To be honest, I’m a little bored with the last two episodes. Something is not working for me, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. Nevertheless, there’s a couple of interesting ideas in this plot arc that carry interesting subtext.
The Doctor is so accustomed to rescuing everyone, it’s a great dynamic to turn that around and make him incapable of rescuing himself, due to his own pride. His blindness is literal, but also can be metaphorical in how he chooses to view the world, sometimes with unrealistic expectations. It reminds me of our tendency as humans to wear masks, to pretend we are someone we are not, in order to cover up our own insecurities. Sometimes, humans react the strongest to the most brutal truths about themselves; because once you say it, as Nardole told the Doctor, “it becomes real.”
There is the chosen blindness we let guide us through the world, looking away from or staring right through things that make us uncomfortable, instead of confronting them; and the social blindness aimed at the greater humanitarian needs in our society. How often have we pretended not to notice the homeless person standing on a street corner begging for money? By contrast, how often have we chosen to mask our own blindness, our own insecurities, deficiencies, and flaws, under pride? C.S. Lewis said the world is a battle of egos; that our ego is in constant competition with everyone else’s. I have to be right. I must be right. I demand respect. I do not want you to rescue me. I will not admit how much I need you.
Or maybe that’s just me.
I do not always like the person I see in the mirror, so I hide behind false blindness, but rather than ignore my flaws, I exaggerate them until they fill my entire worldview. I am relentlessly self-critical, beyond the bounds of any nasty thing anyone could ever say about me; but in doing so, rather than being humble, I am actually engaged with my pride. You see, I have decided that if anyone is going to rake me over the coals, I am the only person qualified and important enough to do it. Worse, much like the Doctor… I like to play God in my own life. How so? By deciding how He feels about me, with zero evidence to support it. By choosing to believe He has a negative perception of my flaws. By discounting all the verses about His love, in favor of fearing His wrath, or believing He stands over me with a divine switch, waiting for me to tell a lie, or watch something I shouldn’t, or have a Bad Thought.
I do not know the mind of God; that is incredible arrogance. I only know my perception of God. And it may very well be … false. I can paw at the door handle all I want, but until I open my eyes, until I can see the truth, I am blind.
The second philosophical angle in this episode revolves around the theme of “consent”; when the humans wanted to hand over their liberty to be “saved” (and “consent” out of love instead of fear), I thought, “How like humans.” They have done this for centuries, they will do it for centuries more. Want a recent example? Sure, take our freedom. Search our luggage. Scan our shoes. Pat us down. X-Ray our bodies. Have the power to put us off airplanes. Just keep us safe. Here’s our rights. Do with them as you will! I will trade my freedom for safety.
Somewhere, our Founding Fathers are beating their head against a divine wall. If such words existed back in his day to express frustration with the masses, Ben Franklin might even call us “chicken shits.” But, aside from that point, let’s talk about love meaning consent, and consent meaning love.
“Consent” is a sexually charged word in our society; either you “consent” to sex, or you don’t, and for too many young people, the line is blurred with consent. I cannot believe this is a coincidence, but I’m not sure I like the analogy. (Sex does not always have to involve love; in an ideal society, that is the case, but we live in the Real World where sex is recreational.) But, in a weird way, you could draw a religious analogy from it; Bill consents, she forsakes her freedom, out of love. She loves the Doctor so much, she risks the world to save his life.
Christians often say you must lose your life to find it; that our lives are an endless sacrifice of self, in order to bring about a better version of ourselves. But how many believers have “consented” over the centuries not from love, but fear? Did the masses in the middle ages love Jesus, and earnestly believe love, forgiveness, and peace were the perfect model for a higher society, or did they surrender out of fear because the Church warned them about eternal hell, damnation, and suffering in the world to come unless you were not “on our side”?
Why, as a Christian, do you make the choices you do; is it out of love for God that you abstain from sin, or because you’re afraid of the consequences? The villains this past week are right: fear is not love.
I wish I knew when that transition happens, or how to shift toward it: the moment where I can finally let go of my inborn, Baptist-raised fear and live a moral life not because it’s how I was raised, or because I’m afraid not to, but because I want to, for no other reason than a love for the divine being who gave me life.