In the second half of the 20th Century, we began to exam the ‘dark side of life’ (Richard Rohr). Having gone through two World Wars in the space of two generations, we needed to understand man’s inhumanity to his fellow men.
The 1955 Film
In 1947, Catholic priest Father O’Shea (Humphrey Bogart) makes his way to a remote mission in China to replace a priest who was killed there. He meets Dr. David Sigman (E.G. Marshall), his wife Beryl (Agnes Moorehead), and nurse Anne Scott (Gene Tierney), the only other Western residents. They run a hospital for the surrounding villagers, at a time when competing warlords and Communists are engaged in civil war.
O’Shea delivers his debut Sunday sermon, in both English and Chinese for his appreciative parishioners. His work among them and his respect for local customs soon earn him their respect.
Anne becomes uncomfortable as she is attracted to him. Beryl suggests to her husband that Anne be sent back to the United States, but he refuses to consider it, needing her work at the hospital. Beryl suggests that O’Shea consult with Reverend Martin, a Protestant minister at another American mission, for advice. He agrees.
When O’Shea meets Martin (Robert Burton), he makes a startling, unsolicited confession. He says he is not a Catholic priest, but Jim Carmody, an American pilot who had flown supplies over The Hump during World War II. He crashed during the war and was rescued by a local warlord, General Yang (Lee J. Cobb), becoming his trusted second-in-command … and his prisoner. When one of Yang’s soldiers killed Father O’Shea, Carmody deserted and decided to masquerade as the replacement priest. After recounting his story to Martin, Carmody writes a full account to the Catholic bishop.
General Yang tracks down Carmody, bringing an army and insisting that Carmody serve him in the internal warfare of China. Carmody proposes they settle the matter with their customary game of dice, wagering five years of loyal service against his freedom and the safety of the local villagers. After Yang loses, he coerces Carmody into playing again, this time for the future of the Protestant mission. When he loses again, Yang resigns himself to perpetuating the myth of Father O’Shea, who was saintly enough to turn aside a powerful warlord.
Before Carmody leaves the mission, he tells Anne the truth [Wikipedia]
The 2010 Novel
Thomas Cale, a 14-year-old boy is just another recruit of the great conflict between Redeemers and Antagonists – or so he thinks. Along with his two “friends” (friendship is forbidden and Cale is in general reluctant to make any closer bonds) named Kleist and Vague Henri, Cale not only finds a room full of delicious food, much different from their usual fare at the Sanctuary, but they also witness something they have been told is Devil’s temptation and sinful – two beautiful girls entertaining a crowd of their jailers.
Putting himself and his companions in a mortal danger, Cale assassinates the Lord Redeemer Picarbo as a revenge for killing one of the two girls; he also rescues the other one, Riba, and then engineers and executes an escape from the Sanctuary, something unthinkable for most of his fellow prisoners.
On their way to Memphis, a major city of the Matterazzi and their nearest safe haven, they encounter a slaughtered group of Matterazzi delegates with only one survivor, Chancellor Vipond. Cale and his companions are eventually captured by a Matterrazi armed group and escorted to Memphis, where they are eventually given a limited freedom and assigned to assist the local nobility.
Cale gets into a fight with several of the best local young warriors, including his temporary superior Conn Matterazzi, which he wins. This act immediately draws a great amount of attention to him and when Cale manages to rescue the Matterazzi princess Arbell Swan-Neck from the Redeemers who kidnapped her, the three former Redeemer recruits become a personal guard of the Matterazzi princess, who is both impressed and intimidated by Cale. The two soon fall in love.
The Redeemers continue in their provocative attempts to obtain Arbell and eventually, they silently declare a war against the Matterazzi – which seems like a reckless and foolish act given the fact that Matterazzi army is better trained, equipped and superior in all aspects.
The final confrontation however goes gravely ill for the favoured side. The Redeemers emerge victorious from the decisive battle and they seize Memphis; but are willing to leave the Matterazzi alone in exchange for one thing: Thomas Cale.
The Battle Lord of the Redeemers, Bosco, who was also responsible for the most of Cale’s training back at the Sanctuary, claims that he had a vision of Cale being a creation of God, sent to fulfil the destiny of the Redeemers and cleanse humanity. Cale is betrayed by his lover Arbell and given to the Redeemers in exchange for peace. [Wikipedia]
The Evolution of a Concept
As you can tell from the ideas presented in the two plot outlines shown above, in a short 55 years, we have gone from a love story (of sorts) to a full-fledged fantasy involving the forces of Good and Evil. What are we trying to understand?
In researching this phrase, I came across a discussion page about it. The answer seems to be that no-one sits on the Left Hand of God, and yet that answer is unsatisfactory. We so much want it to be the Devil, as that would exonerate we humans. Some even imagine that it should be a woman, such as Mary. But again, we seem to be ducking our own responsibility of how dark life is for so many here on earth.
Who is sitting on the Left Hand of God? Humanity is!
As I pointed out in The Right Hand of God the natural transfer of spiritual energy goes from the right hand to the left hand, continuing around the circle until it comes back to the beginning, where it is absorbed and sent out again. Life is a circle.
“What goes around…comes around.”