Rubicon is the new spy thriller on the AMC channel with compelling artistry, but who knows if it will ever be anything but a mystery wrapped in an enigma? Darlene wants me to watch it with her. It takes a snapshot of the deep longings of the heart, and Dar loves to have her heart tickled that way. But do the writers understand the mysterious currents running through our collective unconscious as well as her husband does?
The opening scene is a grey-brown winter day on a New England estate, a mom and kids running across the lawn, while the cameras zoom into the English Tudor mansion towering in the background…through the window, the rooms, and on grey face in the shadows. It’s a recognizable actor, the dirty cop in Scarface. He cost a pretty penny, it’s not low-budget, I think.
He comes out of the dark shadows and looks out the window at his wife and kids, waves and smiles, then blows his brains. They didn’t pay too much for that appearance.
It gets more paranoid. “Not every conspiracy is a theory,” is the slogan. What gives it an edge is the loneliness of the main character. His wife and child were killed in 9/11. He works in a nameless spy agency, against unknown enemies, and his only friend dies in a train wreck, but it maybe it was a murder, who knows?
It strikes me these writers understand the loneliness that runs so deep inside, and the fears, anger, worries, memories we cannot share.
We forget how widespread the loneliness is. The nightmare is dealing with the paranoia all alone.
The name “Rubicon” is paranoid. The Rubicon is a river near Rome marking a boundary no Roman legions could pass without Senate approval. It was the Senate’s safeguard against a coupe by ambitious generals, like Julius Caesar, the general who did cross the river and named himself Rome’s first Emperor. In their infinite wisdom, the Senate did not anticipate that someone might just lead his legions across the river anyway, and who could arrest him?
“But nobody has crossed the Rubicon for a thousand years!” a startled Senator exclaimed. They trusted the mysterious power of tradition to control minds, which usually works, until a Caesar appears. What is that power traditions hold?
Jesus Christ did the same thing, but different. He too rejected the religious traditions that lock people’s minds, but Jesus actually won against the guardians of tradition. Julius lost.
The Senators secretly drafted a new resolution to close the Rubicon loophole by stabbing him in the back (30 times) as he entered the Senate chambers—without his legions. They can always get you, if not this way, then that. It sounds paranoid, but not once you meet someone like Brutus, the mind behind the conspiracy.
Julius never saw it coming. “E tu Brute?” were his last words. Every first-year Latin student knows it means, “You too, Brutus?” Despite his brilliance and courage as Rome’s greatest conqueror, who could out-think, out-maneuver and destroy the best armies in Gaul, he could not see betrayal in the heart of his best friend.
When traditions are challenged, people like Brutus get terrified beyond reason. He jettisoned his loyalty to Julius because he was more loyal to Roman tradition, so he assassinated his friend.
Funerals make great paranoid events.
Jesus faced the same fanatic traditionalists, and they too conspired to murder him in an illegal “trial” held secretly at night, breaking many traditions to preserve the traditions Jesus threatened. Yes, it is inconsistent, but it worked—for a few days. In their infinite wisdom, the Sanhedrin did not anticipate the resurrection, like the Senate did not anticipate the Rubicon loophole, but how can anyone anticipate a resurrection? (Well, they did have Isaiah’s prophecies from centuries earlier.)
Jesus won against the Titans of tradition through his love, whereas all the legions and fear commanded by Julius could not hold the loyalty of Brutus and the Senate. The disciples of Jesus remained faithful and they loved him and died for him. They lost all the security of their Jewish identity when Gentiles swarmed in the Jesus Movement, and they were rejected by countrymen, neighbors, sometimes families and friends. Jesus bred an amazing loyalty that even surpassed the security of cherished traditions.
This is how to win against conspiracies and enemies of all kinds:
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:15 (NLT)
…He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. John 13:1 (NLT)
It’s the paranoia. The writers of Rubicon touched the paranoid thing deep inside everyone, whether we know it or not. Paranoia creates the rabid fanatics of tradition, like Brutus and the Senators who would assassinate Rome’s best general to preserve tradition. People cling to dead, institutional religions because they feel safe, although bored to death. People keep working dead-end jobs because they feel safe, and people tolerate gross sexual abuse in families because they fear losing the security of a family, despite the abuse.
Paranoia is everywhere, in everyone, and Hollywood makes good money with Slasher films and dramas capitalizing on it. Madison Avenue markets paranoia, like the fear of bad breath, rejection, new car safety features, and they create a host of new fears that now rule the modern mind.
The Rubicon writers nailed it: “not every conspiracy is a theory.” Conspiracies surround us, everywhere. Friends talking behind friends backs, parents who plot how to catch their kid doing something, the whispers between kids, and even at school and work the administrators conspire how to control their underlings. The motivation for our Constitutional freedoms of the press and speech is the defense against conspiracies.
Loneliness intensifies paranoia. In a loveless world, paranoia rules. In God’s world, love rules. That’s the difference between the worlds of Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ.
- The Sublime
- The Emerging Emergents