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Superior force

Netflix
In "Messiah," Philip Baker Hall is Mr. Katz, a retired CIA officer living in Florida who witnesses a mass fishkill on the coast, prior to a strange tidal wave.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – My record player at home is a piece of cheap, Chinese junk. It’s already dead. And my Sonos system is not working either, for some reason. So, I dug up an old “jambox” and brought it home, so I could at least listen to the local classical radio station while making dinner.

But I also wanted some other options as well. I have a few CD’s at home, including a Bruno Mars CD my son likes and a mid-80’s Shadowfax album that causes my cats to go into a trance.

Last night, after posting “Who do you say I am?,” I thought about bringing some CDs home. I included the Stranger Things soundtrack and a Tangerine Dream collection – The Virgin Years 1977-1983.

I am not sure why I chose that particular CD compilation, featuring some of the Berlin-based band’s best albums. I was first turned on to Tangerine Dream years ago while listening to the Hearts of Space radio show. I always liked atmospheric, “New Age” music.

While listening to it late last night I took note of the album titles … from 1979 was Force Majeure. I thought a moment … “wait! That’s the name of one of the episodes of Messiah. Also, it was recorded in West Berlin in 1978, just as Stanley Kubrick was directing The Shining in England. Tangerine Dream's Force Majeure became a powerful force on the charts, in its own right, having reached as high as number 26. It is essentially three tracks: the title track, "Cloudburst Flight" and "Thru Metamorphic Rocks." It's a great album in the TD catalogue, and led to reworked tracks from the album being used in the films Thief and Risky Business.

I sensed I needed to rewatch the eighth episode of the ten-episode first season, titled “Force Majeure.” I am glad I did because I discovered a mistake I had made in that day’s Dust Devil Dreams post. When Samir is reading a book, it is not The Great Gatsby, as I had mistakenly assumed. Upon closer inspection, it was The Little Prince, the 1943 classic novella by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, one that has been translated into 300 languages and dialects and is one of the most successful and best-selling books of all time.

And in the context of Messiah, Samir and his friend Jibril are caught in a series of circumstances in the Middle East where the friends are torn apart and are dealing with the very themes addressed in The Little Prince, from love and loss to friendship and loneliness.

So, how I missed this? Well, I don’t know. After all, The Little Prince was being read earlier in the series, prior to episode 8. I guess the cover through me, since it looked so much like The Great Gatsby.

But it was one of those “happy accidents” where my analysis is still relevant. Again, Gatsby is viewed as a Christ-like figure, as is al-Masih. As I noted yesterday, this analysis suggests that “(a) Christ figure is depicted as a visionary character who is symbolic to Jesus Christ and suggests toward the beginning of the novel, The Great Gatsby … Jay Gatsby, the intriguing and mysterious character, is undoubtedly represented as a Christ figure … with Fitzgerald using strikingly similar characteristics between Gatsby and Jesus … (including links) to the Bible and Gatsby’s ultimate death echoing that of Jesus’ crucifixion …

DEFINITIONS

Back to the title of the Messiah episode: “Force Majeure.”

The French language term translates as “superior force” or, in Latin (casus fortuitous), is  “a chance occurrence, unavoidable accident, and “is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime or an event described by the legal term ‘act of God’ (a hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.) and prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract. In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure.” (from the international references of the “Principle of Force Majeure” at Trans-Lex.org.)

When a CNN reporter asks al-Masih if he is "the Messiah," he replies, "I am a message."

"No. Answer the question. Are you the Messiah?" she asks again.

"I am here to bring about the world to come," says al-Masih.

Vague, but an answering implying that al-Masih has rather serious intentions for the near future, something that will clearly affect the world. After all, he was witnessed in Texas standing in the midst of a tornado. And in Syria, watching a sandstorm thwart an ISIS attack on Damascus, seemingly surviving the event unscathed. And later, in "Force Majeure," CIA officer Eva Geller's father, Mr. Katz, living in Florida, witnesses a fishkill on the Florida coast, taking place before massive tidal surge floods much of the Florida coast, something that seemed to appear in a dream of President John Young, a Mormon played by Dermot Mulroney, the actor who played the dopey boyfriend character in About Schmidt, a 2002 film I recently synced with ("Schmidt shining").

After rewatching "Force Majeure," I picked up the Jan. 4, 2020 issue of The Economist, and I got to the Charlemagne editorial titled "Huntington's disease." Incredibly, it was a column about the late Prof. Samuel Huntington's 90's book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, which I highlighted in my previous Dust Devil Dreams post, as a character in Messiah burns a copy of Huntington's book on a pyre.

In Charlemagne's column, out this week, he argues that Huntington was just a little off in his assessment in those years immediately following the end of the Cold War where he suggested "nation-states" would be battling, instead, in the 21st century, it is "civilization-states" that will be battling. Perhaps as we are seeing this week as tensions are heightened between Iran and the United States following the assassination of an Iranian general by a drone strike last week at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq.

"(Q)uestions of culture rather than political ideology are now the currency of politics," writes The Economist's Charlemagne, referencing a book by Christopher Coker titled The Rise of the Civilisational State. "Such a shift changes the fundamental question asked of citizens, as Mr. Huntington laid out two decades ago. If politics and economics dominate, then the qustion is 'what do you think?' This has a mutable answer. If culture dominates, the question becomes 'who are you?' an answer that can less easily be changed." 

With that last bit in mind, recall that I chose to title my sync piece "Who do you say I am?". That question-title is a reference to Jesus Christ who asked of Simon Peter, in the Gospel of Matthew, who he thought He was. Simon Peter replied (as several figures in Messiah have, "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God."

With all that in mind, I was listening to the Force Majeure album while contemplating what Charlemagne had written and what Messiah was trying to say. I then looked down and saw the Force Majeure album cover image in the CD booklet for The Virgin Years collection. Tangerine Dream's Force Majeure album art features a orange/tangerine-like "sun" seemingly going down a four-sided "hole" that gets blacker as you further and further down. I then looked over at The Economist article and noticed the accompanying art with the piece featured a lighthouse (representing the European Union, two connected pillars and a clock tower with a cross on top. Lower is a seemingly "setting sun," which would sync with the Force Majeure album art imagery of a sun, falling into a black hole of sorts. 

What am I saying with all this? It is clear we are entering a period of tremendous change. The sun is setting on the old order, and as al-Masih indicates in the "Force Majeure" episode of Messiah, he is here to "bring about the world to come." After all, isn't that what Echo & The Bunnymen were saying in "Bring On the Dancing Horses," as I originally addressed - five years ago - in my Dust Devil Dreams piece "Bring on the new messiah"? Wars and rumors of wars? Earth changes? Civil and political unrest? A lack of leadership and/or direction. It makes me think that circumstances are leading to a time - in the not too distant future - when that "messiah" will see an opportunity to make him-or-herself known to the world.

Will be be able to discern if that individual is the "Christ or con"? Are we ready for that day?

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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