Category Archives: Thoughts

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S-E-I in movies and literature

Greetings, all! Sorry it’s been a while; teaching @ Halstrom (my new job) has kept me pretty busy.

Two weeks or so ago, I had a minor revelation about psychology in literature; I will share those thoughts with you now.

Most are familiar with the superego-ego-id imagery presented by the media; we see it portrayed as an argument between “angel” and “devil” personalities. The superego always urges us to do the “right thing” as determined by a higher sense of right and wrong, while the id encourages instant fulfillment of immediate, basic desires. The ego listens to both voices and ultimately determines which one will win and thus influence the choices made on their advice.

A prime example of this pattern is in the Disney film, “The Emperor’s New Groove”:

Kronk is debating whether or not to save Kuzco from a deadly plunge over a waterfall; he serves as the ego, or core personality, while the Shoulder Angel and Shoulder Devil represent the superego and id, respectively.

In a way, the relationship is similar to a monarch and their advisers.

King Counselors

However, as history notes, the monarch may be strong or weak, and in the psychological sense, a weak monarch/ego is open to bad suggestions from an adviser with ulterior motives (the id).

This imagery is more subtlety shown in other media, both written and visual.

Those who are familiar with Dr. Seuss will readily understand this next comparison:

CinH Fish

In “The Cat in the Hat” story, the Cat represents the wild/crazy id, the Fish represents the proper/strict superego, and the two children are the ego who make choices based on the influence of each side.

One of the most famous (and tragic) examples is in Robert Louis Stevenson’s masterpiece “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”:

Jekyll Hyde 1

Part of the tragedy is that Jekyll loses control of Hyde, and eventually he becomes Hyde permanently. However, let us take a closer look at the relationship between the two.

Stevenson, speaking as Dr. Gabriel Utterson, one of Jekyll’s friends, walks us through Jekyll’s account of his transformation. Utterson serves as the superego, while Jekyll himself is the ego and Hyde, obviously, is the id. The trouble is, Henry Jekyll fails to recognize his own divided nature, instead identifying himself and Hyde as “good” and “evil” twins.

Jekyll Hyde 2

It is only later that he seems to address his error, by which point it is too late. Jekyll admits that other people are repulsed by Hyde because, unlike others (who are a mixture of “good” and “evil”), Hyde is pure evil. By failing to see this, Hyde’s dominance of Jekyll slowly advances until Henry Jekyll must take his formula to remain himself. When it runs out, he becomes Hyde permanently.

Another famous book that is more subtle displaying the psychological relationship was written by children’s author Roald Dahl.

Wonka Charlie kids

In the Chocolate Factory, Charlie is the ego, the parents and Wonka himself are the superego, and the other four children (Augustus, Violet, Veruca, and Mike) are the id. As the book progresses, the four “id” characters are removed one by one as they proceed to immediately satisfy each of their desires despite ample warning from the superego characters.

The final example is from the dystopian novel, “Lord of the Flies.” The movie brings out the imagery in a more recognizable manner.

LotF Piggy Ralph Jack

Ralph, on the far left, is the ego; he adapts to life on the island (wearing fewer clothes, searching for food, etc.), but tries to maintain some sense of order. Behind him, Piggy (the fat boy) serves as the superego, reminding the boys that their behavior is slipping away from the societal norm. On the far right stands Jack, the head choir boy who quickly leads the others into savagery; his actions show that he represents the id – stealing Piggy’s glasses to make fire, leading hunts rather than build a signal fire or shelters, and finally initiating a wild rampage of war that destroys the island.

In each example, we see the conflict between opposing sides of the mind; ultimately, the ego is responsible – and held accountable – for the decision made. A key quote from King Baldwin IV in “The Kingdom of Heaven” exemplifies this:

Baldwin IV

“A king may move a man, a father may claim a son, but that man can also move himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that howsoever you are played or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, ‘But I was told by others to do thus,’ or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice. Remember that.”

Psychology and the four loves…

Recently, I taught my first psychology class at my new teaching position. In the course of the lesson, I saw a correlation between Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs and the progression of the four loves.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs 1

In the Greek language, there are four different words for “love,” each with its own context or application. When viewed together, there is a progression from the self outward.

