First of all, my apologies to anyone who may have gotten a notification that I had published a post a couple of days ago. I was testing to something out, and had meant to save my “blank post” as a draft rather than publish it. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Mea culpa.
For parts one through three, click here
We begin with a quote-within-a-quote — in other words, with me referencing myself referencing a scene from Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.”
Mason, Jr. finds his mother crying at the kitchen table. Olivia notes a sudden realization that her life has been a mere series of benchmarks. She has kids. She gets married. She gets divorced. She gets married again. She graduates college. She finally gets the job she wants. Her kids graduate high school…
…a series of incidents, with nothing to connect them all.
“I guess I just thought there would be more,” she observes.
Interestingly, this way of experiencing life bears a small resemblance to animal consciousness. This, in fact, is part of what differentiates humankind from the animal kingdom. Animals have senses and instincts, and these facilitate all kinds of sensory/instinctual “experiences.” But an animal does not have an “I” to tie it all together; in other words, it doesn’t have personhood…an immortal soul.
To experience one’s life as a mere progression of milestones or experiences is as close as a human being can get to living the life of an animal. So we can see why it causes Olivia (Patricia Arquette) — and, by way of heredity, Mason, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) such angst. It is as if an animal — say, a kangaroo — were somehow forced to remain stationary, like a rock, tree, or other non-sentient creature; this would prevent it from doing what it is meant to do, and would therefore kill it.
So what is this “more” that we, as human beings, are wired for?
We have a bit of a clue in Mason’s query about the existence of elves. In addition to the many other traits that set us apart from the animals, we human beings have a peculiar tendency to look beyond ourselves. This is very much ingrained in the way we were made:
It is not good for (. . .) man to be alone
Of course, this verse refers primarily to the marital aspect of man’s existence, and to how a man and a woman complete one another. But since man is made for fellowship, he also seeks and desires friendship, partnership, filial bonds, etc.
But even these human bonds (wonderful and necessary as they are) are not enough. We will probably never know whether elves or fairies ever existed (not on this side of life, anyway), but I think the fact that people of almost all times and places have believed in some variation of them speaks to us of each person’s desire for fellowship — or at least coexistence — not only between him/herself and other persons, but between the human race and other kinds of persons.
We do, by way of revelation and faith, know that God created the angels — non-corporeal spirits who share with humankind the status of personhood, of the “I” — to watch over and guide us. Seeking fellowship with them would seem sensible. After all, if neither anything in this world nor even human companionship can ultimately satisfy us, wouldn’t it behoove us to look to creatures that are greater than ourselves?
But would even this be enough? Marvelous and splendid as he might be, an angel is a creature, and therefore limited. To limit oneself to a close friendship with one angel is to do so to the exclusion of countless others, each singular and unique. And lest we think we can solve that conundrum by putting stock in a generalized relationship with all of the angels — even one that involves varying degrees and kinds of relationship, as exist among human beings — a closer look would reveal that this, too, gives us only a higher and more beautiful series of phenomena that, like the events of Olivia’s life, are unrooted in someone or something solid.
What we yearn for is nothing less than infinite beauty, unlimited goodness, eternal truth…God Himself.
I really thought I’d be able to make it in four posts, but it looks like I’ll have to add one more. The next and final post will flesh out this last point in relation to the movie.
Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; image of angels from Wikipedia