Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Thoughts on The Tree of Life

What follows are my initial notes on The Tree of Life, written down after each of my four theater viewings of the film (a record for me).  I’ve edited them a bit to be more coherent to outside readers, since they were initially intended only for myself.  They mostly deal with all the little details that I noticed anew each time I saw it, and helped me remember the sequencing for when I finally get around to writing about it.  These notes would most likely have been more useful if I had put them while the film was still in theaters--with it out on DVD, it’s much easier for people to check things and get all the details of the film straight--but I’m posting them here anyway.  Why?  Well, it’s my blog and I want to, so there.
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First Viewing:
Wow.  Well, . . . Huh.  Okay.  So . . .
I Need To See That Again!
The closest thing I can describe it as is 2001: A Space Odyssey crossed with Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.  But that doesn’t really cover it.
And I’m not sure about that ending--not as good as The New World’s, that’s for sure.
But still.  Whoah.
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Second Viewing:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Articles on The Tree of Life

In the last few years, certain films have captured the attention of writers across the blogosphere and inspired massive amounts of in-depth criticism and analysis.  Last year, that film was David Fincher's The Social Network; the year before it was Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.   I think the record for number of words spilled on the internet about a film, though, has already been seized by Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, even before the end-of-year lists and awards season, where it will undoubtedly be feted even more.  I think this is partly because the film has inspired discussion by many bloggers, journalists, and commentators beyond the usual movie bloggers and critics who can be counted on to review most of the major movies each year.  There's so much, in fact that it's rather an embarrassment of riches, making it easy to find reviews, but perhaps more difficult to find really valuable writing that offers new perspectives.  I decided to round up the best criticism and analysis I've found about the film and post it all here.

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Initial reviews from Cannes were divided.  Some critics I respect, like J. Hoberman, Drew McWeeney, Richard Schickel, and Stephanie Zacharek all called it a failure, though for slightly different reasons.  Fortunately, though, others disagreed, notably Roger Ebert and Xan Brooks.  Ebert's blog post is especially worth reading, as one of the most eloquent meditations on the film yet written.  Most reviews were more mixed, like Mike D'Angelo, Manohla Dargis, and Todd McCarthy, who all acknowledge it as spectacular but voice certain misgivings about its overall success. The Notebook at MUBI did a stellar round-up of critical reactions, and I'm going to overlap with it a bit, so go there if you haven't to find the first reviews.  It seems also worthwhile to mention here Robert Koehler's review, since it lays out a from-the-bottom-up critique of the film and its entire worldview that inspired quite a few rebuttals.  I think Koehler starts from false premises about the nature of the film's objective, but it was quite influential in the first few weeks after Cannes.

The most interesting reviews were nearly all those that admitted doubt about the ultimate meaning of the film and offered personal ruminations on it.  Glenn Heath, Jr. at The House Next Door is a good example of this.  The House Next Door, practically founded to promote Malick's The New World, had several good posts on the film.  Nick Schager discusses Malick's fascination with the beginnings of things here.  And Dan Callahan offers his first impressions of the film as constant movement here.

But one thing I noticed about the reviews out of Cannes was how rushed and confused they often were.  The chaos of the biggest film festival in the world is no place to attempt to analyze and understand a picture of such immensity and ambition, and the difficulty of doing so after only one viewing would arise again and again.  Even when the film opened Stateside, regular reviewers often found themselves confused about aspects of plot and detail, suggesting that the only thing really worth trusting from any review based on a single viewing is the general like/dislike impression.  Further analysis of the meaning of the film is/was usually hampered by the overwhelming abundance of detail in the film and the challenge of getting it all straight in one's mind before making firm arguments.  I can't tell how you many reviews I read where the writers were completely unsure of which of the brothers died, whether the death was in Vietnam, elsewhere, or even World War II, if a brother dies in the pool drowning scene, whether it was Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien that Jack sees arguing through a window, whose slip Jack steals, and most importantly, what in the world the ending means.  The later reviews and articles that come after repeat viewings are the most edifying.

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In the traditional news media:
A.O. Scott sees the film as rooted in the Romantic literary tradition.

Michael Atkinson at Sight & Sound is unimpressed, but assumes--rightly, if condescendingly--that Malick fans will love it.

Andrew O'Hehir says, "If the cosmic astronaut God-baby from the end of “2001″ came back to earth and made a movie, this would be it. (And we wouldn’t understand what it was trying to tell us, either.)"

Matt Zoller Seitz, one of the premier Malick devotees on the web, presents a guide for watching the film here.

Nick Pinkerton at The Village Voice says, "Better than a masterpiece—whatever that is—The Tree of Life is an eruption of a movie."