Eros – love of self, base word of “erratic” Examples: Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch
Ebenezer Scrooge Grinch

Storge – close-knit family love

Phileo – fraternal love (between friends)

Agape – sacrificial, ever-giving love
Jesus people

In Christianity, we learn that we are selfish beings due to our fallen nature; when we accept Jesus as our Savior and the divine nature of God is reawakened in us, we learn to grow and expand our love. Jesus’ second commandment to us is our starting point; “love your neighbor as yourself,” means that we give the care and provision we would provide for ourselves and direct it outward. In the end, God means for us to arrive at “agape,” which is the way He loves all of us.
Water ripples

The Cold War in popular culture…

An interesting historical question to ask: what was the point of the Cold War, and did it accomplish anything?

Some postulate that the Cold War was about the Allies halting the spread of communism, while others might say that it was a consequence from the political fallout after World War II (once Hitler was gone, our Soviet ally, Stalin, became the new enemy). Basically, it was a clash of cultures – republican capitalism on one side, oligarchic communism on the other. Since neither would tolerate the other’s existence in the short or long term, the race to outdo and/or destroy the other side began. Cartoonist Bill Watterson used Calvin and Hobbes to show the mentality of the Cold War and the ultimate end if it ever turned “hot”:

Cold War

Author Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) found an interesting way to present this conflict in his controversial (for its time) book, “The Butter Battle.” He portrays a mirrored conflict between opposing worldviews in the Yooks and Zooks, who eat their bread with the butter side up or down, respectively.

Butter Battle 1

When a small shot is fired, each side works to construct bigger, more powerful weapons to promote their side’s agenda; eventually, they manufacture the ultimate weapon – the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo, a grape-sized mixture of chemicals emblematic of the nuclear bomb. The story ends with the then-state of affairs of stalemate – which, in essence, is the logical conclusion – unless one or both sides choose to actually unleash the weapon of ultimate destruction.

Butter Battle 2

Interestingly, C.S. Lewis speculated about such an event in his sixth book about Narnia, “The Magician’s Nephew.” Remember Jadis (the White Witch) from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Waredrobe?”


In his sixth book, C.S. Lewis takes a step back and tells the backstory of how Jadis came to be in Narnia. Digory Kirke (the Professor from LWW) finds out that his uncle is a magician and has rings that can take people into other worlds. In an old, dying world named Charn, he and his friend Polly encounter Jadis. She recounts how Charn was shattered by a civil war between herself and her sister; Jadis used a doomsday weapon – the Deplorable Word, which destroyed all life except the one who spoke it. Digory and Polly accidentally bring Jadis back to our world, then into Narnia when it is being made. It is there – thanks to another fateful choice on her part – that she becomes the White Witch.

At the very end of the book, after Aslan has taken measures to protect Narnia for a while, he takes Digory and Polly back to our world, but not before warning them about how worlds can come to a terrible end.

“They looked and saw a little hollow in the grass, with a grassy bottom, warm and dry.
‘When you were last here,’ said Aslan, ‘that hollow was a pool, and when you jumped into it you came to the world where a dying sun shone over the ruins of Charn. There is no pool now. That world is ended, as if it had never been. Let the race of Adam and Eve take warning.’
‘Yes, Aslan,’ said both the children. But Polly added, ‘But we’re not quite as bad as that world, are we?”
“Not yet, Daughter of Eve, not yet; but you are growing more like it. It is not certain that some wicked one of your race will not find out a secret as evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things. And soon, very soon, before you are an old man and an old woman, great nations in your world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy than the Empress Jadis. Let your world beware.”

Shakespeare & Disney…

A number of Shakespeare’s plays have been reintroduced to the public eye through various films of Disney. Which ones, you say? Well, after consideration and a careful search, I’ve managed to find at least 5 (there may be more, but these are the ones I’m sure of):

Aladdin (Othello)
Aladdin & JasmineJafar

The story of a young man pursuing the woman he loves while being opposed by a jealous, deceitful rival. The connection is more vague than other cases, but the addition of Iago (the villain of Othello) helps bring together the hybrid of ancient fairy tale and Renaissance play.

