Apocalypto’s Black Hole of Pride


I finally got around to watching Apocalypto. Early in the movie a village elder tells a myth about man’s restless hunger for power and autonomy. His story concludes that “man has a hole inside him that will make him take and take until the world has no more to give.”

The Mayan city is a lurid demonstration of how this can play out in a society. Humans are sacrificed in a carnival-like atmosphere at a pyramid temple erected as a monument to the power and grandeur of their civilization.  Pompous Mayan royalty pile up more and more bodies in their attempt to appease an angry god and retain power over a people they care nothing about.

In contrast our hero Jaguar Paw and his tribe demonstrate community. Not only do they support one another, when faced with less fortunate members of another tribe they extend as much help as caution allows. When attacked the villagers fight bravely. When captured, they are noble. After it becomes evident that saving his village and his friends is impossible, saving his family becomes Jaguar Paw’s sole focus.

At no point does Jaguar Paw consider his own survival more important. The queen pushes away her fat child to show that self-interest has infiltrated this society at its core level, the family. Meanwhile in a jungle pit Jaguar Paw’s wife does everything in her power to comfort and protect their son. The Paw family may seem too good to be true but serve as a contrast to the decadent self-serving “takers” represented by the Mayan city dwellers.

I think the point of the movie was that the Mayan culture had set itself on a path for destruction and the Conquistadors just finished them off.  The quest for power and glory is a black hole that can suck up everything and everyone in its way. Apocalypto is a cautionary tale confirming that pride does indeed go before destruction. (Prov. 16:18)

A good follow-up for Apocalypto is The Mission.  A few hundred years later the civilization started by the Conquistadors has descended into another power and glory black hole. In The Mission government and church officials act in their own self-interest, only this time they not only sacrifice a culture  but the gospel itself.

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