Over the weekend, we watched a little indy film that we liked a lot, The Giant Mechanical Man:
The protagonists are both struggling, in large part because they are social misfits; in a world that demands you have your goals lined up, your sites set and your trajectories launched without a shred of doubt, they are not sure what they want, what they even like or what they think. All they know is they don’t want to be part of all that doing and going unless it has an authentic relation to their being.
At one point, they compare notes on friends and family, and one of the characters deplores the modern utilitarian mindset that seems to demand that we justify our existence, that we demonstrate the point and value of our lives in order for them to be permitted and deemed credible enough for respect.
It’s not a religious movie, but its head and its heart are in all the right places.
I thought of it while reading this piece at Tony’s blog:
All too often today, we judge people’s lives not on their inherent value and dignity, but by what they can contribute to the world, by whether or not their lives are a “burden.” Our culture is slipping down a dangerous slope which says that these lives have no purpose and are not worth living. Some even go so far as to deem it “compassionate” to end these lives.
The testimony of real people, though, proves that every life does have value, no matter how powerless that life may seem. . .Over the weekend, [Washington Examiner columnist] Tim Carney shared a beautiful reflection about the meaning of [his nephew's] life and death.
Here’s an excerpt:
Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. This is our purpose. This view is not uniquely Christian. It’s understood in other religions and in secular worldviews.
In this regard, John Paul lived a superior life. He exuded love. Before he lost control of his facial muscles, he beamed smiles that made grown men sob. Babies can love those around him with the pure, unconditional love we all should show.
Also, JP drew love from others. Neighbors, relatives and strangers cooked meals and gave time, equipment and money to help the Kilners. JP’s brothers and sister showered him with affection. And Pat and Elena sacrificed immensely to care for him.
Before the wake at St. Patrick’s in Rockville, during an observance called Stations of the Cross, we read a Gospel passage in which Christ explains our duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the sick.
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,” the Lord says in this passage, “you did for me.”
Clearly a call to charity, this is also an exaltation of parenthood. Even moreso, this exalts the work of caring for helpless JP.
Tribulations both reveal character and form it. JP’s struggles revealed his parents’ heroic virtue and fostered virtue in others.
When we reach the point that we measure our lives by how useful they can be, what resources they demand and what credit can be given to a life, we’re dangerously close to gas ovens.