One of the things that is missing from our children of the 80’s discussions is what happened after the ’80s? What happened when we were no longer children? The 1990’s to thousands to tens have led to an incredible amount of changes. At times our minds were growing in turbulent times and desperately looking for land. Somewhere to place a new flag. Somewhere to say, this is where my mind now stands. But first, someone has to create that island. For many children of the ’80s, Kevin Smith became our architect of thought.
We grew up and didn’t find a rewarding respectful long term career with benefits employment. We found retail. We didn’t get to have our own fun but then settle down with a virgin innocent. We discovered that everyone has a past and stories. We grew up with tales of good and evil heroes and villains. Then we realized that the greatest story ever told isn’t holding up like it did in grade school. We had questions but the answers weren’t coming. Enter Dogma.
My history with Kevin Smith goes back to Mallrats, doubled back to pick up Clerks, and I’ve been along the ride ever since. I was the one introducing his movies to new eyes. This even went so far as teaching one class in college about Kevin Smith. A “religion in literature” course and Dogma was on the syllabus.
At the risk of sounding sacrilegious (the opinions of Kevin are not the opinions of the Retro Network), the church wasn’t filling my soul like it used to when I was younger. In Dogma, Smith asked many of the same questions. Is God infallible? Why is a story that takes place in the Middle East two thousand years ago full of Anglo men? Why have books of the Bible been edited and removed over time? Smith was breaking down all of Christianity not as someone who has been indoctrinated since birth, but as someone with fresh eyes in their twenties. I accepted his questions and doubt, then waited for answers.
The shocking part of this story which involves drug dealers, strippers, and poop monsters is how much it strengthens belief in God. Through the fallen angels, Bartleby and Loki, we learn that despite their best ideas God is in fact infallible. Man, however, is not. We all not only can and will make mistakes. We also will tell stories in ways that make us look good. No one tells a story in which they themselves are the villain. As Monty Python learned before Kevin Smith, it’s tough to mock a man who came to Earth and merely asked us to all love one another. The potential lies in how that message was altered over centuries for many reasons, at times not for the greater good. Neither man, nor angels, nor you nor I am perfect. As the Metatron points out though, God always has a plan.
As I grow older, that is the part of this movie that resonates stronger. Call it God’s plan, a cosmic plan, fate. Call it like Lisa Simpson did, “a force more powerful than Mom and Dad combined.” The older I get the more I believe every event has unknown but purposeful ripples outward. There is no reason that the heroes of Dogma – an abortion clinic employee, two drug dealers, a forgotten apostle, a stripper – no reason for them to get together and succeed in saving the world. But every one of them is there for a reason and becomes necessary to save the day.
Likewise, I don’t know why I am where I am and you are where you are. I do know though that in recent memory I have been able to help people because of experiences years previous. Maybe my pain helped others. Maybe my story made someone laugh and that saved them that day. Maybe because two of us talked after work for five minutes, that caused one of us to miss something terrible that would have happened after four minutes. We are all aware of the major change in life that we now have to deal with as the Butterfly Effect. But few of us are aware in the moment of the butterfly flapping its wings. It could be Kevin Smith making this movie, or me writing it, or you reading about it. One of these acts will ripple out to greater events.
Twenty years ago a guy from Jersey made a movie about religion. Today that decision affects you, me, the entire Retro Network and millions more. He couldn’t have predicted that impact. Only one… force… could have. And my life has been crazy enough, I have to believe it is all part of the plan.