Playskool Tape Recorder

Fake radio shows. News and weather. Traffic reports. Sticking the end of the microphone in your mouth and making noises. Even pirated music! All that was great, but seriously... there was never a device better suited to record your burps and farts for posterity.

Needless to say, I had one.

The Lego Movie: A Theological Analysis

The Lego Movie sums up my entire view of life, and my life has come full circle in it. Everything is awesome indeed!

Everyone knows there comes a time when we have to grow up, or at least get bigger, and move on to bigger and better things. Some things actually get better with age too, and Legos are one of those things apparently. Since I put down my last Lego brick, I went off into the world and took up things like "psychology" and studied things like "philosophy" and "theology" and had my big religious awakening, and yet in some all-mystical way all things have come back to Legos for me with 2014's The Lego Movie. So please excuse me while I wax on (and off) philosophically about this rather fascinating movie... but reader beware! Not only is this thing going to be FULL of spoilers, it's also going to probably RUIN the movie for you forever... so only read if you've watched the movie and don't really care if it gets ruined by some guy on the internet. I just like over-thinking things as much as I like under-thinking most everything else, so don't mind me.

Lego love. My fanfic comes true!
Anyways, I first saw the trailer a while back and I knew instantly this was going to be the most awesome movie-going experience ever, or at least since Jurassic Park. I was instatnly reminded of a dream I once had involving a Lego Movie being made about a little Lego guy who works in a movie theater and goes on some great adventure, or something (I forgot). This looked like my dream was coming true, too, because it looked original, and the more I read about it, the more excited I got. Then they released the snips of the guy (Emmet) cruising around Lego City with that "Everything is Awesome!" kickin soundtrack, the "trendy Starbucks" jokes and traffic jams, and I was doubly excited to get in line as fast as possible! This didn't just look like it was going to be a fun laugh-a-minute family comedy to make money on an existing toy franchise. This looked like it was going to have ideas and perhaps even some moments of brillance in it. And I sure wasn't let down. This movie really is brilliant. Let me count the ways the Lego Movie is a masterpiece, and one even more than I could've imagined. And I'm not just talking about that Jungian "duality of man" which is at the heart of the Good Cop/Bad Cop character, but also the theological dimensions underlying that very psychological reality in the "divided heart" inside all of us to begin with... the one torn between good and evil, flesh and spirit, life and death, pain and pleasure... this movie and the Transformers movies (yuck!).

37 dollars?? That is awesome!
First off, what could've been an exercise in product placement, pop culture referencing, pandering eye-rape chasing a quick buck for all involved (where they could've had their 90 minute toy commercial and everyone else could've had their butter popcorn and chuckle for the hour), actually turned into a movie with a fierce sense of originality, character, and one of the most thought-provoking story twists I've ever seen in any movie. Don't get me wrong, there's all that going on to some extent, but the subtlety and connection to the story is ingenious throughout. Batman for instance is not just in the movie to make Dark Knight jokes (although that happens), but actually represents the "hero" archetype, the weak-heeled hero Achilles to Emmet's weakling anti-hero Patroclus (The Iliad bitch!), the former having a sense of hubris that actually keeps him from being the true hero that Emmet, the real hero, actually possesses innately, and who gains his power by donning the "armor of Achilles" symbolized by the boner-ific femme fatale of Lucy, who is "girl power" without being abrasive (and I sure loves me some 'girl power!'). The point is, nothing is quite what it seems in this movie, and this motif will become important in the thought-provoking twist of an ending.

Even the "Where's My Pants?" sitcom is more than just an excuse to squeeze in a hilarious naughty-bit humor line for the kids, but actually poses some rather spot-on satire about how our lowest-common-denominator media zaps away our collective creativity and imagination as a society to render us consumption-based drones, which is exactly the point they're making too! Let's also not forget that the movie that could've so easily been an excuse for Lego to sell its product line exclusively and give us all the sets we already know, actually ends up encouraging indepednent creativity and not "following the instructions" all the time. In fact, it doesn't even take the easy route and say that "following the instructions is bad"... instead, the movie makes the harder but truer point, that sometimes it's GOOD to "follow the instructions" and other times it's GOOD to be creative and make something "Special" of your own. It's about moderation in all things. And it's when these two seemingly-opposed cosmic forces ("order" vs. "freedom"... "legalism" vs. "lawlessness"... to use Biblical language) come together that the movie really hits its incredible philosophical stride... at least in my mind.

