Or you could be the one who takes the long way home
Roll down your window, turn off your phone
See your life as a gift from the great unknown
And your task is to receive it
Tell your kid a story, hold your lover tight
Make a joyful noise, swim naked at night
Read a poem a day, call in well sometimes and
Laugh when they believe it
The Long Way Home by Mary Chapin Carpenter
A friend posted a You Tube video this week that was supposed to pretty much show a 'history of everything' in just over a minute, which, he said, had made him think about the nature of things. After watching it, I immediately posted back another favorite video clip, saying whilst the piece he'd posted seemed to say a lot, it didn't really say anything about what truly matters about us - in terms of our capacity to destroy and to perceive things higher than that.
What's good about creative fiction (like the clip I chose) is that it can allow us to consider questions about who and what we are, and why that matters, from a perspective beyond the 'nuts and bolts' of the mere material (not that there aren't plenty of questions there to stop us in our tracks any way!).
This past few weeks, I've been enjoying watching the original 1960's episodes of The Outer Limits, a Science Fiction show which loved to raise 'what if?' questions about us, our existence and the nature of life itself. There's several episodes that, despite their age will still stop and make you wonder, but the one that really got the mind boggling this week was entitled 'Keeper of the Purple Twilight'.
It tells the tale of a Scientist, Eric Plummer, who is close to creating a disintegrating energy weapon. To complete his work, he enters into a faustian pact with a stranger named Ikar - an alien who is using Plummer's work as the first step in an alien invasion. Ikar will give him the missing equations if Plummer will rid himself of his emotions by allowing Ikar to absorb them. The Scientist readily agrees, and quickly nears completing the work, but there's a problem. Plummer had been romantically involved with Janet Lane, who realizes he has been warped in some fashion by Ikar. She takes Ikar out for a picnic lunch, and discovers the truth about him and his world - a realm where love and other emotions are unknown and where uniformity with regards to nature and purpose are essential - where there is no place for beauty or affection. The impact of this on all the characters is profound, and the conclusion of the story is dramatically effected by this truth. Needless to say, it is only when Janet's insistence that the whole truth about ourselves and Ikar's intentions are weighed in the balance that life is really defined.
What's great about this episode is that it reminds us that however long we spend working behind a microscope or telescope to further ourselves, it's not really going to tell us what lies behind the futility and frustration of the human condition, or why we perceive and aspire to things that are truly, deeply beautiful which surround and penetrate our lives. It is the 'alien-ness' of such which should trouble us deeply, because beyond the size and scale of the universe, there is this telling quality within us which affirms there is much more going on here, and that when we truly love, truly venerate the majesty we can understand within the nature and expression of the life and world which surrounds us, then we are truly astonished by where we are, and the who and the what of this realm, which leads us to ponder what or who lies behind it.
Christianity answers these questions. It tells us why we are so messed up, but why we understand, why we know, there's more going on, and how the God who made us, like Janet in the story, has come amongst us to show us that what is so often 'alien' to our 'just so' attitude towards what we call 'natural' needs to be vigorously confronted and challenged - because there is indeed much more to say.
Needless to say, I'm looking forward to more Outer Limits soon!