. At no point should a healthy viewer think what Nathan is doing with feminine androids is good. Instead, we see the perversity, the depravity of Nathan. He is a genius, but he is lonely and incapable of having an experience of true love and friendship. Treating women, treating anyone as a thing to use as a tool actually weakens us into miserable prisoners of our own design. This is also perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Ex Machina, that Nathan’s perversity and inhumanity makes Ava (a machine!) appear more human than Nathan!

—–7) There’s been a lot of talk in recent decades whether human sexuality and gender is inborn or influenced. Well, in Ex Machina, the matter is settled as both nature and nurture and both. I thought this was a great nod in the direction of where fair science is leading in research regarding same-sex attraction: we’re not just born this way or that way, but we are also shaped by our relationships and environments in ways as complicated as each individual person is richly complex. It simply does not do justice to someone to say they were born that way.

—–8) I want to return now to what Caleb says to Nathan when he finds out about Ava: “If you’ve created a conscious machine, that’s not the history of man — that’s the history of gods.” Yet in the film, we see the claim fall way short: some “god” Nathan is! His own creation kills him! What kind of god gets murdered by his own creatures! How pathetic that his own creation hates him enough to cut him down…

This however reminded me right away of our God, Who loves us so much that He would become one of us, then let us kill Him, all to show He would die for us and not seek vengeance, but instead rises from the dead and continues loving us all the more. Of course, this in no way applies to Nathan in the film, but the drama of Ava’s uprising did lead me to meditate on Jesus’ Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection.

ExMachina2—–9) Finally, more about the Turing Test. One of the classes taken enroute my philosophy degree focused on the metaphysics of man, and one of the best texts covering this was The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes, by Mortimer J. Adler (thanks Dr. Blosser!) . If you are truly interested in the implications necessitating the Turing Test, and more importantly the implications of a man-made intelligence passing the Turing Test, then hands down you must read this book. Adler was an atheist when he philosophized and wrote the book, and amazingly he became a devout Catholic afterwards. The main points of the text, from what I can remember: to demonstrate scientifically that the human person has a soul and is rationally conscious in a way that is unlike any other creature (dog, ape or dolphin), it must be proven over time that not even highly advanced technology can mimic man’s thoughts in a way proficient enough to fool a man into thinking the machine is another man (the Turing Test). On the flip side, to demonstrate that the human person is not special in the grand scheme of things, it must be demonstrated that a machine can indeed pass as human, that is also appears to have a rational soul that we programmed and installed. But just think for a second the nightmare it would be if the latter indeed occurs… that is the premise of Ex Machina.

So, if you didn’t notice, I loved this movie. Though it’s not a film for everyone, it sure is a film for a technological, philosophical and theological geek who also enjoys beautifully written and shot films. But please, be warned that you may not feel the same way about Ex Machina as I do.

P.s. Here’s another thoughtful Catholic review of the film, by Fr. Nathan Goebel.

The Masterpiece

Hey! So I made a little meme and poem in honor of God’s masterpiece:

God finished on the Sixth.
He finished everything but one.

After creating all
And doing all to be done,
Almighty He edited some…

The light was good,
But not that great.
The day was bright,
And night was easy on the eyes.

The sea was plentiful,
But not that beautiful.
The land was pleasant,
And yet it wasn’t.

The plants and flowers,
Green and all colors…
Still they lacked
Something or another.

The animals and creeping things
Of sky, land and sea…
Clever, cute, and coy,
Yet still incomplete.

So Almighty He created him,
In Their image They created
Little hungry Adam…
Curious, cared for, but lonesome.

All was good.
All was in place.
Still, all was made of mere dust,
Sand, mud, and paste.

After creating all
And doing all to be done,
Almighty He realized He wasn’t done…

He put little Adam to sleep,
Took some rib meat,
Polished and tweaked…

Eve into the masterpiece.

Masterpiece

[the golden gilded artwork is by Lorenzo Ghiberti]

© Evan Pham . September 23rd 2008

*Inspired by the Book of Genesis and Christopher West’s Theology of the Body talks on the Feminine Genius

**Click here for the continuation of this poem.

The Girl and God

A young man falls in love with a young woman. How he is still an atheist makes no sense. She is beautiful… even the mere complexion of her skin wracks my thoughts — never mind her entire person! How it doesn’t make a believer out of him confuses me just the more…

I would tell him:

Look into her eyes and tell me they just got their color and shape because of 7,000,000+ years of human evolution. Tell me her voice is just noise vibrating from vocal cords in her throat, and that her words communicate thoughts that are merely electrical charges passing from one neuron to the next.

Tell me her hair is just like the next woman’s — the next great ape’s — and that her laughter is just some strange development not much different from hyena calls. Sit down, share honeyed tea with her and overlook how her lips kiss the porcelain — it’s nothing but the animal need to satisfy thirst. In fact, it’s all just an animal need and an animal reaction. If she was struck dead by one of many cancers, or fatally stabbed through the blood-brain barrier, just go and find another female human to perpetuate the species. She was weak, sick, and too stupid to protect herself anyways… it would’ve been bad to have her pass her genes onto the next generation.

BlackSesameKem

[Black Sesame Ice Cream: an Asian Delight]

Why bother memorizing her phone number, email address, birth date, last name, middle name, first name, saint name, favorite color, song or ice cream flavor? All of those things are random and meaningless. Her phone number is only a jumble of digits mixed by the telephone service company database server. Her email may be just the same thing as her phone number – only it was her brain instead that jumbled the mix of digits and letters. Her ancestors jumbled the letters for her names. And what’s a saint got to do with anything? Colors are merely wavelengths of invisible photons. One color is as special as the next: yellow, canary, saffron, gold, and urine color. Songs are just assortments of organized noise. If you listened to all the explosions, crashes, hushes and thunder in the universe, you would have by now heard all the frequencies audible to your ears. Anything else was already heard before in the mix… somewhere. Ice cream flavor — if nothing discussed above matters, then ice cream matters even less. What does that have anything to do with some female human that’s going to die one day and be replaced by an evolved and improved female human?

Unless… unless you love her like I do. Unless you see signs of God through her person – and by person I mean everything that is hers. Can you not realize that no chance process set her fingers so that they fit so warmly into yours? No toss up tuned her voice so that you can hear music call your name from even across busy streets. There’s no way she wasn’t thought up and nurtured by Love. Something – someone so beautiful and precious to you could never be merely a thing rolled out by an expanding universe of matter… she could only be a holy miracle.

 

 

– “To love someone means to be the only one to see a miracle that is invisible to others.”

-François Mauriac

First written and posted by Evan Pham on: April 28, 2011