... in watching "The Sopranos"
I was watching an old episode of the Sopranos today, the last one of season 2. I found God in there today, in that I found the two standards [The Meditation on Two Standards, from the Spiritual Exercises] in the there right at the end of the program.
At the end of this episode, the final of the series, there is a very big focus on family. Tony, father and boss of the family, is at the centre of it all. His daughter Medow has just graduated and after the ceremony there is a big party at the family home. There she is congratulated and celebrated by family and friends, given gifts, attention and applause. There is much mirth amongst the extended family, and much opulence and finery, the good life. But what happens is that these images of success and family unity are then interspersed with images of where the money (that finances all of this privilege) really comes from, Tony's empire, it starts with a garbage truck from a company run by Tony's "family" very symbolic, then we see a seedy strip club, we see card games and people who have lost everything through illegal gambling, we see a cheap motel that hosts all sorts of illegality and desperation (which the "family" part own), we see the poor immigrants on the street purchasing cheap phone cards (that will never actually work as they are part of a scam) we see the desperate individuals who are bled dry by him, Tony, we see a beach and the sea where the day before a close friend but FBI informant met his end. It is a very clever montage of very starkly different images that are all relative. The whole thing corrupt to its core. The final lingering scene is Tony, the boss, at the party, lighting up a big Havana cigar, grinning like a Cheshire cat and surrounded by smoke... as Satan on the smoky throne, sending out devils to seek the ruin of souls.
This came out in 2000, and 18 years later as the world changes and we look for leaders unfortunately leaders like Tony have emerged, not least in business and politics. That is not the way, that never was the way.
In an age of high stakes competition, where the language of being a winner (or loser) is becoming the norm, where egoism and big shotism are lauded and cited as the credentials of champions. These are times to stop, take stock and revaluate who are our leaders.
For all the attraction of what is perceived to be the way - leading to riches, honour, pride. Let us not lose ourselves or He who calls, like a gentle whisper. Let is look beyond hype and glamour at the ordinary person, getting on with life, let us look at the poor who struggle but live gratefully, let us look at the outcast and those on the margins. That is where God is, as He told us in the Beatitudes. Let us never lose sight of that and be blinded by the lights.