"Malick daringly tries to capture not just memories but the feelings aroused by the act of memory—indeed, to represent subjectivity itself, by way of the cinema," says Richard Brody at The New Yorker.

David Denby, also writing in The New Yorker, says exactly what I feel, that the film is "a considerable enlargement of the rhetoric of cinema. Years from now, the movie will be remembered as a freshening, even a reinvention, of film language."

Geoffrey O'Brien has a fairly magnificent essay on the film in The New York Review of Books--which, in itself, must be rare:  I don't think the Review of Books publishes many movie reviews.  The essay covers Malick's whole career, brings in philosophy, and manages to evocatively describe Malick's technique into the bargain.

Michael Tully of Filmmaker Magazine writes that "I assumed that my other concerns would be exacerbated on a subsequent viewing—namely the lack of “three-dimensional characters” and the absence of any “true drama”—yet this time around, those concerns were rendered irrelevant. One can’t understand a language if they aren’t listening to it properly."

Patricia Doucey at LFM writes, "As always, Malick captures his audience with a whisper."

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In the major film criticism sites:
At MUBI, Daniel Kasman's initial review describes the film as a "sublime rush of consciousness."  Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's article here is beautifully written and complex, though not wholly positive, and definitely deserves a read.  Joe McCulloch also has an article on MUBI, but his is a bit too mocking, and I'm not as much of a fan.

Reverse Shot, another publication which practically made its name with its astute celebration of The New World, devoted a whole week to publishing articles on The Tree of Life, every one of them excellent.  First up was Chris Wisniewski on the Known Unknowns presented in the film.  Then Genevieve Yue on how the film contains its own universe, a Garden of the World.  Michael Koresky is fascinated by all the small moments of life and growing up in Design for Living.  Keith Uhlich loves the dinosaur scene and believes it holds the key to the movie in The Space Between Spaces.  And Jeff Reichart relates the film to Darwin and the evolution of the cinema in Children of the Evolution.

In an excellent essay called "Terrence Malick: Moving Beyond the Threshold," Joe McElhaney investigates the way Malick depicts walking, running, and feet in his films.

This roundtable at CinemaScope is probably a must-read for all the different people and perspectives it includes, but it disappointed me that so much of it was negative.  Far too many of the "sophisticated" critics seem to dismiss this film as embarrassing and silly.  Tom Charity's last remark ("What is it Jan Sterling says in Ace in the Hole (1951)? 'I don’t go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.'") struck me as one of the most snide and depressing things I've read in a long time.  How tragic to have such a visceral reaction against any hint of the sacred.

Adrian Martin has a terrific essay at Fipresci on the occasion of giving The Tree of Life the organization's Grand Prix 2011.

At Hammer to Nail, Michael Nordine writes of fathers and sons and their place in the grand scheme of the cosmos of Malick.  And Noah Buschel thinks the film is unlike any other ever made.  Michael Ryan also discusses watching the film in both film and digital prints, and what the differences are.

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In the traditional movie blogosphere:
"I’ve been spending the past month—literally, the entire month—trying to figure out how to construct a definitive review of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, said Adam Zanzie at Icebox Movies in July, and I know he feels.  It's taken me this long to even get lists of other reviews up, much less my own!

Tim at Antagony & Ecstasy writes a couple of wonderful reviews here and here.

David H. Schleicher offers a reverent meditation on the film at The Schleicher Spin.

The ever-enthusiastic Sam Juliano compares the film to The Fountain (which I disagree with) and declares the film a masterpiece (which I agree with) at his wonderful site Wonders in the Dark.

Leo Goldsmith very eloquently explores Malick's flashback structure and the way the film represents memory at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Hugo Stiglitz at the Movies has a very personal review of the film here.

Roderick Heath, one of the best writers in the blogosphere, has an excellent review up at Ferdy on Films which is well worth reading (despite the fact he gets Jack's brothers mixed up).

The End of Cinema blog presents a rare, long-form review for this film that is notably personal.

The Cahiers d'Illusion gives a good discussion of Heidegger in relation to the film here.

Jake Cole at Not Just Movies offers a powerfully hyperbolic acclamation of the film here, where he also argues that the film has a completely pantheist view of the world.  I disagree, but I am still envious of his ability to craft a review and deep knowledge of cinema and art history to rely on.  We're the same age, but his skills in these areas are leagues beyond mine.

Another blogger I'm envious of is Carson Lund at Are the Hills Going to March Off?, also roughly my age, and also a far better writer and more sophisticated thinker than I.  His review of the film is typically excellent, though I find his suggestion that the film means whatever you want it to mean rather off-putting.