The Lion King (Hamlet)
Hamlet and ghostMufasa's Ghost

This one is a bit more obvious – C.S. Lewis also seems to have borrowed from this theme in writing “Prince Caspian.” 1) A king, killed by his power-hungry brother; 2) a young prince, left to wrestle with the idea of manhood without his father’s guidance; 3) the father’s ghost appearing to his son, urging him to take action.

Pocahontas (Romeo & Juliet)
Romeo and Juliet 1968Pocahontas & John Smith

The classic tale in an entirely different setting. Two star-crossed lovers find themselves in the midst of a rivalry between opposing groups who are determined to wipe each other out. In a way, “Tarzan” borrows from this as well, but the opposition is mainly focused into a single man.

Mulan (Twelfth Night)
Twelfth NightMulan

A young woman who disguises herself to blend into a man’s world? That’s a dead ringer for Twelfth Night, especially when the main character falls in love with a man she meets along the way.

Brave (Macbeth)
MacbethMerida and Witch

Ah, the parallels! Following a mysterious encounter, a young royal makes the choice to seize control of destiny, only to discover the consequences of doing so.

B.C. leadership in Jewish culture…

In ancient Jewish culture, there were 3 leadership roles:
1. Prophet, 2. Priest, 3. Political Ruler

1. Prophets were primarily messengers who spoke God’s will to the people, but they were also social critics who kept society informed of whether they were veering from the lifestyle God called them to.
2. Priests oversaw upkeep of God’s dwelling place, serving as examples to the nation of what their relationship with God should look like.
3. Political rulers had different titles (king, judge, etc.), but their essential duty is to lead the nation in times of war and responsibly govern the country. Essentially, God is the sovereign leader, while the ruler serves as a manager or overseer; if they veer from His standard, they risk being removed from their position.

Question: were these leadership roles ever allowed to mix? Was it a good or bad thing?

In some cultures, the ruler would often double as a priest (Canaanite nations) or even the personification of a deity (Egyptian tradition under the Pharaohs). However, in Hebrew culture these duties/roles were clearly kept separate, and for good reason. Too much power invested in one person can lead to unfortunate repercussions, especially if that person does not know how to handle the responsibility of their position (even for one role). The Bible has both positive and negative examples of people in these roles, but for now let us explore just a few.

Good examples: Melchizedek, Moses, Deborah

Melchizedek – this priest/king has two key mentions in the Bible (Genesis, Hebrews). In the first, he approaches Abram (later Abraham) following Abram’s victorious attack against a coalition of kings who had captured his nephew. Melchizedek was the king of Salem (becoming Jerusalem later on), yet also operated as the priest of God. He is referenced later as an example of the “priesthood” role the Church would fill, contrasted with the Levitical priesthood descended from the line of Aaron (brother of Moses).

Moses – most famous for the role he played in the Exodus from Egypt, Moses is also remembered as the messenger who delivered God’s Law (10 Commandments and more) to Israel. Considered the greatest of all Hebrew prophets, he also served as leader of the nation and at times also interceded for the nation as only priests would later. Only two others (Jesus and Samuel) in the Bible acted in all three leadership roles, and human fallibility kept him from the perfection that only Jesus achieved.

Deborah – a prophetess who also ruled as a “judge” or civil ruler during the time before Israel became a monarchy. She dispensed justice to any who came to her, and she charged a man named Barak to lead an army against their militarily-superior opponent, delivering God’s promise to deliver victory to Israel. When Barak insisted she come along as a sign of good faith, she foretold the death of Sisera (the opposing general) at the hands of a woman. Her word was proven to be true on both counts; Barak’s forces defeated the enemy army, and Sisera (fleeing the battle) died from a head-wound from a supposed ally’s wife.

