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


JoAnne said...

Awesome, Mom! I felt so similar when I saw that movie... Right after Joey died, when I was immersing myself in books about death and heaven, I was reminded daily what wonders wait for us in heaven, and how all sadness and brokeness will end forever.... 18 months later, secular Avatar has resparked those visions for me...I love being in that "heavenly" mindsight... it makes this disappointing life more bearable. You are so right that realizing we live in a dying world just makes what Jesus has done for us that much more amazing. I love you, mama..

Van Down By The River said...

hi karen.
*big sigh*, your post made me tear up as usual. such insightful comparisons, wrapped up in beautiful language. thanks for writing, it touched me. i miss you guys tons.
love, rach

karen gerstenberger said...

Do you remember the phrase "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?" That's what was going through my mind as I read the beginning of this post!

I'm so glad that you received these gifts from the movie. It's miraculous that God can (and does) use everything, anything, to show His love for us, including movies. It gives me hope and joy. Your happiness gives me joy, too. God bless you, friend! XO

Lori Ignacio said...

Thank you for sharing your heart again.... I LOVED Avatar and I love that you just helped open my mind, heart and eyes to see even more beauty out of the movie and to remember what is to come for us that we can not even begin to imagine!! Karen you are such a gifted writer...and I know it all comes from your amazing heart! Praying for you all this morning! xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

You put your whole heart into this writting and I was so taken in the moment. I have not seen the movie but hope it fills me full of wonder
as it did you. Yes, we all know full well that those precious children of ours that we miss and love so much would never choose to return here. Heaven is there home and I just wait until the day we are all together again.
Love Sharon

JIM said...

Hi Karen,
I am totally blown away by your words, so passionate and heart-felt(redundant?). Your vision is an inspiration and very imaginative, I'm so proud of you for your courage.
The joy of one's life that can suddenly become despair and disillusionment is so difficult to convey, at least for me. Yet your words resonate to my soul. Forgive me for trying to comfort you with my ramblings, but, it just breaks my heart to have my Sister be heartbroken, so like a typical male I try to fix what is broken, sometimes clumsily. Anyway, I love you and thank you for opening your heart.
Love, Jim

Norma said...

as a mom and your friend i cry when i hear the despair in your heart. i thank you for having the courage to share all your feelings.

your prespective is profound... "How good can a place really be when, in the end, everything dies? and then you close with..."The ultimate Imagineer will undoubtedly create something even more spectacular... something way beyond our imaginations, but totally in sync with our deepest hopes and dreams and longings.

your faith, your love, your words touches my heart and colors God's promise for me like the beautiful palatte used in Avatar.
norma ryan

Becky Joubert said...

Wow!! You captured that so amazingly and so eloquently. I just love your commentary and was so glad you got to savor the movie and share such reflection with us. Oh, I look so forward to the world that awaits us that is still to come and Jesus is the center of it all! It does encourage me all the more about how to live out these days that are given here on this earth and live them fully, completely ever more devoted to Jesus and His kingdom. Love you.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written Karen.
I think you have layed it to your heart.

1.Ecclesiastes 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

Anna/Flowergardengirl™ said...

Yea!!!! That's what I thought. I'm not even reading anyones comments cause I just want to respond raw---right to you as you saw it...cause me too. I saw it and felt it just as you did. I go through life just like you do---Raw.

When I watched it--I was thinking this is as close as it gets to my sense overload. And you know I was in overload over those night time flowers. I know that man's version is but filthy rags compared to what God can create. So I'm sitting there thinking---

If this is pretty to me.......oh my Gosh---what has God got in store for me??? I have not even begun to see pretty.

The tree of life nearly took my breath away. I thought if something of that magnitude can draw out of me such joy--then what are people feeling in heaven in the very presence of God? at the knee of Jesus? how can it be?

I did leave the movie feeling full of life instead of death. Most of my plant buddies would not understand it on that level. But you do.

I have an overabundance of imagination and I can freely see the beautiful side of heaven. However I understand how I would also fall so very hard had I lost a child. For I value life so dearly and I have a fear factor like none other.

I just don't think it's something you can ever overcome. But knowing that a place even more grand than Avatar exist---helps the mind wrap around the idea of hope and make coping skills more manageable.

Big hugs Karen and know that I'm always and forever wrapping your heart in mine--every minute of every day.

Daisy said...

Beautifully said, Karen. I hadn't thought about it quite to that extent; right on.

Your post brought tears to my eyes. Mostly good ones. :)


Lisa said...

Karen, I enjoyed your post more than I enjoyed the movie. I had a migraine from those 3-D glasses! You write beautifully...you should write books! I would buy them all. Love,

Kevin Cox...via FL said...

Dear Karen,

What a great "true" narrative!!

You have alway had the "gift of writing". Now - you a much deeper Holy Spirit insite about death via your Christian faith & hope of Heaven...

Eventually - you should write a book(let) of say 84 pages on this "least" talked about subject in the US culture...

Why 84 pages?? Joey 28 x 3 = 84
Plus, put Joey's picture on the cover ect...

Book(let) Title: "Stuck on a Dying Planet" - would be a great witness

Luv ya, Kevin Cox (Fort Myers, FL)

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