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Depth in trite movie quotes

I often find an amazing amount of depth in what others might consider trite movie quotes. It's like a little bit of inadvertent zen... or is it, I wonder... I mean writers are certainly smart, at least some of them. Plus one would assume that if they are smart writers that they get inspiration by also being smart readers. So some philosophy must pass through their filter now and again. Right?

This week the depth came from a quote from Cowboys and Aliens. A good popcorn flick. Sparse on details, great on action, and with some good heart. In it Clancy Brown, most notably known for his role as the nemesis in Highlander and more recently as Mr. Krabs on Sponge Bob Square Pants, gives some reassurance to "Doc" the bartender regarding God. "First you earn God's presence, then you recognize and then you act." It's one of those lines that's true and not depending on your perspective.

Firstly most evangelicals will say that everyone is deserving of the grace and presence of God. Typically this is followed by something like "through his son Jesus Christ" or some similar connotation. It's also quite possible followed with "if you invite him into your heart." The message really being that God loves us and is here for us. That's nice and comforting, but not necessarily motivating toward any tangible end.

As people we spend a significant amount of our time doing things that distance ourselves from God. Sometimes purposefully, sometimes thoughtlessly, often carelessly. If we think of God as a fixed point in space, where we our moving, but he is unmoving, the first part "first you earn God's presence" begins to make sense. God is always there, always present, always listening, unmovable. It's up to us to work towards decreasing the distance between us by removing our own man made barriers. Maybe that barrier is just how we see ourselves, or maybe it's the very real acts that we perform every day that keeps us from approaching God. Whatever the case may be, it is through choices and our own acts that we travel that road to him, doing things, thinking and speaking things that we can internalize as earning the right to cross that threshold to something greater than ourselves.

The second part of the quote, "then you recognize" is the hardest part for people. I think plenty of people do work and do work and constantly slip up in recognizing that they have moved themselves closer to the presence of God. Maybe it's because they are looking for some miracle. Or possibly it's because they assume they will suddenly hear his voice or feel his touch or have some epiphany. But what if it's not so obvious, what if his presence is just the barest whisper at the edge of our senses. It's soft not because of lack of power but in an effort to make you listen for it. We generate so much noise, so much buzz, every day, it's hard to hear our own thoughts, much less tap into those outside of us. But if we slow down, if we listen, and if we attempt to recognize the presence of God in the simplest of situations then maybe we don't need the big miracles or the booming voices of angels.

Lastly we have the "then we act". We started with earning, which implied action, but a different sort of action than what happens after recognition. Earning is the prerequisite. Consider those actions the practice round. After recognition one's actions should be decidedly different. Instead of acting out of selfishness to become closer to God one is now acting in service to God and closeness is a byproduct of that action.

So following the quote, one has acted to earn proximity to God, recognized that he is closer than first thought, and then switched one's actions to align to his desire for humankind.

The really great part about the quote is it can be used religiously or non-religiously. An atheist could earn the presence of reason through purposeful action, recognize the power of reason, and then choose different actions to better serve mankind through reason, and so on and so forth.

Personally I like the message towards God better, but that's just me.