I hope many of you are enjoying this season’s Community Group study You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith. In his book we discover how our own secular habits are causing culture to shape us. But as we face this truth and become more aware of how we live our day-to-day lives we realize how we might not be driven by what we often say we believe! As Smith puts it “you might not love what you think.” He is systematically laying the foundation for intentionally moving away from secular habits to godly Christian habits that can affectively reshape our heart’s desires where we can begin to shape culture instead of vice versa.
Smith’s reference of the Russian movie, Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky immediately intrigued me. It paints a vivid picture of how one might consciously believe they know what they desire only to realize they fear they are mistaken! While the movie is not widely available it is worth the trouble to find it, though I warn you it is slow moving but I found that conducive for reflection.
The story revolves around an eerie, restricted place called the Zone and more specifically, the Room which lies within the heart of the Zone; a unique place where one’s secret hopes and desires can come true, where a man can find real happiness, receiving what he truly longs for! The imagery of the Room immediately conjured up Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised (“desire” spelled backward), a mirror that shows whomever gazes into it a reflection of what their heart desperately desires. So, just as the Mirror of Erised revealed to Harry and the Room promised to give all who entered, so too is Smith trying to give his reader a picture of the longings of their heart’s as he poses the question: do some of those desires miss the Christian mark?
The movie opens in black and white but as the three main characters; Professor, Writer and Stalker make their way into the Zone, color is introduced and life is being awakened. The Zone is a place that demands respect and obedience and the Stalker is one of a few people who possess the gifts needed to lead people through its every changing, dangerous mystical grounds. As the story unfolds the Writer, who seeks new inspiration for his writing, and the Professor, who seeks to make a Nobel Prize winning discovery, begin to understand their motivations are not as pure as they might have originally believed.
Like Smith says, we all know what we are suppose to say we love and long for but what we say we love and what the patterns of our lives reveal often conflict; as he explains, “Your deepest desire is the one manifested by your daily life and habits”. (Smith, p. 29)
The film gives much food for thought into the human behavior that is often times at odds with itself. It reveals there is no courage without fear and sometime fear wins. Christian imagery is everywhere yet is not explained; it is left as a poem might leave one wondering and contextualizing its meaning for themselves. And for Tarkovsky its meaning is summed up in his short notion – “In the end…all a person can count upon in his existence: the capacity to love.”