Hope in the Void


A week ago I watched Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, a film about several astronauts desperately trying to survive a catastrophe that takes place in outer space.

I’ve been thinking about the movie a lot this week, and it isn’t due to the movie’s profound technical achievements.

It is a true spectacle, one of those movies that makes you wonder just how they actually filmed it. Did they really go into outer space?

It’s also riveting, you spend the entire movie gripping your armrest, wondering not just how the movie will end, but who will ultimately survive.

As good as those merits are, my mind keeps wandering back to the life implications that a fantasy movie laid out so brilliantly.

Nothing focuses us on survival quite like the fear of death does it?

In the face of disaster, our fear of perishing sharpens our senses and pushes out the insignificant uncomfortabilities that can plague our daily thoughts. The immediate clarity provided by our most primal fear immediately rearranges our priorities.

None of the astronauts mentioned nausea or dizziness when it became clear that their lives were on the line.

While this concept is a central element to most action and adventure films, Gravity isn’t content to harness it for suspense while orbiting the surface of the human psyche.

Gravity dives deeper into this subject matter than most films do. I think we’ve all seen Hollywood pictures utilize the survival instinct to produce immediate victory or achievement, but Cuaron rides the fear of dying straight into the face of human failure.

It forces the moment of confrontation that arrives as our greatest fear intersects with the loss of human hope.

Our survival instinct, blended with a healthy dose of hope, provides us with the mindset of courage needed to attempt the impossible. But without any hope of living, the fear of death actually captures our mind, defeats us, and slowly seduces us into giving in to its insistent urgings.

Death wants us, wants to have its way with us, and without any real hope we play right into its icy and unforgiving hands.

Nearly 2000 years ago Jesus, who came to deliver victory over death, said it like this:

“…whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If that doesn’t make much sense at first glance, it’s important to remember that the recorded words of Jesus are written in Greek, one of the most detailed and descriptive languages of antiquity.

The Greeks used two primary words to speak about life, the first ‘Bios’ was used to speak about life in its physical sense. We refer to it today when we talk about things in ‘Biological’ terms.

The second word is ‘Psuche’, a word used to speak about life in its mental or spiritual sense. We refer to it today when we speak about things in ‘Psychological’ terms.

In the Greek text of the Bible, Jesus uses the word ‘psuche’ as he talks about saving, losing, and ultimately finding ‘life’.

Jesus is essentially saying that anyone who hangs onto the human mindset, the natural way of thinking and living, will eventually find themselves in a place without any spiritual hope for living.

We will eventually come to the intersection of fear and despair… we will lose our life.

The beauty of Jesus is that he does not leave us without hope. He says that anyone who is willing to walk away from their “psuche” for HIS sake will ultimately find life.

While the death of Jesus defeated the power of sin over our minds and bodies, his resurrection to eternal life gives us hope that he has also defeated the power of death, not just in the way it places a claim on us, but in the way it seduces us into giving.

The sacrifice of Jesus, and obedience to his voice from beyond the grave, is what breaks the power of human despair and gives us the hope that propels us on our journey towards both life and home…

…and that’s as close to a spoiler as I’m going to give you.

The overwhelming power of Gravity comes from the fact that it isn’t simply thrilling us with high octane visual spectacle; it affirms that the human, life and death struggle against despair is won when we listen to the voice of the person whose sacrifice brings us hope.

While the fear of death does focus us to stay alive, overcoming that fear is what gives us the ability to truly live.

2 Responses to “Hope in the Void”

  1. Casey October 20, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    “but in the way it seduces us into giving.”
    Jon – can you clarify this piece a bit, please?

  2. Jon October 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    I think you are asking about this bit?

    “But without any hope of living, the fear of death actually captures our mind, defeats us, and slowly seduces us into giving in to its insistent urgings.”

    I’ve found that just about every person I know who has contemplated or attempted suicide inevitable describes a moment where dying (the very thing they’ve spent their life resisting) sudden’y becomes a very attractive option for them. Over time the thing they wanted nothing to do with ultimately becomes something quite comforting.

    The desire to stop living rarely leaps into our minds, it generally starts as a small thought that grows to occupy a significant portion of our private life. In this way I feel like death doesn’t overpower us, it slowly seduces us.

    Hope this helps.

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