The Eternal Inch: V for Vendetta and Whether God Gives a Crap about the “Self”

Every 5th of November, I watch the movie V for Vendetta. (If you’ve seen the movie, you get the significance of that date.) This time when I watched the film I got to look for the Divine. I got to, in other words, improve my aim. Here’s what I found.

This movie has philosophical content all over the place, and often times when you find philosophy, you find the Divine. Here’s one part of the film in particular that reminded me of the Divine.

The inch, for Valerie, is the “only thing in the world worth having.” It is nothing less than the authentic self and the truest freedom that we can encounter. But what does all of that mean? And how does it compare to the Thing that I think is worth having.

One lens through which to view Valerie’s statement is Kierkegaard’s existentialism. For Kierkegaard, the religious life is superior to the aesthetic and the ethical life because of, in a sense, that same “inch” to which Valerie is referring. Both S.K. and Valerie are interested in getting to the self. The religious life allows us to be a true individual that transcends the universal because we are called by God as an individual. This theme is especially present in S.K’s Fear and Trembling,

Faith is precisely this paradox, that the individual as the particular is higher than the universal, is justified over against it…after he has been subordinated as the particular to the universal, now through the universal becomes the individual who as the particular is superior to the universal.

But what of all of this talk of the “self” and the “individual?” Religious and “nonreligious” folk alike are interested in getting to the self, assuming there is such a thing. Why? Is there a reason why I, if I’m interested in aiming at God, would be interested in gaining this “self?” Some theologians (I’m thinking of the author of Theologica Germanica) think that we should be going in the opposite direction, that is, they think that was should be trying to destroy the self. Instead, we should be trying to cultivate oneness with the Divine.

And perhaps more importantly, what difference does it make if I have a self or not? I suppose the answer to that question depends on exactly how we want to define the self. The notion that is at work in Valerie and S.K. seem to be something like particularity and uniqueness. That is why the self, for them, is tied to God’s unique call in our life and our unwillingness to surrender our unique integrity. For this post, I was going to rant on about how martyrdom, broadly construed as the consequences of being a subversive sage out of love for the Divine, could give us our unique self, but the two questions I’ve raised here are more foundational.

Really this issue seems to come down to this: What sort of selves is God interested in? (Now we’re asking a normative question.) Who did God create us to be? Does God want us to be unique individuals, and if so, in what ways can we strive towards that goal? Is it wrapped up in following Jesus? These are interesting questions. In a sense, I am asking if God cringes when he sees us living in Kierkegaard’s public or Nietzsche’s herd or Heidegger’s das Man.

May the Divine reveal It’s will on what to do with my “self.”

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