Every once in a while a new television show grabs my wife’s and my attention. A clever story line, interesting characters, and a subtle mystery that hangs elusively beyond reach are usually necessary components to keep us tuning in week to week.
LOST was such a show. This is not the time nor the place to debate the satisfaction level of the series finale, however. The whole body of work represented great storytelling. It was a story of “redemption” and second chances.
There were two new shows this year that had promise, similar in some ways but appear to be speaking very different messages. Being entertained is one thing, but we must not ignore the subtleties of the message beyond the medium.
One show, Touch, centers around a father and son as they struggle with the loss of their wife and mother. The son is traumatically impacted, unable or unwilling to speak. This creates obvious issues for the father who is desperate to have a normal relationship with his son. His son is not without his means of communicating though. He has a unique way of seeing the world, through the mathematical patterns that “direct” the universe. He becomes distressed when sensing disruptions in these patterns which create potential danger to the lives of interconnected strangers. The father is left to piece together numerical clues in an attempt to help people and subsequently ease his son’s pain. The role of fate is inferred clearly throughout each episode.
Contrast that with Awake, a show centered around a police detective who suffered a traumatic car crash that claimed the life of a loved one. We aren’t sure which one. Every morning, the detective awakes in one of two realities: one where his son was lost in the car accident, the other where his wife was lost. Each reality appears real and almost identical. The viewer is helped to juggle the two with visual cues. In each reality he has mandatory counseling sessions with a police psychiatrist (a different person in each), both trying to help him cope with his loss and convince him to let go of the other dream reality. He is unprepared and unwilling to acknowledge his loss and determined to keep both realities. The viewing audience is left to wonder which is real and which is not.
Unlike the fate driven Touch, Awake plays with relativism. The detective is clearly in an unsustainable situation that is obvious to the viewer, and to both of the counselors. Yet his determination forces us to accept that his parallel lives work for him. Experiences in both realities assist him in solving crimes much to the bewilderment of his two partners. We root for him to retain the lie, even though it is unhealthy and untrue. “As long as it is true for our hero, it’s OK”. I was curious to see how far it could go, but the show was unfortunately cancelled, so we won’t find out.
Fate and relativism. Two opposing theories but yet both so prevalent in society today. As someone who believes in Jesus Christ, both are lacking. Fate provides an anchor to life, albeit a cold and mysterious one. Can fate be trusted? Is there no greater purpose behind life than to unknowingly be led through a foggy tunnel? More importantly, who or what is leading? I like what God said to the exiled people of Israel, the ones He made an everlasting covenant with in Jeremiah 29:11-13,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
There is an anchor to life described here, but it is not cold and unfeeling. Rather, the anchor is based in a personal relationship with God. There is a Personality behind our purpose. As Christians, we believe that God’s covenant with Israel is fulfilled in Jesus, benefiting all humanity, and so this promise is for me as well.
Then there’s relativism, which brings intoxicating freedom to life, albeit a dangerous one when taken to its anarchistic end. Can relativism be trusted? The quick answer is “no” based on its own definition, considering there is nothing consistent to lean on. “The only truth I need is my own” only takes us as far as the next traffic light. Are we then stuck in a fate shaped wedge? Jesus said the following about himself one day when referencing the writings of the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus offers the very best kind of freedom, not only freedom for life, but freedom from death as well. How many of us have the ability to do that, despite our best intentions and fervent efforts? However, it is not a freedom that is forced on us. We have been given the ultimate in freedom; free will. We have both the opportunity and ability to accept this offer of freedom and purpose, or reject it. To accept it is to awaken to a new reality.
If you accept it, you never have to worry about it getting cancelled.