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Lost-Three ultimate endings: All is black. All is one. All is well.
|May 24th, 2010
|Jimmy Kimmel touted his three comedic alternate endings to Lost. The following may not be story arcs for a blockbuster cast reunion, but what about these slightly more realistic alternatives:
All is black
Jack closes his eyes (or eye) and breathes his last. The chemical and electrical impulses in his brain fade and stop. Rigormortis sets in. His body decays there in the bamboo arbor. Dust to dust. It is the same end as the man in black. Same end as Ben. And Hurley, Kate, Sawyer and the rest. The choices they made in this life have no ultimate meaning beyond the experience of this life. The fellowship and community that means so much is lost forever. As is each individual. All is lost.
All is one
Jack closes his eyes and breathes his last. Wakes up in the sideways reality. Oceanic flight 815 has landed safely. He reconciles with his son, heals Lock and, touching his Father’s coffin, recovers the memories of his life on the island. All the choices he made to lead and love and sacrifice flash before his eyes in scene after scene of heartache and joy. The richness of the person he became through loss and love flood back into his soul. He is so much the deeper for it. Transformed by suffering and good choices, his joy is so much greater than that of the smaller life he was living.
Ben is outside. His selfish choices have made him a poorer person. The broken trust in all his relationships separates him from the loving fellowship of the community. Forgiveness is offered, but what happened happened. How does a lifetime of choosing self over others finally dissolve into choosing a loving, sacrificial community? That’s just not the person Ben has become. He’s not ready to join the community yet. He is in limbo? Purgatory? How will he reconcile or work out the consequences of his choices made from both great wounds and self-centered choices? We don’t know.
After the grand reunion the door opens. Christian Shepherd, Jack’s Dad, steps into the light. Reminds me of the eastern leaning The Fountain with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weiss. “Death is the beginning of awe.” But in that movie as well as all Eastern thought, death is also the end of individuality as each one finally transcends individual pain, selfishness, willfullness and desire to become one with the all.
What might happen in this sideways story line as each individual steps into the light? Perhaps, as in The Fountain, if the Source of all things is impersonal, then he or she ceases to exist as a person but is transported into an impersonal oneness with all others, with everything in the Universe. All the memories they have recovered of their individual lives are poured into the ocean of collective memory. Ultimately, all individuality is lost. There is no loving community of richly different individuals. Everything is connected and the unity eventually obliterates/subsumes the individuality. For to create is to choose. To choose is to have a will. How does creation or a collective will exist without the loss of individuality?
They step through the door and become one with the light and the water at the heart of the island. Golden and glowing and ??? bubbling? Existence ends in impersonal being. All is one.
All is well
Jack closes his eyes and breathes his last. Wakes up in the loving community of friends, some who died before him, some after. As each one steps through the chapel door they step into the light that radiates, not from an impersonal wellspring, but from a Person. The greater which has created the lesser. (How can it be the other way around? How can an impersonal source of light and water create the richness of human love, life and complexity we’ve seen on the screen?
The recovered memories and the richness of their heroic acts and choices go with them. They remain the individuals we have come to know and love. Nothing of their individuality is lost. Not even their flaws. Their poor choices have been redeemed. They don’t have to work them off or be separated from the sacred circle. Forgiveness has been freely offered by the one who waits for them and loves them far more deeply than they love one another. Who became the evil and selfishness of their own lives and died in their place, but who was resurrected from the grave to offer them forgiveness and life. Even Ben. All is mercy and grace for those who choose to be reconciled with their Creator in the way he has provided. By his stripes, the scars from the whip lashes, all their wounds are healed. It is a beautiful mythology, a true myth, as CS Lewis has said. One that mirrors and yet transcends our own experience of how suffering and sacrifice and choosing others over self bring richness, life and joy. (In mho far more beautiful and meaningful than the mythology of impersonal electromagnetic light holding all things together and turning greedy, selfish people into smoke monsters.)
As Jack and Kate, Sun and Jen, Sawyer and Juliette step into the light of eternity, not simply one person awaits, rather a loving community of three persons, whose individuality and community are mirrored in these lives. The end of all things is co-participation—with each other and with the Father, Son and Spirit who protect and make good on promises and yet offer real choices with real consequences that ripple out into eternity. And if Ben remains on the outside, never ready to go in, that is Ben’s choice to be truly and deeply lost.
