Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Death and Avatar and Imagination
My son's death has killed a lot of my fascination with this world. Things which were once enthralling to me have simply lost their lustre. How good can a place really be when, in the end, everything dies? Every person, every creature, every growing thing, the planet itself-- all that we hold so dear, some sooner, some later, but all, all of it ultimately doomed. Why I never allowed this to sink in before, I cannot say. I suppose the despair of death had never touched me personally.
Now I see death everywhere. We are trained to ignore it, but I can't anymore. I see death, disease, decline, everywhere now and I cannot romanticize it in any way. I don't know how people do that. I cannot in any way connect with the "circle of life" mentality, the Hospice talk about death being a "natural transition", the new age approach that says we reincarnate over and over again, or the corporate approach that says that three days of Bereavement Leave from work is sufficient to box that all up and move on. I can't. Everything inside of me revolts against death and the acceptance of it. I will never make my peace with it.
We lost the battle way back in the Garden of Eden, and now we pretend, with all our busy activity, that we are building something that will last. But pretending doesn't change the facts. The fact is, we are stuck on a dying planet and we are making the best of a bad situation. We are making do now. At worst we live in despair, or by distracting ourselves in hedonism. At best we create beauty and give love to make our time here bearable. But we are, underneath it all, merely surviving, living out our days here, because death has stripped us of our hope for more.
Death is awful and final. It's our enemy. Like a mass murderer insanely slashing at us and hitting its mark, it brutally interrupts every good thing--peace, harmony, love, closeness and companionship. Death up close is harrowing, hopeless, and pitiless. It separates us with the harshest and coldest finality from those we most cherish. It destroys their precious bodies and replaces them with impervious, unbreachable brick walls that block all contact. It puts an end to dreams and innocence and happiness.
Before you pass me the Prozac, I am leading somewhere with all of this. My son's death has opened my eyes to the tragedy of life, but also to the overwhelming grace of God. We are told that He fixed it and is fixing it and will fix it all permanently, in the future, in a world to come. I believe in the world to come, I am hanging on to it with all my heart and soul. I can hardly wait for it. And this is why I liked the movie Avatar.
I know it's not a "Christian" movie. I know that it's not theologically orthodox; that it stops short of telling us the whole truth about life and death. But it doesn't have to be perfect for me to see the truth that runs through it. It inspired me anyway. And it comforted me. And most of the inspiration was on the level of imagination, because I lack imagination of my own. And imagination is what is required to keep hope alive, to get us through this life and to the one beyond.
Avatar helped me enter a spectacularly beautiful new world, similar but different, where the flowers are luminous and light up when you touch them. Where airborne jellyfish/dandylions float and land on you and take your spiritual temperature. It helped me imagine the freedom of flying on a bird, and swooping high and low and fast with no limits, and with clean, fresh air rushing at me; full of risk and excitement, but with no real danger of injury. And to imagine falling from the height of a skyscraper only to bounce on the forest floor and then being able to get up and run over trails of moss-covered branches with vistas of beauty all around me. To have a body that runs that way--alive like an adolescent, coordinated like an athlete, without tiring, without bruises, no pulled muscles or broken bones, no diseases. A body with a universe of stars on its surface.
I loved seeing a world where the old broken body is replaced with a new and beautiful and powerful one, and the sheer thrill of it drives you to out run the pain of any memories past.
As I sat and watched, I thought to myself, "So this is what my son is doing now. No wonder no one ever wants to come back."
It takes imagination to see a Savior who takes on the form of the people he's saving, who enters their world and loves them and is willing to sacrifice Himself for them. It takes imagination to create symbols of oneness and unbreakable bonds, and to summarize it with the words, " I see you".
Avatar lifted my sights again from the pages of a Book to a vision of what happened in history when Christ died for me, and what will be and much more than I can dream. The ultimate Imagineer will undoubtedly create something even more spectacular than James Cameron's gifted cast and crew can conceive... something way beyond our imaginations, but totally in sync with our deepest hopes and dreams and longings.
Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.
I Cor 2:9