Spaceship!!!
Spoilers ahead! I just can't help myself. Aside from all the existential wrangling our protagonist Emmet undergoes, the ending is what really blew my mind. The twist involving the "father" and the "son" is one of the most profound and subtle things I've ever seen in a movie like this, and when it came up on the screen, suddenly the 8 year old me who had gone to the movie purely to be entertained by bright colors, lots of action, pop culture references and maybe the occasional fart joke (not surprisingly absent since they are LEGOs, although "you know what that does to your colon?" does come up) suddenly turned into the college philosophy guy who realized that the movie was bringing out the theologian in him rather than the little kid, and who had never expected such a thing to happen in a movie called "The Lego Movie." In fact, this thing is better than it has any right to be. Let me just try to blow your mind for a second here with the last act of the film, which is done with such incredible subtlety that it's going to increase your own already-high expectations. 

The Holy Trinity
This movie, for all its appropriately fast and fun bombastic proportions in its first acts, is actually a movie of incredible subtlety in the last. Let me just lay it down. Our protagonist Emmet sacrifices himself for the good of everyone else, so automatically we got a Christ-like figure here, and in so doing, the Christ-like figure becomes "assumed" into the heavens as a result where he exits the "matrix" (not everything was as it seemed!) and suddenly sees the world for what it really is. He has passed "behind the veil" to the "Holy of Holies," which is nothing more than the basement of Lego fanatic and his son. Emmet has seen "what eye has not seen" (1st Corinthians) and what does he find? He finds "God" of course.. the mastermind behind everything that was happening in the movie up to that point, both the good AND the evil! Just like God, who even uses evil for the ultimate good of all. But not only does Emmet find "God," he finds a God who is at least two or three persons: a "father" (Will Farrell) who built everything, "orders" it, and lays down the "rules" for his cosmos ("Don't Touch"), and a "son" who expresses his profound mercy and love for his dad's creation and grants "freedom" to its inhabitants. The father represents "judgement" and "order" here (and therefore justice) while the son represents "redemption" and "mercy", and the "love" they come to share together via their creation is the bond that builds between them. Not everything works with the framing exercise, but that's okay.  

Lucifer and the divided man.
Thus everything that happens in our Lego world throughout the movie is not so much about the evil "President Business" and what he wants, nor about "Emmett" and what he wants, or even about "Lucy" "Batman" or "1980's Space Guy"... but all these people are simply pawns or projections in the God-Boy's quest to bond with the God-Dad all the more and the God-Dad to bond with God the Son all the more perfectly via the creation, which both eventually do, proving their Father-Son love for one another. Thus because of what God is (this bond of love), where what is "just" and "ordered" (the "Hands Off!" Old Testament-style father) and what is "merciful" and "free" (the New Testament-style son, who Emmet "bears the image of" in the Lego world) come together in that "hypo-static union" (to use a seminary term), the source of all evil (President Business, who represents Lucifer) is just as much a pawn in the Triune Godhead's plan for redemption in creation as Emmet is (and Emmet even says this much to President Business at the end!). The result is that their creation becomes truly just, truly merciful, and full of love when all these elements "come together" like an... "interlocking brick system," no less... "the living stones" in the Temple of God.

The Kingdom of Heaven
Then we also have these "relics" of the "realm above" sitting around... the "Kra-Gl-e" for instance, the "Polish of Na-il" and the "Knife of Exact-0" or the "Robe of Banda-id" ...things that have made their way into their realm that they can handle and use but can't fully understand or fathom. These are not unlike the relics of spirituality and religion we find in the world around us that we can't fathom but can only grasp in our hands and use for either good or bad (like in the movie). In fact, while everyone, even President Business (who, remember, represents the angel Lucifer, one of God's creatures too), is off making such a big deal out of this "relic" they refer to as the "Piece of Resistence," (which is nothing more than the cap to the Krazy Glue!), Emmett gets to see "beyond the infinite" into the "Holy of Holies" and even remarks (when dad opens the glue drawer) about just how many of these "Kra-Gl-e"s there are! This is the movie's "My God! It's full of stars!" moment (2001: A Space Odyssey).

