Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Artuality: The Truman Show

Heather at L'Chaim has started a new monthly feature. We'll call it a participatory feature, because it's all about art and spirituality- called Artuality. Neither art nor spirituality are intended to be in a vacuum, so Heather has invited the world to join her each month in sharing how art and spirituality intersect in their own lives.

November's theme is: FILM. (Please consider this your invitation to join the discussion.)

I don't know if there is such a thing as a Christian existentialist movie, but if there is, The Truman Show must be it.

Poking at questions such as: "Who am I? What's my purpose on earth? Who's in control when things seem to go wrong? Why are can lights falling from the sky in front of me?" You know, those elemental questions we all ponder in the dead of night when we can't sleep. ;)

Who has not wondered if the world as we know it is simply our imagination, a fabrication by a benevolent (or malevolent, depending on how you're feeling that day!) higher being, or if we are maybe just dolls in a dollhouse here for the enjoyment of a giant child.

I think The Truman Show raises some interesting questions about the Christian journey in particular. The main character, Truman, has been rescued from an orphan life in order to become the star of a 24/7 live television show, aptly named, The Truman Show. Thousands of cameras are trained on every moment of Truman's tranquil and near-perfect life. His steps have been ordered for him. His environment carefully planned. Every interaction with his wife, neighbors and co-workers is scripted, with commercial spots cleverly inserted in the conversation at periodic intervals. Only Truman thinks it's all real. He's the only one who doesn't know that his life is a television show.
Strange things begin to occur, however, and Truman is getting suspicious. Stage lighting falls from the sky into his front yard. His dead father- whose character was killed off when Truman was younger because the director thought it made an interesting plot twist- makes a surprise visit to the set and rocks Truman's world. Truman innocently veers off the script (throwing the entire directing crew into "catastrophe mode") and discovers theatrical props instead of working elevators, office buildings and surgical equipment. The never-met-before haz-mat crew on the other side of the island somehow know Truman's name like they're old buddies.

Truman ain't no dummy. Perfection is becoming suspect.

When I became a Christian, I was rescued from an orphan life, and I was under something of the same belief as Truman. In fact, I think I even desired a life like Truman's. I wanted Christ to script my life; to make the birds sing on cue, to have traffic part like the Red Sea so I could get to work on time, to keep me from all discomfort and pain. If it required that I have the occasionally quirky conversation about the features of the latest devotional guide or contemporary Christian facial tissue that was a price I was willing to pay for convenience. Just please make it all perky and pristine, Jesus. That's what you're about anyway, right? Bringing love and bunnies to the world. Right???

Imagine my disappointment when the spiritual stage lighting crashed down in front of me. When my spiritual journey included traffic jams and grouchy neighbors with their grouchy dogs. Imagine my chagrin when Jesus didn't deliver me from the ugly and the tainted and the treacherous that is in this world. Imagine my shock when I discovered that he was not the least bit interested in scripting the perfect Christian life for me.

Imagine my distress upon reading Christ's own words, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

But Jesus, I thought you wanted to make the kingdom of heaven come for me NOW. No bunnies? No 72.4 degree sunshine-y days? Are you saying I'm blessed through persecution? I don't see how blessing and persecution can be used in the same sentence... blessing is defined as tulips and birdies. Isn't it???

He's not here to replace my spiritual weeds with Astroturf, He is here to be the Loving Gardener. There are weeds and brambles. Bare patches and dirty spots. Poison ivy, even. Some weeds stay and some get yanked. They like to grow up while my back is turned. It's not pretty, it's not cozy, it's not neat and tidy. Christ is interested in loving me through the fallen-ness of this world.

Perish the day that I'd think Christ came to make my life like Truman's.

1 comment:

heather said...

I love this movie for the same reason you post--how many of us would love to craft our lives just so? But it's not just so. It's real, not a TV set.
And the question of God. Does he whip parents out of our lives for character development?
Thanks for participating!