Shopgirl

Existentialist romantic dramedy. Steve Martin has written a rather thoughtful piece here that seems deeply heartfelt and struggles with the issues of true love, transcendence and the ache of lonlieness in our existence. Claire Danes is a young woman who has to decide between an older man uninterested in comittment and intimacy, but wealthy and fun (Steve Martin), and a young poor artistic kid who grows up and seeks to give her the intimacy she longs for (Jason Schwartzman). Of course, she goes with the older man and experiences the fun, while the young man goes and finds himself and learns how to love by listening to hours of “relationship” lectures while being a roadie for a rock band. There is some rather pedantic narration in the film by Steve Martin that spells out the theme of Claire’s quest. He tells us she is seeking for some “omniscient” person to come down into her life and give her meaning and intimacy to quiet her lonlieness. She thinks the older man with his maturity can do this, but of course, he cannot connect with her as she needs. Claire ultimately realizes she can “hurt now or hurt later,” and finally chooses the young man who has by now transformed into more of a gentleman who has concern for making her happy. Knowing Steve Martin’s background in philosophy, and considering his line about the woman wanting someone “omniscient” to come down into her life (shot with a heavenly perspective, down through her sun roofed house), I can’t help but think that this is an existentialist parable about man’s quest for transcendence in deity, but his ultimate inability to find his real need for personal connection in that deity. Martin plays the mature father figure who is rich and has everything and bestows gifts as he wills upon Claire. He is benevolent, but distant, unable to truly connect on a personal heart level. The young man Claire opts for is a bit rough, earthly and human, but he can love her at her level, the human level. This is a common theme in humanist and existentialist literature. The belief that God is somehow distant and unable to fill our “human needs.” Thus only another human can meet that need, and thus, the highest love to these people is the romantic connection with a lover. This is certainly an understandable sentiment, and not altogether unforgivable, as man is indeed distant from God and cut off from the personal touch he was created to have. But this is the dilemma, the problem. It is the story of a blind man telling us there is no light or visual images, so we must accept our darkness. As heartfelt as this is, and even honest, I don’t buy it. God is personal, more personal and more intimate with us than we can even imagine. The fact that we are blind or limited in our finitude does not mean reality is subject to our ignorance. As a matter of fact, God did become the earthy, sweaty human in order to connect with us, in order to meet us on our level, in order to love us intimately and personally. He did this in his Son, Jesus Christ. John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. He lived, he cried, he drank, he sweat, he bled and he died, all for his people, those who would believe on his name. And his resurrection was the very thing that established him as that transcendent omniscient being who could in fact come down and rescue us and give us meaning and intimacy that we long for. The problem with the existentialist is that he acknowledges man’s need for transcendence and deity, he just assumes there is none to meet that need. This is perhaps the saddest ignorance of all. Acts 17: 23-31 Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

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