Monday, January 18, 2016

Boxing The Babadook

If you haven't seen The Babadook, you should.

(I mean, it's scary. You'll be scared. Bear that in mind. But watch it. There is a place in the world for scary movies.)

A little boy finds a spooky black book. His Mother ill-advisedly reads him the book. The evil Babadook character whose name she speaks becomes real. Thereafter, the more she tries to get rid of it (hiding the book; burning the book; giving her son tranquillisers to tackle his nightmares) the stronger its presence becomes. Eventually, it posesses the Mother completely and they are brought to a nail-biting, night-time finale.

It is an excellent horror movie. It is also a moving, intelligent and true tale about what happens when we try to repress the shadows in our lives.

The Babadook is the dark, hidden emotion in this little family's life. It grows in power because the mother tries to deny and destroy it. It cannot be destroyed. In the end, the only way to diminish its hold is to accept, integrate and let it live.

We all have darker elements of ourselves that must be faced up to. In the film, the hidden darkness is some fairly serious trauma. But even the most well-adjusted person has created little false selves to cope with the cruelties and vicissitudes of life; has painful memories; has flaws. You can go through your entire life believing that the desireable 'self' you present to the world is all there is. You can exhaust yourself fighting your shadows, flailing hopelessly. You can live with the lights off, drowning in the darkness but keeping the shadow at bay. But this is all folly.

The healthier way to mature is to continually undertake the difficult but fruitful work of what Richard Rohr calls shadow boxing. That is, sparring with your darker side. Your False Self. (A much better description of what many bible translations label 'Flesh'). It is there. It can be faced up to. It cannot be destroyed completely. But it can be worked with and exploited to make you fitter and truer.

So, keep an eye out for The Babadook. And if you see it, bring it in for tea, cake and boxing.

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