Beauty is in the Brain of the Beholder

Imagine that you are asked to open a drawer and retrieve the contents: an Amazon tree boa. The snake is coiled up in there relaxing. The person telling you to do this, let’s call him Damien, assures you that the snake is not poisonous, but it is aggressive. It does bite. In fact, the way it attacks its prey is by latching on with a bite, then coiling around the victim and squeezing the life out of it. But Damien says that even though it bites, you can handle this snake. “But don’t be scared. That makes them attack. You’ve got to be confident and assertive. If it senses fear or hesitation, it will become scared itself and then try to bite you,” Damien says. “Just, like, be careful ok?”

Would you do it? Assuming your answer is no, what if your entire family wanted you to do it? What if they told you they were counting on you to do this in order to save your own life and theirs? Knowing this, perhaps you’s come to realize that this has to happen. But how long would it take for you to muster up the courage? How long would it take you to be able to retrieve this snake without hesitation or jumpiness? Some of you might take hours. Some of you days. For others, it could be months and months of an emotional, very painful ordeal.

This is going to sound crazy, but please trust me when I say this: if you can imagine this scene, you can understand people and their addictions. I took a course on dependencies years ago in seminary and it really opened my eyes and my heart to people who suffer in this way. The professor began the course with a story much like the one I shared above.

There is a simple reason why you would hesitate, cringe, shake and flinch when reaching for and handling the snake: your brain tells you to. It’s the same with someone who keeps eating and gaining weight, someone who keeps consuming deadly drugs, and someone who spends their life savings and thousands in debt just to gamble one more time. Their brain tells them to.

Our brain holds the information about what we believe and feel about things. Including snakes. We believe they are dangerous. We get the willies when we merely catch a glimpse of them squiggling on the ground or even just lying there motionless. So when we’re asked to pick one up, our brain says, “NOOOO! Not an ewok’s chance in a slam dunk competition!”

But now consider my son Luke. Or the late great Steve Irwin. Crazy people like this get excited about picking up snakes. If the snake is potentially dangerous in any way, they’ll simply find out the way to avoid the dangers, and do it. Luke plays a lot, but when he’s relaxing and watching youtube, he looks up videos of snakes and calls me into the room to tell me how great they are. He finds them beautiful and spectacular. His brain has different beliefs about those creatures. Different feelings too. His brain tells him to pick that snake up.

I remember as a young boy hearing about someone in my community who was hooked on drugs. I thought they were stupid. Why someone would risk their health, relationships, reputation, and future just for these drugs was something I couldn’t fathom. And when I heard about him seeking help—and getting a great deal of it—only to turn back to the drugs again, I was stunned. And when I heard that this had happened again and again, I became hardened inside. He didn’t deserve any more assistance, I thought. Just let him destroy himself. His choice.

Now I think of the snake story and I realize how many times I’d jump, hold my breath, or even run out of the room. How long would it take me. How much patience and understanding would my family and others around me have to have with me. We all can change. But it takes a community of support with patience, understanding, and love.

All three monsters this week are iconic, scary, and fun. But I’m not going to cave and give the nod to all three like I did last year at this time (Jaws/Psycho/Alien). This week goes to the big hairy beast who fell in love with Fay Wray.

Congratulations King Kong. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Fay Wray as Ann Darrow in King Kong.

Best Actor: Boris Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein.

Best Quote: “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!” — Frankenstein.

And, ladies and gentlemen, my top ten favourite movie monsters:

10. The alien in Alien
9. Godzilla
8. The alien in Predator
7. The monster in Frankenstein
6. The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth
5. The monster in Cloverfield
4. The rancor in Return of the Jedi
3. King Kong
2. The shark in Jaws
1. The T-Rex in Jurassic Park

Movie of the Week


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