Those who enter find themselves in a new story. An unfolding plot far more exciting than mere existence. They continue to live individual lives of challenge and choices, service and leadership in a community of ever-deepening love. Life together becomes richer, deeper, higher and above all, more joyful. Nothing is lost but pain and separation. All is well.
Posted by @ 6:55
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May 19th, 2009
It’s high graduation season—the time when Valedictorians and VIPs rifle their mental files for Something Significant to say about new beginnings and the quest for the good life. This week on The Things That Matter Most Lael’s radio interview with Faith and Culture contributor Dallas Willard explored how we can have reliable knowledge about success. The interview began with questions about an essay in Atlantic Monthly. Journalist Joshua Wolf Shenk was allowed access to the archives of The Grant study, a long range Harvard research project that asked, What Makes us Happy? What should one do to live a successful life?
A team of doctors, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists and psychiatrists followed 268 of the brightest and best and most well adjusted Harvard sophomores (including JFK) to document the scientific answer. But the baffling variety of outcomes of these lives shows just how elusive the scientists found the answer to be. David Brooks summarized the findings in the New York Times: “A third of the men would suffer at least one bout of mental illness. Alcoholism would be a running plague. The most mundane personalities often produced the most solid success…There is a complexity to human affairs before which science and analysis simply stand mute.”
The study offered one major scientifically quantifiable conclusion: Relationships Bring Happiness.
Dallas pointed out that not just any relationship brings happiness. Even a mugger has a certain relationship with his victim. While Universities and Americans in general are focused upon pursuing success and happiness, the more basic questions are, What is real? Who is a good person and how do we become a good person with good relationships? According to the Grant study nothing is more important for happiness and well-being.
And yet, as Dallas pointed out, our schools and Universities rarely teach this subject. There is no Department of Reality or Goodness or even Well Being. No course on Being a Good Person. (Who would teach it?)
From A Faith and Culture Devotional: Sociologist David Brooks writes in On Paradise Drive, “If you ask professors whether they seek to instill [good] character, they often look at you blankly. They are on campus to instill calculus, or 19th-century history. ‘We’ve taken the decision that these are adults and this is not our job,’ one Princeton professor once told me in an interview. ‘We’re very conservative about how we steer.’ ‘They steer themselves,’ said that school’s dean of undergraduate students.”
Kelly writes, “Here we see…the difficulty of steering college students to develop a shared vision of [good] character or purpose for their education when they are offered athletic and social experiences, both visceral and often visual, rather than a larger story in which to live and thrive.”
In Lael’s interview with Dallas on his newly launched book, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, Willard discussed how we can have knowledge of what it means to be a good person: “Basically, what is good is what you would choose if you knew its ultimate outcome. Desire does not think that far ahead – it’s just wanting what it wants when it wants it. But Americans don’t consider alternatives or the long run. They wind up confusing desire and goodness – and that childish attitude becomes the dominate modus operandi of our culture. We have a will and it’s designed to choose what is good and not be the victim of desire. If you are raised in our culture, you have no place to stand against desire.”
Jesus offers a place to stand, a platform of spiritual knowledge we can trust—especially knowledge of how to be good and have good relationships.
Quoting Willard from Faith and Culture/The Divine Conspiracy, which we did on the show, “Jesus is not just nice, he is brilliant He is the smartest man who ever lived …. He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life. In our culture Jesus Christ is automatically dis-associated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as well-informed, brilliant, or smart. Einstein, Bill Gates, and the obligatory rocket scientists will stand out.
“What lies at the heart of the astonishing disregard of Jesus found in the moment-to-moment existence of multitudes of professing Christians is a simple lack of respect for him. He is not seriously considered or presented as a person of great ability.”
Willard challenged our listeners or any thoughtful person to a straightforward comparison between Jesus and anyone else offering answers on how to live a successful life. “Jesus would run well in the race with [famous philosophers like Freud and Nietzsche or other founders of religions like Buddha and Mohammed] because of his answers to these basic questions. Test his words against any of the others.
“Take Freud, thought to be a profoundly brilliant man. But just try to live by Freud or Nietzsche. And then contrast that with the words of Jesus – that’s the easiest way. Among human beings…What works? Compare them and you’ll see that this man Jesus was way out ahead of the pack.
