Stephen King’s Dark Tower: The Philosophical Truth of Fighting Back Chaos
The movie The Dark Tower, based on Stephen King’s novel series, possessed an intriguing plot, brilliant acting (McConaughey makes a great villain!), excellent action choreography, and a good philosophical portrayal of the world’s struggle with chaos. From this point onward, there are a couple of spoilers!
I found it interesting that you don’t get as much of the hero’s (The Gunslinger) view of the world, other than he’s holding back the villain from releasing the chaos outside of our ordered universe. Preservation of wholeness, order and life is the hero’s motivation, but he wrestles with an impending chaos erupting inside of himself – the chaos of a vengeful heart. For the villain, however, “The Man in Black” or Walter, we get a pretty rich understanding of his view of the universe. He desires to tear down the one thing that keeps the “monsters” outside of the good world we know. The monsters want in to destroy everything that is whole and good. From Walter’s perspective, everything progresses towards one end anyway – death. According to the Bible, death is the ultimate state of chaos for the human being, to be reduced to the random particles from which we were formed. Walter sees the real nature of existence is chaotic, because that is everything’s destiny. For Walter, one’s destiny of chaos was not only physical, but also spiritual. In the scene where Walter approached a dying victim, he told the man that if he saw the light he should head towards it and not be afraid. But with cruel mockery, Walter taunted the dying man, saying that he did not see a light, did he? That because there was no light; there’s nothing beyond death. Death was the final end of all things. Nothing more. Therefore everything was meaningless. The villain’s aim lie consistent with his view of the nature of things – release the monsters to render the ordered universe into a constant state of chaos because chaos is everything’s chief end.
Ancient writings have captured man’s wrestling with chaos for centuries. Fighting back the chaos has been our plight. The philosophical notion of chaos was destruction, death, decay, disorder, disharmony, and discord, a world without wholeness, meaning, peace, or goodness. Walter, like the ancient Greek Dionysiac Cult, embraced chaos as something attractive. Like one worshipping Ares, the god of war, chaos was the real truth about the universe, and bringing about chaos was the one act that was consistent with the real nature of things. And yet, the majority of our human strivings have fought against chaos, whether in the development of medicine, architecture, mental health, or laws. Man’s internal nature is to fight against the monsters and to achieve flourishing in life. Society recognizes one’s resignation, whether from defeatism or depression, from fighting the chaos as an ailment. It’s an intrinsic part of our human existence to wrestle back the threat of chaos and not be overcome by it.
From the very beginning, the universe had its origins in the wrestling against chaos. In the creation story of the Bible, the earth began as a formless, void and chaotic mass that was not conducive for life, and God’s Spirit hovered over the deep darkness. In six successive days, God transformed this chaotic state of matter, pulling seas back and forming land, filling the land with vegetation, and populating the earth and heavens with animals and stars. The very creative act of God to wrought beauty out of a deadly space was a wrestling against the forces of chaos. The beauties of the world is due to the “good” state God made the world to be and echoes the heart of God for harmony, peace and wholeness. We who are placed in the world to steward it bear the same internal desire to cultivate goodness and wholeness, because we were made in the image of God. It’s no wonder that we get more of a depiction of the villain’s worldview in The Dark Tower, because it’s more foreign to our innate sense. And we get less of a depiction of the hero’s worldview because the worldview of the hero, The Gunslinger, is more innate in us. We strive to fight back the chaos everyday in our homes, our careers, and our self-care. The Dark Tower is a good, insightful portrayal of man’s ongoing quest to fight back the chaos. And it is God’s ongoing quest in creation and redemption through Christ, until final glorification that ends with a new heaven and new earth.