Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Elephant Man

We are back in school after Harvey and a day of in-service: it went well! I have an idea for a perfect inservice but it's never been implemented. Read below, from February of 2006, and see if you share my sentiments. If you do, please contact the administration at Westbury Christian School and second my suggestion!

School inservice is a necessary evil, required by the state and accreditation agencies. Much of it is unnecessary for experienced teachers. However, IT IS good for classroom rookies who can learn procedures and the culture of each school. In the past, I've suggested that a perfect in service would consist of nothing more than watching three movies. In no particular order, they are:
1. Awakenings
2. Man of La Mancha
3. Elephant Man

There is a common theme in these films: one can make a difference in a life that society has deemed worthless. Today in my sophomore classes we began watching Elephant Man. Hollywood Video had it listed on their computer but finding it was another matter: it was an aisle away from its designated alphabetical spot. It had not been rented since 2002 which surprised me. Considered a classic and one of the 100 best movies of all time, Elephant Man was nominated for Academy Awards in eight categories, including Best Actor and Best Picture. It is the true story of John Merrick, an Englishman from London who lived in the late 1800's. Horribly and grotesquely disfigured, Merrick was treated like an animal, being displayed in circuses and freak shows. Believed to have zero mental capabilities, Merrick was rescued from his life of humiliation by Dr. Frederick Treves, played magnificently by Anthony Hopkins. Touched by the kindness and attention shown by Treves, Merrick was found to possess superior intelligence, creativity, and even elegance. Dubbed 'The Elephant Man' due to the tumors which covered his body, Merrick became the prize in a tug-of-war between good and evil. Before his premature death at twenty-seven years, the man considered sub-human by some became the toast of London's high brow society. It was an amazing transformation.

The kids were curious today. Because of a quiz and introductory material about the film, we never got a look at the uncovered Merrick. Their impressions came from the reactions of those in the movie who saw him for the first time. People seeing Merrick screamed, fainted, and cried. It will be interesting to watch my tenth graders when they see Merrick, played by John Hurt, for themselves. Hurt looks strikingly like the photographs of Merrick- the makeup must have taken hours! My hope is that my students will be touched by the change in Merrick after he comes in contact with Dr. Treves. That's what Jesus did. He touched the untouchables. John the Baptist, in jail, sent messengers to ask the Messiah if he was the one they were awaiting. Jesus never directly answered. Instead, he replied by listing those outcasts who had felt the touch of the Master's hand; the blind, the lame, the deaf, the lepers, the poor. They knew the sting of ostracism and the agony of being ignored. Roll those groups into one cursed soul and you have the elephant man. It only took one who cared, who dared look past unbelievable ugliness to see a life worth saving. The joy Merrick felt when anyone showed the tiniest consideration was overwhelming. What can we do when we reach out to the unlovely, when our charity is filtered through the love of him who made both the beautiful and the monstrous? The John Merricks aren't just physically misshapen. They are socially, emotionally, and spiritually scarred and battered. They are in the vision lines of each of us. We just have to open our eyes. Jesus said when our eyes are good, we are full of light. That light is sufficient to spill over and fill up the poor souls whose lives are in a permanent drought. The most poignant moment of the movie is when Merrick refers to Treves as "my friend." In John 15, Jesus tells his men that "you are MY FRIENDS if you do what I command." There's no better way to be Jesus' friend than to be the friend of those with no other options.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I am not an animal. I am a human being. I am a man."
John Merrick

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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Jon said...

R we gonna watch that movie

Betsy said...

Hi Steve!

I saw your face on my followers list and had to come and say hello and meet you! Thanks for the visit..don't know how you found me but I'm glad you did!

Just be browsing your blog a few minutes, I can tell you have the heart for and gift of teaching! :)

what great movies to have your students watch...all so very thought provoking. I'm sure there will be some great discussions afterward!