Monday, 28 July 2014

'This is My Design'

*Warning* - Not for the faint-hearted...

Hannibal is one of the slickest, smartest and well thought out shows around. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted providing a depth of darkness and insight into the ability of humanity to walk in darkness and violence.



Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter are fascinating characters, two sides of the same coin, symbols of a curtain that draws back and reveals truths into our common humanity that we can all too often be blind to. Will Graham exemplifies the human propensity to imitate one another. Indeed Graham reveals how such imitation leads to violence, a desire to kill or discredit another whom we see as our rival because in fact they are so similar to us.


Hannibal lays out a world of violence where the FBI are continually confronted with serial killers who desire to leave a message through the way that they kill. The killers see their acts as opening a doorway into untapped parts of the human consciousness and even into the divine life itself. The graphic violence may seem overkill, but what we witness are subtle hints at our common humanity and our desire to use others to further the message of our own self; Hannibal declares that we are narcissists and desire the world to take notice of our achievements. Through the elaborate murders the killers call the world to attention and shine a light on the hearts of a watching world as to whether what they see is simply a mirror of their own rivalistic desires.

With each murder enters Will Graham, a man who is able to enter the mind of the killer and 'see' through their eyes. We watch as Will imagines himself as the killer, each thought, each movement, every desire imagined and inwardly enacted by Will; 'This is my design', the phrase Will utters in the place of the killer at the end of each walk through of every murder.

Graham also gives an insight into mental illness and the consuming darkness it can bring. With powerful reality we witness a man who believes he is going insane, unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, consumed by pain. Panic, fear and darkness overwhelm him, yet glimmers of hope spark as others see in him more than darkness.

'This is my design'. A fascinating phrase that invokes the idea of a deity that fashions and designs a world according to its own desires without regard to the desires of those creatures it has made. This deity has no moral compass, no concern for people or situations, it simply enjoys the spectacle of humanity experiencing both misery and joy. To Hannibal Lecter this is a god that deserves recognition and praise for his ability to kill so easily and in such large numbers; recognition but not worship, for Lecter is not interested in worship.

Hannibal Lector will congratulate and encourage those who he sees have a unique 'gift' of 'seeing' the world through different eyes. For Lecter the world needs interesting people, people who do not allow the banality of the world to contaminate their desires, but who use the world to express their desires and so send a message to wake the world up.

One killer uses people as a canvas to make a picture of a giant eye. The centre of the eye was to remain empty, a sign that God does not exist, a sign of nihilism. Lecter however discovers the killer and incorporates the killer into the eye, at the centre, no longer a black vacuum of an empty eye looking up to the heavens into nothingness, but now an eye looking to God with God looking back in approval. Interestingly before Lecter kills the man they have a conversation where the serial killer says to Lecter 'There is no God', to which Lecter replies, 'Certainly not with that attitude.'

Will Graham finds himself increasingly fragile, the line between reality and fantasy blurring in ever greater smudges, with Hannibal Lecter orchestrating it all. For Will it is too shocking to enter the mind of each killer, it consumes and troubles him, yet Lecter is different, he does not think in the same way, seeing people not as people, but as meat, food to be consumed, animals, some of whom are rude and offensive and are not interesting enough to continue to be part of this world.

Hannibal Lecter is a cannibal. He kills and eats his victims. But not only that, he hosts lavish dinner parties where he feeds his victims to unsuspecting guests. Lecter is a symbol of modernity, of a violent, consumerist, narcissistic culture. The culture and 'system' is its own god, consuming and using the world around to feed itself and satisfy its own desires. It feeds at the table of materialism and selfishness, gorging on that which would profit it and enable it to continue to grow. We are its victims, yet we are also around the great banquet table feasting on those who are victims to this system.

Violence, apathy, illusion, flattery and banality enable the system to continue - 'This is my design'.

However there are Will Graham's who have woken up and are able to 'see' the system for what it really is. Graham is tortured within as he is able to understand the mind of a killer, yet in his ability to see he is able to catch the killer. Graham, although haunted in many ways, is also able to see beauty in the world, is able to recognise in others light, life and love. His ability to see darkness enables him to also see the brilliancy of light.

The world is not a totality of ugliness and brutality, there is love and light and beauty all around.

And yet Graham is also caught up in it all, a victim and a perpetrator of violence. Indeed Hannibal is a show that highlights how unimaginative we are when it comes to violence, unable to perceive another way to redemption.

'This is my design' is all too easily our own phrase when it comes to violence. Forgiveness, peace, prayer, non-retaliation and love for neighbour seem too difficult and too counter cultural, so we slot easily into the system of retaliation and violence. Somehow we need to see with different eyes, we need to imagine another Way.

Jesus is the One who truly saw the system for what it is, subverted it and overthrew it, who recognised where the beauty really was.

There is a system of violence and greed that uses people merely as a means to an end who continue to be enslaved by sin and death and violence. Through His life, death and resurrection Jesus exposes the system for what it really is enabling people to see, enabling people to hear the system calling out 'this is my design'. He enables people to see where the ugliness of blame, scapegoating, rivalry and violence lie and thus where real beauty really is.

Jesus calls humanity to relationship, recognising the beauty each of us holds. He calls us to see with open eyes and to embrace a humanity and life shaped by His very Life.

Jesus showed us that there is another way to violence, that we can paint a different work of art in history with our lives. We can say 'No more!' We can lay down our own desire for violence and see in each person the very face of Christ. Transformation is possible through the imagination of the Holy Spirit.

The dawn will rise with healing in its wings.

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