Kartina Richardson has a beautifully written and evocative post on the film's dealing with memory and personal experience at her blog, Mirror.

Bilge Ebiri has a beautiful, moving account of his first viewing of the film here, at his blog They Live By Night.  He also has follow-up posts here, here, here, here, and here.  That last is actually a fascinating and informative article on the editing of the film, derived from interviews with several of the editors, and replete with surprising nuggets.

Billy Stevenson at A Film Canon has a typically brief and incredibly dense review of the film here, every sentence, of which there are too few, packed with thought and meaning.

Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard have another one of their epic "Conversations" about the film here.  They also discuss the rest of Malick's oeuvre here.  Their discussions are always excellent and well worth reading.

And here, Mat Viola at Notes of a Film Fanatic, attempts to completely destroy the entire worldview behind the film (and, in my opinion, fails completely).

This review (at a blog simply entitled "Reviewing Tree of Life") is very long and strange.  It seems to be a work in progress, as it has been changed a couple times since I first found it.  I don't think the author is a native English speaker, and the article has numerous misspellings and grammatical mistakes.  The conclusions he draws about the film's message and Malick's intentions are, I think, pretty loopy, discounting any religious/metaphysical/philosophical interpretation and making it into some sort of solipsistic exercise about itself and other movies.  And yet, and yet, it's still worth reading because he finds all sorts of fascinating connections between various shots and scenes within the film itself, with Malick's other films, and with the films of other great directors like Hitchock, Welles, and Bresson.  So take everything with a grain of salt, but read for a provocative essay that is capable of letting you see the film from new angles.

Niles Schwartz at The Niles Files here offers up what I think may be the single most ambitious and rewarding analysis of the film in the blogosphere.  He also investigates Malick's other films, starting with Badlands, and proceeding through Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The New World.  Actually, these essays are in a series, and you should really start with the first one, but they're all so long and thoughtful that you can be forgiven for skipping to the one most interesting for you.  Niles approaches the films from a philosophical perspective but not does not attempt to force them into a particular (i.e., Heideggerian) philosophical framework, instead examining how each of the films asks questions and endeavors to leave its audience with questions about what being-in-the-world really means.  He brings in Heidegger, Emerson, Whitman, Proust, and William Blake, and manages to cover just about everything so throughly that on the whole, I almost wonder what I'm doing writing my own thoughts down when they're so inferior.

One thing I noticed about the best reviews here:  They nearly all involve a personal account, whether of childhood memory or recent experience, that lets us understand why the film means so much to them.  The film almost requires this in order to present an honest review, and incredibly, it appears capable of eliciting strong frissons of memory and recognition in countless people, something of which I don't think any other movie is capable.

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In the religious press:

The reaction to the film in devout Christian circles has been interestingly diverse.  Brett McCracken's review at Christianity Today declares the film a masterpiece.  (Though reading the comments can be pretty depressing, with people declaring the evils of Hollywood left and right.)  At the magazine's sister publication, Books and Culture, Kristen Scharold rather hyperbolically declared that "America has found its prophet, or at least a director of astonishing rank."  On the other hand, Kevin Collins at First Things claimed the film, while beautiful, was lacking in any real Christianity and was therefore rather useless.  (Though the brilliant David Bentley Hart pushed back against that judgment in his blog at the same publication.)

Nick Olson at Christ and Pop Culture meditates on the themes of "grace" and "home" in the film here.

The folks at The Other Journal (An Intersection of Theology and Culture) have a series of three reviews on the film up.  One on "Nature, Grace, and the Siren Song of Nostalgia," another on "A Son of Tears," and the last on "The Tree of Life and the Lamb of God."  The first is critical, but the latter two are excellent thematic explorations ("A Son of Tears" especially), both involving terrific quotes from G.K. Chesterton.  Recommended.

The group blog Filmwell has a few different posts about the film, including one comparing it with Biblical theology, one about experiencing the film as a father, and one about what Malick teaches us about cinema.

Jay Michaelson at Religion Dispatches explores the film's theological context here.  Also at RD, S. Brent Plate argues that the film is really offering a third, compromise way through life exemplified by Jack's borther R.L.

Jeffrey Overstreet, an influential Christian film critic and a major fan of The New World, offers up his personal and mixed assessment at Image magazine.  And the good folks at the Arts & Faith discussion boards have a thread on the film.  The real meat of the discussion starts on about Page 9, but it goes on for pages after that; so if that's your thing, there's quite a lot interesting takes on the film there, along with provocative interpretations of some of the symbolism.