Bad examples: Saul, Uzziah

Saul – first mentioned in 1st Samuel chapter 9, son of a prominent man in his tribe of Israel. At first, Saul seems to be the ideal choice for ruler: big, strong, competent war leader. However, he makes two big mistakes that reveal a major flaw – he is not willing to submit to God’s direction. His first mistake: attempting to fill the role of Samuel (the judge as priest before a major battle. Usurping authority that was not his cost him a legacy – no dynasty will follow Saul’s rule. His second mistake: disregarding God’s command in regard to his battle plan, he “bowed to pressure” and took loot from an enemy instead of destroying everything as commanded. Because of this, Saul was (for all intents and purposes) no longer king; while he didn’t die until many years later, the throne of Israel was no longer his.

Uzziah – a king following the nation’s division, he ruled the southern half of the nation. After rising to political greatness, Uzziah made one grave error that cost him everything. What happened was this: while worshiping in the Temple, he attempted to burn incense as the priests did; power had gone to his head in such a way that he felt he was no longer limited to the duties of king alone. This flawed understanding had extreme consequences; God struck him with leprosy (a bacterial disease that causes nerve endings to die), and he was no longer able to act as king or even be around others ever again.

Worst example: Nimrod
Nimrod is first named in Genesis 10, a great-grandson of Noah; his accomplishments are his hunting prowess and the establishing of four cities in Mesopotamia. One of these cities is Babel, famous/infamous for the Tower built there. Biblical sources point to Nimrod as the architect for the Tower of Babel, a “high place” built to reach the heavens and make contact with the divine; since Babel was his city, and the Tower would have served as his temple, Nimrod was both a political and spiritual leader – one who led his people into error. The true purpose of the Tower was to oppose the command of God as given to Noah; indeed, Nimrod’s name translates to “let us rebel,” and his followers pursued this goal long after Nimrod’s death. His wife, Semiramus, is famous for setting up a cult in which she, Nimrod, and their “divine son” Tamus were revered as gods; this trickled down into various religions, and its legacy continues today.

Different people, same choice: power or principle?

Five different people: Prince Adam (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), Mor’du (Disney’s Brave), Kar Vastor (Star Wars), Jadis (Narnia), and Abimelech (Bible, Judges). The common theme that connects them: the decision to place their desire for power ahead of the bonds of human love.

What originally struck me about all of those mentioned is the common pattern: they reject connection to others for the sake of exalting themselves. Each of them had a crucial moment when they ignored morality to gain greater domination, and that decision affected them in terrible ways; the Judeo-Christian worldview refers to this as “gaining the world and losing your soul.” Of the five, only one seeks redemption; the others all choose to accept their condition and all it entails. Let’s examine each one, shall we?

Prince Adam Disney Beast

Prince Adam is a French royal turned into a beast. The reason: his heart was like that of an animal, seeing others only as a means to fulfill his own hungers. Additionally, his servants were all turned into ornaments/objects; why, you ask? The answer: because he saw them as such, and they did nothing to dissuade him from this perception, thus sharing in his fault. His only hope: learn to be human again before time (measured by a gift he previously refused) runs out, or remain a beast forever.

Mordu human Mor'du bear

Here is another man turned into a beast, this time by choice. Mor’du’s lifetime serves as a prologue to “Brave;” as a human, he instigates a civil war with his brothers because of his selfish desire to be sole heir of their father’s kingdom. Trapped in a stalemate, he chooses the shape of the bear to gain the strength to defeat them. Like Prince Adam/the Beast, he has the chance to redeem himself by reconnecting with human nature, but he rejects it. As an unfortunate side-effect, he loses his human mind and becomes a nearly indestructible monster, fighting against all the Highland clans as they seek to destroy him.

Kar Vastor Kar Vastor Mindor

The main antagonist of the Star Wars novel “Shatterpoint,” Kar is a cousin to Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson’s character). After seeing his family slaughtered by prospectors, a young Kar fled into the jungles of his homeland. All his people could use the Force to some degree, but Kar reached an unprecedented level of power by sacrificing his human nature (as well as the ability to speak). He then becomes an avatar of darkness, driven by violence and killing without regard for life or morality.