“Look at the effect of Jesus on human history. It’s difficult now because, in order to see Jesus clearly, you have to get past the mistakes of historical Christendom. But it is not an accident that in terms of numbers, Christianity is the largest religion on the planet. Go to the heart of the teaching to assess its truth. The effect of Jesus for GOOD – was far superior to any other person who has addressed these issues.”
Given Jesus’ track record it is astonishing to think that his teaching is exiled from today’s University curriculum. If we, and especially our graduates, want to look for knowledge of how to be a good person and what makes for good relationships we need look no further than Jesus.
The programs will air on KSEV May 24th and 31st at 9:00 AM Central and will be posted on our website and iTunes soon after.
Willard and 70+ other authors, scientists and artists offer more insights into living a successful life in A Faith and Culture Devotional. In this graduation season here’s what two teens have said about the book:
“My generation excels at separating religion from ‘everything else.’ Faith and Culture successfully meshes these two subjects, and the mixture is hardly forced. The reader is immersed into two-page articles about topics relevant to our everyday lives, and is simply prompted to look at the underlying messages. Perfect grad gift.”
- Mitanjeli, college freshman, 18
“This book took me by surprise. Not once have I found a devotional so full of fascinating information that I find myself telling my friends about it right after I read it. I love that it has truth, real truth, but in bite-size chunks. With my school schedule I never have time for heavy theology books to just pick up in my spare time, but this gives me answers to questions that I frequently hear and can now confidently know how to answer without having to be a studied expert on the subject. Big fan!”
- Natalie, high school junior, 16
Posted by larrington @ 04:59
May 7th, 2009
Ben Wiker comments on an intellectually fulfilled atheist’s and famous British novelist’s gradual recovery of the richness and simplicity of the gospel. This article, as well as additional commentary, may be found at To the Source. Dr. Wiker is the author of F&CD entry on the deep design on the Periodic Table of Elements:
I still remember the taste of ashes in my soul reading A. N. Wilson’s biography of C. S. Lewis. It was filled with the kind of meticulous spite that can only be mustered by someone entirely bent on chipping away at a larger-than-life figure until he is largely unrecognizable, riddled with pock marks and imperfections. I sensed that I was not getting a representation of Lewis, but rather, a glimpse of the atheist Wilson himself and his thinly disguised contempt for so great a Christian apologist.
Looking back on it, I would dare to suggest that what animated Wilson’s spiteful treatment was a deep anger and frustration that Lewis, his intellectual superior, could waste his talents on something so infantile and obviously inferior as Christianity. If he was that evidently smart, why couldn’t Lewis—like Wilson—see that the whole God thing was a sham?
Wilson just couldn’t understand, and so in writing about Lewis, he searched under every psychological rock to find evidence that Lewis’s great intellect had been deformed by some hidden twist in his soul, and bent unnaturally to the defense of Christianity.
This Easter found that same Mr. Wilson in church among the faithful, singing the praises of the Risen Christ, a believer once again, a man who had experienced the heady thrill of casting away all belief in God thereby freeing himself from all ultimate claims, and then gradually, humbly recognized how small-minded and trendy his whole anti-God phase had been. Looking back on it all, Wilson wondered, “Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?”
“Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.
To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.
This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.
It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.”
What ultimately changed Wilson’s mind? There was no dramatic, sudden conversion experience; just a slow, sure recognition that atheism rang hollow. Life was too deep, too rich for mere materialism.
“My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.
Rather than being cowed by them [the anti-religious smart-set], I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.
But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.
The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people’s lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.
Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love—whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends—and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves.”
And what of all the atheists he left behind, all his fellow comrades in the struggle against belief? Wilson accuses them, not of dishonesty, but a certain woodenness of soul.
“When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.
Posted by larrington @ 03:54
February 21st, 2009
Thanks to several of you for joining conversations about “Faith & Culture” at
Jubilee in Pittsburgh.
And at Osprey Point MD and the Trinity Forum Academy. The weekend included talks, meals, walks with Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project who is one of our contributors. I also spoke — on “Finding God Beyond Harvard: the Quest for Veritas” and on “Faith and Culture.” Other FCD contributors will be speaking next year at the Trinity Academy including Os Guinness and Bill Edgar.
Q&A: Francis Collins & Kelly Monroe Kullberg in conversation with Trinity participants.
Dr. Collins is a great guitar player. Worship along with Will and Kelly. Note the DNA double-helix on neck of guitar.
