Friday, April 7, 2023

Easter and the End of the Long Dark Night

A few words that represent Easter to me are forgiveness, renewal, and hope. 

It’s the holiday that commemorates the great hope that Christ overcame the world for us. It also checks in after the first quarter of the year is through. By now, most of our New Years ambition has leveled out, and the craziness of the higher-expectation holidays has waned.

But the deeper meaning has to do with belief in the Savior, our redeemer, who cares more about us than we can imagine, even though we let each other and ourselves down, despite efforts not to.

I know I need reminders to have hope. It helps me to find renewal by asking myself what I have faith in, and who I want to spend my holidays with. I want to challenge myself to make forgiveness my normal response, rather than resentment, or despair.

So, this week I wanted to recommend The Haunting of Hill House.

This isn’t a late April Fool’s prank. I mean it, THoHH is an amazing show that I've watched all the way through twice now. My caveat is that it is a horror series. (audible gasp). If this genre isn’t for you, that’s fine. VidAngel does have filters to remove the swears, and any other objectionable moments, because this series can be morbid. No judgment here if you're not into it. I’m not recommending this show for children, or for anyone that feels it’s not right for them.

However, I do believe there is room for great storytelling even in genres conservative moms didn't like us watching, back in the day. If you are looking deeply at what the show is trying to say, you might find like I have that it moves and inspires me to be a better person.

So why would I recommend this series around Easter?

The storytelling is just phenomenal. A family is shown before, and after a hugely traumatic event that occurred during their stay at the Hill House. Their experiences there are plagued by ghosts, some merely menacing, and other definitely deadly. As the series progresses, the family must come together to prevent more losses to the evil of Hill House.

For starters, the show is really about family. The Crain siblings and their parents face trials and struggles like addiction, grief, betrayal, estrangement, childhood trauma, and unsolved mysteries. And yet, the ending depicts resolution and human transformation in a way that indicates even decades-old ghosts can be put to rest. The hope of the atonement (the atonement is the linchpin Christian doctrine that says Christ is capable of healing our souls if we let him) is that true healing can create new patterns that end the cycle of generational suffering. Even though the show does not explicitly mention gospel topics with language you would hear in a Sunday-school lesson, I hear loud and clear that my human imperfections can be overcome through finding strength I wouldn't know was there if I wasn't looking for it.

The Dudley family, caretakers of Hill House, experience a horrible tragedy, which the Crain family finds a way to do what they can to ease their suffering. There are wounds that will always be a reminder to us, and THoHH is a story that to me, says you are not alone. Sharing the wound might be the thing that shows someone you understand.

I find that the way I experience horror is strangely close to the way I experience empathy. Both are difficult in the moment, but afterwards I find that facing fear and pain of another person expands my heart and makes more room for me to see life from a new perspective. True empathy is the difference between observing someone’s pain from a distance, and actually going and sitting with them, and letting down all my barriers so I can feel as much of their pain as possible myself. It’s very easy to find ways to avoid moments of ambivalence or distress, whether they are from someone else, or even from my own mind. But living through that pain through great art is a needed bridge to opening up healing conversations.

Like great music, great horror films create a moment where we can vicariously experience emotions. Spoiler warning, Hill House does not have an entirely happy ending, but it does show that the Crain siblings have become new people by the end. Their trials and tribulations have taught them by the end how to live more in line with higher values.

When I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we often said that we didn’t want to take away any of the good things from people’s lives by sharing the gospel with them. We simply wanted to add more goodness by sharing what we knew. I find that the values that are the foundation of THoHH are what the hope of Easter is about. Our families and communities can overcome the absolute worst that life can and will reveal to us. As much as we wish we could just avoid struggles in life, a wiser plan is to learn how to face and survive them. Even if it seems that all hope is lost, and that the nightmare has come true, that is the time when we must still have hope.

The resurrection is the reality that the sun does rise and reveal a bright and glorious morning for us all. The end of the dark night will come.

No comments:

Post a Comment