Jadis Jadis Disney

The main antagonist from two books in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia,” Jadis is the last empress of Charn (her original world) and self-proclaimed queen of Narnia. In “The Magician’s Nephew,” she recounts the civil war with her sister, ended with “the Deplorable Word,” a use of magic comparable to a worldwide atomic bomb. She later seeks immortality in Narnia by means of a tree that grants everlasting life to whoever eats one of its apples. However, she pays a terrible price for these victories; in Charn she destroyed all life (aside from herself), and in Narnia her appearance was altered (skin turned pale as salt). A deeper consequence was that she had to live with the memories of all she had done, as well as the depravity of a conscience stripped of morality (Aslan: “length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery”).

Abimelech coin Abimelech death

A real man from history, the Bible introduces Abimelech as one of the sons of Gideon, a ruler/”judge” from ancient Israel. He persuaded his mother’s people to support his bid to become ruler, and with their backing killed all but one of his brothers. He later turned on his own people and began a reign of terror that ended when a millstone was dropped onto his head. Although he is mentioned in Judges, Abimelech is recognized only as a bloodthirsty tyrant; rather than being appointed by God to save Israel from a foreign oppressor (the role of the true judges), he is instead the oppressor from within, a usurper who tries to seize power that is not his to claim.

A quick thought break…

June 12, 2012

Just now while preparing for bed, I had a train of thought that led to an interesting conclusion.  It began when I thought about the coming election in the autumn, and what portents it held for the future of our nation.  Will the victorious candidate be the one the people supported, or the one who was able to broker the best deal with the wealthy elite?  When I thought of this, the thought crossed my mind: “Hail the American Empire!”  As sarcastic/cynical as that may sound, it’s not exactly wrong.


The United States has wavered toward becoming an imperial oligarchy pretty much ever since the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.  We were not yet fifty years old as a nation, and yet with President Monroe’s statement, we declared ourselves to be equals with the European powers of the time, who controlled globe-spanning empires.  It was a statement of “if it happens in our vicinity, it’s OUR concern;” the United States marked the borders of its influence in the West.  We edged closer with the Spanish-American (-Cuban-Filipino) War in 1898, when we began establishing ourselves as a true global power.  Now, with the president and Congressional members granting themselves favors of money and power at the expense of the people, we approach the edge of the knife that will divide republic from oligarchy.


It struck me that, if America does transition into empire, then we as Christians have three basic options.  I credit Pastor John Johnson of Covina Assembly of GOD for these; he used them in a sermon I attended during my latter years of undergraduate study at APU.  Conformity is the wrong move altogether, so we can either: 1) Confront the system, 2) Abandon the system, or 3) Transform the system by remaining in it and living as GOD commands us to do.  This may not involve living by the letter of the law, as the law(s) may conflict with His holy standard, but we should always strive to live in the spirit of GOD’s Law, which no government of humanity can ever change.

The reason why I think the third option to be the best is because of the consequences of the first two.  By confronting the system, we are standing up for what is right, but we make ourselves a nuisance in the eyes of the world and lose chances to show compassion and love; by confrontation, I mean the extreme – attacking from every side, never letting up.  We are indeed called to speak the truth, but in a spirit and manner of love; besides, the target of our attack should be the unjust lifestyle of Antichrist, not the poor souls trapped in bondage to it.  By abandoning the system and going our own way, again we miss out on opportunities to reach out and touch the lives of those trapped in sin, and in so doing, we fail to follow the Great Commission.

                                                          Image          Image

All this leads me to lean towards the third option – transforming the culture by interacting positively with those within it.  This could be described as a fine line, but not so much so long as we remain grounded in the Bible, the unshakeable foundation of our faith.  When the world observes the way we live and act as genuine followers of Christ, they will be touched; from there, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to speak to their hearts – and our job to follow the Spirit’s lead.  We are called to be witnesses, evidence of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit working in our lives; while we are not yet finished products, the change/difference should be observable to all with whom we interact.  Too often, we and the world focus on the “negatives” of Christians failing to live up to their expectations; if we focus more on the emerging form of Christ and less on the remaining human flaws, then we will have a new focus and perspective to present.

My final word for now is as follows, and I hope it imparts comfort and wisdom to you, the reader.  I pray that GOD would show you what He would have you see and guide you in applying it in your life:

“You don’t necessarily have to become a martyr to be an example of living out what is right; all that is required for that is to be a witness.”