Alissa Wilkinson at Q Ideas sees the film as a reenactment of the Fall of Man.

Christopher Page, and Anglican priest from Canada, has an excellent account of his first viewing at his blog In a Spacious Place, here.  (Read to the bottom, one of the comments there is very beautiful and moving.)  He then followed up that post with no less than twenty (20) posts on The Tree of Life, and several others on Malick's other films.  I'm not going to link to each of them, but they should all be indexed at this link.

The Journal of Religion & Film has a typically thorough review of the film here.

Liel Liebovitz at Tablet thinks, quite fascinatingly, that the film is "an important and masterful work of art.  It's also the least Jewish film ever made."

And just for good measure, here's The American Muslim with a review that's mostly negative about the over-ambition of the project, but still recommends it as a worthwhile moral experience.

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This article, by Jon Baskin at The Point Magazine, is one of the very best articles on Malick that I have read, though it is confined to his first four films.  It says almost exactly what I think about Malick's perspective and central theme through his films: The ultimate thing he is trying to exemplify is a new way of looking at the world, one that sees "the glory," "all things shining," and the heroes of most of his films are the ones that display this ability most strongly.  I quibble with a few of his details, especially about Badlands, but still: a must-read essay.

Richard Neer has written an in-depth, scholarly, and complex analysis of the opening of The New World at nonsite.org.

James A. Williams at PopMatters analyzes Malick's first four films in the context of "a career-long fascination with the archetypal narrative of a transformation from a state of innocence to one of experience." 

Matt Zoller Seitz has a series of video essays at Moving Image Source on Malick's first four films here, here, here, and here.  EDIT: And now, he has a terrific final essay on Tree of Life here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quotes to Illuminate The Tree of Life

NOTE:  In honor of the release of The Tree of Life on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, I am doing a series of posts on the film and Terrence Malick that will hopefully offer a couple new angles on it.  This first post is a collection of quotes that may shed light on the film, whether by offering a philosophical or religious viewpoint, or defending a certain aesthetic, or just by being thought-provoking.  Or perhaps they offer something only to me.  Read and think about these quotes as you wish.
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Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ---Genesis 2:8-9  [NIV]
The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during former years may represent the long succession of extinct species. At each period of growth all the growing twigs have tried to branch out on all sides, and to overtop and kill the surrounding twigs and branches, in the same manner as species and groups of species have at all times overmastered other species in the great battle for life. . . As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications.     ---Charles Darwin

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'I was criticized for portraying people who are brave, honest, loving, intelligent. That was called weak and sentimental. People who dismiss all real emotion as sentimentality are cowards. They’re afraid to commit themselves, and so they remain ‘cool’ for the rest of their lives, until they’re dead—then they’re really cool."
— Mark Helprin 

When people express what is most important to them, it often comes out in cliches. That doesn't make them laughable; it's something tender about them. As though in struggling to reach what's most personal about them they could only come up with what's most public.    --Terrence Malick, Sight and Sound interview, 1973
A director makes only one movie in his life.  Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.       ---Jean Renoir

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My son, carefully observe the impulses of nature and grace, for these are opposed one to another, and work in so subtle a manner that even a spiritual, holy and enlightened man can hardly distinguish them. All men do in fact desire what is good, and in what they say and do pretend to some kind of goodness, so that many are deceived by their appearance of virtue.
Nature is crafty, and seduces many, snaring and deceiving them, and always works for her own ends. But Grace moves in simplicity, avoiding every appearance of evil. She makes no attempt to deceive, and does all things purely for love of God, in whom she rests as her final goal.
Nature is unwilling to be mortified, checked or overcome, obedient or willingly subject. Grace mortifies herself, resists sensuality, submits to control, seeks to be overcome. She does not aim at enjoying her own liberty, but loves to be under discipline ; and does not wish to lord it over anyone. Rather does she desire to live, abide and exist always under God's rule, and for His sake she is ever ready to submit it to all men.       ---Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  
--Romans 7:15 [NIV]

And He will say, 'This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.' And He will hold out His hands to us and we shall fall down before him... and we shall weep... and we shall understand all things! Then we shall understand all!... and all will understand, Katerina Ivanovna even... she will understand.... Lord, Thy kingdom come!" And he [Marmeladov] sank down on the bench exhausted, and helpless, looking at no one, apparently oblivious of his surroundings and plunged in deep thought. His words had created a certain impression; there was a moment of silence; but soon laughter and oaths were heard again.
---Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

I caught sight of your invisible nature, as it is known through your creatures.  But I had no strength to fix my gaze upon them.  In my weakness I recoiled and fell back into my old ways, carrying with me nothing but the memory of something that I loved and longed for, as though I had sensed the fragrance of the fare but was not yet able to eat it.   ---St. Augustine

