Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"He can, but he can't want what he wants"

I saw Lawrence of Arabia last night. Who knew that it was not just a great movie, and not just a brilliant exposition of the treacheries of politics, but also a profound meditation on the bondage of the will too?

Another Arab: Ghassem's time is come, Lawrence. It is written!
Lawrence: Nothing is written.

After Lawrence succeeds against all odds in rescuing Ghassem, his Arab comrade Ali acknowledges:

Ali: El Aurens. Truly for some men, nothing is written unless they write it.

But in the end El Aurens himself has to execute Ghassem with his own hand -- and finds he enjoys it. Later after a fool-hardy dare in the belief in his own destiny ends with him beaten and sodomized by a sadistic Turkish officer, he concedes his fleshliness. Rescued by his comrade Ali, he despairs:

Lawrence: Look, Ali, look. (He pinches the white, fair skin of his chest.) That's me. What color is it? (white, fair, the color that means he can't be an Arab, the color that attracted the loathsome attentions of the Turkish officer.) That's me, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Ali: A man can do whatever he wants, you said.

Lawrence: He can, but he can't want what he wants. (Pinching his chest, again) This is the stuff that decides what he wants. You may as well know. I would have told them anything. I would have told them who I am, I would have told them where you were. I tried to.

Of course, those reading the NIV, where sarx is translated as "sinful nature" not "flesh" will not get the point.

By the way, this is a wonderful expression of cintamani (or chindamani) governance (here and here:

Auda abu Tayi: I carry twenty-three great wounds, all got in battle. Seventy-five men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies' tents. I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because I am a river to my people!

(From the almost complete, but occasionally incorrect script here. See also the more accurate but less extensive memorable quotes here).

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