Irrelevant to the Outcome of the Story

Irrelevant to the Outcome of the Story December 5, 2014

A while back I came across this image of a conversation on The Big Bang Theory:


Today, IO9 linked to a webcomic that makes the same point. They called it “Indiana Jones and the Avoiders of the Lost Ark” but it could easily have been called “Indiana Jones – How It Should Have Ended”:

Indiana Jones Avoiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones - How It Should Have EndedIndiana Jones Avoiders of the Lost Ark 2

After thinking about this, I found myself wondering whether the same could be applied to the Bible. Are there any main characters who are actually irrelevant to how a Biblical story turns out, if you actually think about it?

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  • Johannes Richter

    If you think about it, all life is redundant. Nobody is relevant except through the stories that frame their meaning and significance. Without narrative, there would be no metanarrative to debate.

    GK Chesterton said somewhere ‘Every human being has forgotten who he is and where he came from. We are all blasted with one great obliteration of memory … We have forgotten our own meaning, and we are all wandering the streets without keepers.’ That’s the curious state we return to when our stories are undermined, when our intellect warns us that we are being taken for a ride and we refuse to indulge our “second naiveté”.

    There’s another popular example, where Gandalf simply takes the Eagles to Mordor and drops the ring into Mount Doom, saving everyone the journey and all the intrigue and anguish on the way. It completely takes the wind out of its sails, but even that act would still require the significance of the underlying story. Tales about Frodo’s sacrifices and Indiana Jones’s bravery are less about the denouement of the plot than about their roles in the greater story of resistance against evil. The only meaning to be found is in the role they played in the unfolding (hi)story, how they *participated*, regardless of the outcome.

    Counterfactuals might be a revealing exercise as it turns the observer’s uncritical gaze against him, and maybe it helps sceptics feel smug about pointing plot holes and out how everyone has the wool pulled over our eyes – like so many exposés about the Bible – but afterwards it feels like we lose more than just a good story, not something as trite as psychological comfort or a few hours of entertainment. It seems more like an undermining of the idea of relevance itself. In reality (!), it is impossible to separate the journey from the destination, or the end from the means. Without their unique individual stories, every character in myth and history would simply fade back into obscurity and (for popcorn-fed observers) irrelevance.

    So, does it matter whether Jesus appeared on the scene? Is there any significance in being a Christian? If God really wanted to save the world from sin, surely he could simply have moved the forbidden fruit out of reach and spared everyone all the intrigue and anguish along the way? If there is any main character in the Bible whose significance to how the universe has and will turn out is in question today, surely it’s God.

    • Bravo! The hero’s journey usually is more important than the destination due to the simple fact that they are not mentally/spiritually ready to arrive there yet.