Monday, December 5, 2011

How could I know?

there is a scene in the movie 'soylent green' that kills me every time i see it. (maybe not the most appropriate turn of phrase, considering the ingredients of the titular stuff.) Edward G. Robinson plays Sol, a former federal agent who is trying to find the truth behind the propaganda related to the Soylent Corporation, a company whose rations are the most commonly consumed sources of energy in a world so overpopulated that trees and greenery have been bulldozed for row upon row of concrete tract housing. Charlton Heston plays Robert Thorn, the young up-and-comer to Robinson's aging Sol, and a winsome and important friendship develops.

a lot of stuff happens, and it isn't as sci-fi as it sounds, and you really should watch the whole thing. But the scene that gets me -- i think of it often.

toward the very end of the film, Sol is about to die. it is a choice he has made, and for doing so, he is rewarded. he is taken into a round room, surrounded by screens showing images of the world he once know -- a field of tulips being battered around by the wind, a troop of deer posing skittishly, wave upon wave lapping up on cliff, rock, beach. Music is piped in -- Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven -- and Thorn strong-arms his way into a viewing area. He sees a world totally foreign to him projected all around Sol. He sees the goodness of it, the beauty and diversity of it, the colors that have been wholly subsumed by wan, monochromatic gray.

"Isn't it beautiful?" asks Sol.

"How could I know?" replies Thorn. "How could I ever imagine?"

. . .

I can't think of a better scene to bring to mind, a better thing to talk about, when we talk about God. I was out of town when Dallas Willard came to Menlo Park Pres a few weeks ago, and tonight, finally got around to watching the video of his discussion of God and the problem of pain.

Everyone ought to have a Sol in their life. I am blessed (and I don't use that word lightly) enough to have a handful of people who point me to truth and beauty, who surprise me time and again with their wisdom. I do not know Dallas well, personally, but a bit. And more than that, I have read and heard and seen him whenever possible, soaking up the opportunity to hear what his mind is thinking. Not because he is a perfect person, but because when I hear him, I think, "How could I know?"

How could I ever imagine a God who is this good?

"We are living beyond death now as we identify with Jesus," he said.

Or this: "Could God have made a world where pain and suffering don't exist?"
"He could have, I suppose, made a world with only minerals. Or perhaps minerals and vegetables. But a world with persons such as us? No, he couldn't have. This is not a limitation of his power. The idea of a world with persons such as us that is free from suffering is contradictory, and a contradiction is not something you can fail to do."

there are some people who get it. they get God's goodness and power so fundamentally, and live out of that conviction so readily, and they are people I want to learn from. But lest I turn that into another form of Christian celebrity worship, it is all because (and only because) we worship a God who is unfailingly good.

and the people around us help us to see. help us to say, "How could I know? How could I ever imagine?"

1 comment:

[Anna] said...

I really want to comment on the beautiful spiritual merits of this post (which are many), but all I really want to write is"Solyent green is people!"

I'm sorry.