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If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life - and only then will I be free to become myself.”  --Martin Heidegger
“To dwell is to garden.”  --Martin Heidegger
“To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world's night utters the holy.” 
―Martin Heidegger

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[A]rt exists despite any logical conception.  Look, we often say that certain artist, writer, musician, or director is a philosopher.  But this is only a word.  An artist, in fact, is not really a philosopher.  And if we analyze his philosophical ideas, then it turns out that, in the first place, he is not original, and secondly, he obviously uses various well-known ideas or at least draws upon them.  For he is really not a philosopher, but rather a poet.  What constitutes a poet?  This is a person who has the psychology and imagination of a child. . . So far as the artist and the work of art reveal the world and force us either to accept and believe in it or else reject it, then the only thing we can speak about is the religious impression a true work of art makes on a person.  For it affects the soul of a person and a person’s spiritual foundation.  --Andrei Tarkovsky
"Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema." - Andrei Tarkovsky
Let them be helpless like children, because weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it's tender and pliant. But when it's dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death's companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.”  --Andrei Tarkovsky

"Now why should the cinema follow the forms of theater and painting rather than the methodology of language, which allows wholly new concepts of ideas to arise from the combination of two concrete denotations of two concrete objects?"
---Sergei Eisenstein
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Talk to me about the truth of religion, and I’ll listen gladly.  Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively.  But don’t come talking to me of the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.
Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions “on the further shore,” pictured in entirely earthly terms.  But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs.  There’s not a word of it in the Bible.  And it rings false.  We know it couldn’t be like that.  The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. . . The happy past restored.
And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.  ---C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“Because she is in God’s hands.”  But if so, she was in God’s hands all the time, and I have seen what they did to her here.  Do they suddenly become gentler to us the moment we are out of the body?  ---C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives . . .a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.
To see, in some measure, like God.  His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him.  We could almost say he sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees.  ---C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
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Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering. 
---St. Augustine

ANDRE: Have you read Martin Buber's book On Hasidism?
ANDRE: Oh, well here's a view of life! I mean, he talks about the belief of the Hasidic Jews that there are spirits chained in everything: There are spirits chained in you, there are spirits chained in me. Well! There are spirits chained in this table! And that prayer is the action of liberating these enchained embryo-like spirits, and that every action of ours in life, whether it's doing business or making love, or having dinner together, whatever, that every action of ours should be a prayer, a sacrament in the world.
Now, do you think we're living like that? Why do you think we're not living like that? I think it's because if we allowed ourselves to see what we do every day we might just find it too nauseating.
----My Dinner With Andre

And at last, slowly, afraid he wound find nothing, Douglas opened one eye.
  And everything, absolutely everything, was there.
The world, like a great iris of an even more gigantic eye, which has also just opened and stretched out to encompass everything, stared back at him.
And he knew what it was that had leaped upon him to stay and would not run away now.
I’m alive, he thought. . . .
The grass whispered under his body.  He put his arm down, feeling the sheath of fuzz on it, and, far away, below, his toes creaking in his shoes.  The wind sighed over his shelled ears.   . . .His breath raked over his teeth, going in ice, coming out fire.  Insects shocked the air with electric clearness.  Ten thousand individual hairs grew a millionth of an inch on his head. . . The million pores on his body opened. . . 
“Tom!” Then quieter.  “Tom . . . does everyone in the world . . . know he’s alive?”
“Sure.  Heck, yes!”. . .
“I hope they do,” whispered Douglas.  “Oh, I sure hope they know.”
---Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

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The Deva then caused himself to appear as a sick man; struggling for life, he stood by the wayside, his body swollen and disfigured, sighing with deep-drawn groans, his hands and knees contracted and sore with disease, his tears flowing as he piteously muttered (his petition). 

The prince asked his charioteer, 'What sort of man, again, is this?'
Replying he said, 'This is a sick man. The four elements all confused and disordered, worn and feeble, with no remaining strength, bent down with weakness, looking to his fellow-men for help.'
The prince hearing the words thus spoken, immediately became sad and depressed in heart, and asked, 'Is this the only man afflicted thus, or are others liable to the same (calamity)?'                     ---The Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King, A Life of the Buddha

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ---Genesis 3:1-5 [NIV]

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then. . . .I contradict myself;
I am large. . . .I contain multitudes.
--Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

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1Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:

2“Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
3Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels [or Hebrew: the sons of God] shouted for joy?
. . .
12“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
18Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19“What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

---Job 38:1-7, 12-20 [NIV]