These days, the Frankenstein icon is one of the most important to consider, because it is everywhere, running rampant. Although the man-made creature is usually referred to as "Frankenstein," it's real name is "the monster." At least, that's how Dr. Frankenstein referred to his creation in the classic book Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. Written by Mary Shelley and published in 1818, this famous tale tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young, ambitious doctor who conducts experiments in electricity on decaying tissue for the purpose of reanimation. As we all know, Dr. Frankenstein is successful in patching together a human on the lab table, composed of body parts from several different dead people, and he also successfully reanimates this being. However, his joy in the success of his experiment is very short lived. He gazes upon his new creation with a look of horror and abhorrence, an obvious and marked change from the look of love and joy which God bestows upon Adam in the Garden of Eden. Scripture tells us that “God looked at everything he had made and found it very good.” Adam and Eve were especially prized by God, as they were not only the first humans, but they had also been made in God’s image, a distinct elevation granted to humanity. Yet, in contrast, when Dr. Frankenstein looks upon his creation, he not only does not pronounce it "very good," but he desperately wishes he had not made it in the first place, and he seeks to rid himself of it. Thus begin years of threats, suffering and pain - not just to Dr. Frankenstein but also to his family.
Dr. Frankenstein discovers for himself this great secret: the creator always puts him or herself into their creation. This is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. We participate in God’s ability to imagine and create, although more as co-creators or sub-creators, since we cannot make anything appear out of nothing, as God can. The life of the creation is drawn from the life of the creator. Unfortunately for Dr. Frankenstein, he finds that he is just not that great, and so, neither is his creation. Dr. Frankenstein is a flawed human, seeking to replace God, and his creation reflects that truth. In contrast, God can look upon everything he creates and proclaim it "good" and "very good." Why? Because God himself is the source of good. Everything he thinks, touches or creates will draw from his own energy, his own being, and copy it. No matter how often or even the type of creation, whatever God creates will be good.
It is important for us to realize, then, what it means to say we are "made in his image." This certainly means that we, like God, have the ability to create. This creative ability is seen in marriage, with the ability to create new people, but it is also seen in other aspects as well. For example, if a person creates a company, that company will by default receive the spirit of its founder. So, if the founder is generous and God-fearing, seeking to build the Kingdom of God, those who work for him or her will experience an environment of respect and collaboration. The office environment will reflect the principles and spirit of the founder. When that company grows, the bottom line will not be the only driving decision. Things like safe-working conditions and environmental considerations will also be taken into account, as part of our role as stewards of God’s creation. Granted, since no one is perfect, it is unrealistic to expect any office or business or school to be perfect, either. That being said, we've all experienced the difference of spirit in different places.
In the Romantic era, when Frankenstein was published, the Greek god Prometheus had become a symbol of the solitary genius who sought to advance the human race by his own efforts, especially in the field of science, which was just beginning to establish itself as an authority. However, like the original story of Prometheus, the modern Prometheus dares to go beyond what he should and ends in tragedy. So who, then, is the real monster in Frankenstein? The reanimated corpse or the man who seeks to take the place of God? The words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, a scientist in the movie "Jurassic Park," are appropriate here: "Just because we CAN do something, doesn't mean we SHOULD."
When God creates, it is an outpouring of his divine love, an invitation to return that same love back to him. As St. John Paul II reminds us in his Letter to Artists, as “Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.” We may not all necessarily be gifted artists like Michaelangelo or Botticelli, who produce masterworks, but we each still nevertheless have the capability of producing a masterpiece. In these last few days of October, let's take an honest inventory of all areas of our lives and ask ourselves: What are we engaged in creating? Is it a masterpiece, reflecting divine love, or a monster, reflecting merely ourselves?
St. John Paul II, pray for us, pray for the works we do, and help us to craft lives that are pleasing to God. Amen.
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