It suddenly becomes clear that what we make a big deal of down here on earth is really nothing before the infinite. Thus, what we call "religion" here on earth is but a mere shadow of the things to come, of which we can never understand during our ordinary "veiled" existence. And just like throughout all human history, mankind's inability to possess the infinite naturally causes conflict and division which to an all-just God-Dad must seem as silly as a bunch of Legos fighting over the cap to the Krazy Glue! So what we have here is a microcosm of the inadequacy of the human experience of the divine causing problems, yet because the father loves his son, he accepts the son's act of redemption for the sake of the creation and the kid's love for imbuing that unattainable ineffable "special-ness" into the "order" of that creation, and the result is that creation is made all the more just, merciful, and full of love. Thus the end of all things is the idealized "Kingdom of God" ...until the "sister" arrives, but hey, this is just a movie after all, and I always knew Duplos were evil! No girl better be messing up our boys-only zone!

The made up prophesy was true!
But this is the movie's genius... how nearly everything in it is really about our relationship to the divine in our every day life, the "Special" as they call it. Sure the "prophesy was made up, and it was also true!" but there's the rub! It's not so surprising when a prophesy comes true, nor is it surprising when a prophesy is false (both of these outcomes have happened a lot). It's when the prophesy proves to be BOTH true and made up that you know something more is at work here. We are all made "Special"... the son reminds the father just how "awesome" everything the father made is and makes "intercession" for the whole of creation before the throne of the father who created it. So, because all is made "awesome" in the end, and all people, whether creative or not, good or evil, Wild West of Castle, City or Space, Pirate or ... that girly Princess Uni-kitty thing... are all what they are created to be for the glory of the this dad and son, and therefore all are "the special" in their own ways. As saint Paul wrote, "many the gifts, many the works, but the same Spirit in all." (1st Corinthians)

Me watching the Lego Movie!
So lo and behold, I was actually rather amazed by the levels of profound mystery at work in this movie, even more than I was expecting. I have no idea if this is what they had in mind or what, but whoever wrote this thing should get props, not just from the 8 year old me, who is of course very appreciative for the most fun movie-going experience imaginable connected to the Lego world, but also the now-27 year old college-aged me, who also couldn't have asked for a better 90 minute theological exploration of the divine in ordinary life.

"And God saw that it was good." = Everything IS awesome!

Hunting the Wumpus

For those who aren't in the extreme know, the TI-994a was one of the early "personal computer devices" of the 80's and was manufactured by the same people who probably made your high school calculator with all the fancy functions. I say all this in the hopes that 99% of the reading public has probably tuned out by now, so I address the rest just to the brave souls who have a special affinity from their childhood to this ancient device. The TI-994a came with an array of games that my brother and I used to while away the hours with in those early, simple years of ours, and one of our all time favorites among the Burger Times and Parsecs was this little obscure title called Hunt the Wumpus.

Hunt the Wumpus was originally a text-based game going back to the stone age, but the TI-994a had a colorful version of it, designed to bring out our collective caveman instincts. What exactly was a wumpus? It was essentially a giant mouth with legs that liked to lurk in the swamps (not unlike my ex-girlfriend), and you had to hunt it down. You basically started out on a white field and as you moved around the screen, you'd uncover a maze of pathways through the swamps tracking the near-presence of the beast who seemed to like to leave behind giant red circles (also not unlike...). Watch out though, or you could fall into the swamp. Along the way you'd also run into these bat-like creatures who'd I guess pick you up and drop you in random places--usually right into the spot where the wumpus was!


The object of the game was to make your way around in the maze, watch out for the green circles (that told you of the presence of swamps), the red circles (that told you the wumpus was nearby), and fire an arrow in the direction where you thought the wumpus might be based on the trail of his "residue" (I suppose). If he was there, then you won the game. If he wasn't and you fired an arrow, then no matter where he was on the field, he'd kill you. His big teeth would come down on the screen to the tune of Chopin's Funeral March (dun-dun-da-dun...etc) and your goose was cooked (your ASS being the goose of course, and served back to you roasted and glazed). If you fell into the swamp, you'd see a green screen where your little guy plunges into a watery death to the tune of "running your hands down the keyboard."

This game was endlessly entertaining as we fought over turns to hunt down the elusive beast, and the music played a big part in its humorous effect on us. Sometimes just seeing those big teeth come down on the screen and his grinning face was worth getting killed for and that would always crack us up. The game also had a hard mode where the maze wouldn't reveal itself as you walked around on it, but we didn't do that one very much.

It was more funner than Minesweeper. There, I said it.