Two years ago, I was an extra in the Bollywood film, "Cheeni Kum", starring Amitabh Bachchan. I could be seen for a mere split second in the background of the bar scene when Bachchan's character is speaking with his potential father-in-law, played by Paresh Rawal.
In April 2007 I was asked to take on a small speaking role in another Bollywood film called "Sunday". The following clip is from that movie, which was released in early 2008 and stars Ajay Devgan, Ayesha Takia, Irfan Khan and Arshad Warsi. The scene was shot in Delhi at the Red Fort and features Arshad Warsi as a taxi driver and tour guide. I'm playing a tourist, alongside an English girl. (No, that's not Amy. She was asked to play that part, but unfortunately we couldn't both be at the set that day.)
When the movie first came out in Delhi, Amy and I went to see it, not even knowing for sure whether the scene had actually made the final cut. We weren't too impressed with the rest of the movie, and we missed a lot of the details due to the fact that there were no English subtitles at that showing. But when my scene did hit the big screen we were quite surprised, and Amy could not stop laughing for the full minute that I was up there.
This wasn't a career move for me, but it was fun. And we've been amazed at how many of our friends in India have seen the movie and recognized me in it. All in all, I'm grateful that this experience has been a part of our ongoing Indian adventure.
Philosophers are really smart people, at least according to how a lot of people measure smartness. Most of us probably don’t know any philosophers personally. We know about them. We are influenced by them, though we’ve probably never seen them, even in photos. Most of the time, we hear about them from people who are slightly less smart than they are. However, those slightly-less-smart people are very important, because if it weren’t for them, none of us would even know about the really smart people, the philosophers.
OK, enough. What am I getting at? Well, I’ve been influenced, hopefully in a good way, by a French philosopher named Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005). But I would never have been touched by him without the help of others who have interpreted his thinking for me.
Those who know me, know that I am a great fan of the Bible. I’ve devoted large chunks of my life to study it and to teach it, and hopefully, even larger chunks to live it. It is in the area of my relationship with the Bible that Ricoeur’s philosophy has influenced me.
I’d like to share a quote, by someone who helped me understand Ricoeur. These words may not grab you like they grabbed me. But I hope they mean something to you, and especially that your own reading of the Scriptures will, in some way, be inspired or guided by them.
I’ll let the quote speak for itself, for the most part. Some brief context will suffice. However, I will say this much – if we in the Church could grasp a good portion of Ricoeur’s thought and heart in regard to reading our Bibles, we would be saved from so many of the petty issues that we are engrossed in today.
Lewis Mudge was a student and a friend of Paul Ricoeur. He was the editor of Ricouer’s Essays on Biblical Interpretation (Fortress Press, 1980). According to Mudge, Ricoeur had a heart for his readers and it was his mission to “open our ears to the scriptural call” (p.6). In his introduction to this book, Mudge writes expressively about the problem into which Ricoeur made this call:
“We are deaf to the Word today. Why? The root of the problem, for Ricoeur, lies in a general loss of sensitivity to symbolic language in modern Western civilization. We construe the world in terms of the Cartesian dichotomy between the self as sovereign consciousness on the one hand, and an objectivized, manipulable nature on the other. We conceive ourselves authors of our own meaning and being, set in the midst of a world there for us to interrogate, manipulate, and control. We make language our instrument in this project in a way that sees artful equivocation, richness of meaning, or metaphysical range as a liability to be overcome rather than a gift to be treasured. We dismiss realms of meaning beyond the literal either as confusion to be cleared up by the logician or as emotional embellishment to be kept in check. It is hard for us to see scriptural language, full as it is of figure, metaphor, vision, and myth, as having anything to do with reality” (p.4).
I know, that’s some pretty thick language. You can imagine, then, how thick the pure Ricoeur would be. But for me, this quote captures the heart of our desperate need to engage the Bible on its own terms and to allow its artistic beauty and truth to define our reality.