Some of the Trinity Fellows and staff, St. Michael’s, MD. Women and men there are taking 8 months to plan and prepare for God to use them in various sectors of culture: the arts, law, theology, justice re: human trafficking, business… One woman hopes to finish med school and then work to reform and refine the field of psychiatry.
This photo is from a weekly Bible study on women — Ruth, Esther, Rahab… and how they chose life and honored the Lord by simply doing the next faithful thing in the moment. Eg. Ruth wasn’t likely thinking, “I’ll go out into the fields and meet the man of my dreams, become wealthy and then give birth to the great, great….grandfather of the Messiah and Savior of the world.” She was likely, humbly thinking and acting, “Hmmm, Naomi and I are hungry and the God of Israel will provide for us so I’ll go, tired as I am, and receive what He gives us…”Wow. What a great reminder. Same with Rahab. Same with Esther. All were sisters to Mary who also was available to choose life and bear the Word into the world in the moments and opportunities given.
More info at http://www.ttf.org/academy/integrity.html
Posted by larrington @ 18:52
February 9th, 2009
Good thoughts for Valentine’s Day from our devo:
“Plato: Lover of Truth, Beauty and the Good, by John Mark Reynolds, p.62
“A Conversation with Muslims” by Erwin McManus, p. 38
“The Grand Affair: The Imago Dei and Intimacy by John Eldredge, p. 41
“Sex, Intimacy and Worship” by Bruce Herman, p. 73
This week enliven your small group, friends or couples gathering, dorm circle or family night with a page from A Faith and Culture Devotional. Invite everyone to bring something that speaks to love using one of the categories of the devo:
Bible and Theology: a verse or something God has taught you about love from his word
History: a story of love that captures how God and people have loved well, inspired you
Philosophy: a great idea about love
Science: what nature shows us about love
Literature: your favorite love poem or story
Art: an image or music that inspires love
Contemporary Culture: news item, movie moment, link to share on love
Encourage everyone to let their imaginations fly! Create something original or show something they’ve found. Come prepared to read, sing, show or tell. We can enrich one another’s lives with, as Dante said, that “love that moves the sun and the other stars.”
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).
PLEASE SHARE WITH US YOUR OWN CELEBRATION OF LOVE AND CULTURE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
Posted by larrington @ 06:17
January 30th, 2009
In A Faith and Culture Devotional we invite you to join a conversation with people who think deeply and live in the largest Story, full of beauty and truth, rich in romance and passion. People who make you feel alive! We’ve been privileged to meet such people on our journey—in books and CD’s, classrooms and living rooms, Ivy League chapels and radio studios. We’ve enjoyed a feast of great ideas, people and events and want to share the riches.
We are deeply grateful for our seventy plus contributors, many of whom have spoken for the Veritas Forum or discussed The Things that Matter Most on Lael’s radio program. We have not always agreed on all things, but on the “first thing” of Jesus Christ. Such people are contagious. We sharpen one another. We become a community of learning, and of adventure.
Each contributor may feel a bit silly as we so–writing so little about so much. But our hope is to whet appetites and instincts for knowledge of the glory of God. Volumes have been written on each entry subject. Perhaps several entries will inspire you towards libraries and bookstores, labs, museums and concert halls. And the conversation continues over on our Facebook group: A Faith And Culture Devotional. Please drop by! Have fun learning and growing as seekers and believers in an age so numbed by noise, image and haste and so starved for knowledge, wisdom and joy.
Because we have discovered that it is possible to love God’s Truth as principle and precept, as a feast for the intellect, yet live without the same passion for God’s Truth as a Person, we offer both information and inspiration. In the past, each of us has told stories of journeys through pain and brokenness to a place where we have begun to love God deeply from the head and the heart, Kelly in the Academy (Finding God Beyond Harvard) and Lael in the suburbs (Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of Our Hearts).
We could never have known as we wrote and edited this book over the past two years how fragile the times would be when it was released. More than ever, we see the value of Jesus’ invitation to draw close. “Abide in my love… let my words abide (dwell) in you… that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full…Apart from me you can do nothing.” May each glimpse of his glory in history or science or art draw you closer to our great God, the Living Treasure who generously gives himself to us.
Thanks for joining us as we relearn and renew our wonder together.
Kelly and Lael
Posted by larrington @ 19:02