So, the other day a young woman asks me about movies. During the conversation, I brought up the actress Katherine Hepburn. She had no clue as to who Katherine Hepburn was. I found this unsettling because Ms. Hepburn’s screen skills have only been outshone by those of Meryl Streep. And Hepburn’s coupling with Spencer Tracy gave us memorable movies such as Woman of the Year, Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike, and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. It’s difficult for me as an appreciator of this art form to imagine these films being forgotten. Yet, they are, by a generation endlessly bombarded by a glut of made-for-cable quality entertainment, most as mindless as a swirl of cotton candy.
Am I saying films from long ago were better than today? Well, many were. While I am impressed with several of this year’s Best Picture nominees for Oscar’s nod, I’d have trouble placing any of them alongside Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, Lawrence of Arabia, It’s a Wonderful Life, All About Eve or On the Waterfront. But today’s movies vs. yesterday’s is not really the point of this column.
Past people who brought dimension to our world are now forgotten, some merely fodder for humor. “Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, how was the play?” Not so arguably the greatest leader of our nation now the centerpiece of a lame joke. No matter the archival achievements of mankind, they tend to become overshadowed by the tasks at hand of a newer generation. This could raise the question, are we just marking time? Does anything we do last? And if John Wayne or Katherine Hepburn or Abraham Lincoln can be forgotten, who would possibly remember me?
Either we are a cosmic joke, an accident caused from a big bang, or from a fish who shimmied up the beach until he could finally stand – and breathe – and not be eaten by some already evolved life form. Or, people were placed here by a higher power to fulfill his will. If the former is true, then there really is little reason for our existence. But, if the latter is true, then Christ’s words in Matthew 6:18 remind us that an Omniscient power takes note of our deeds: “…and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Many nonbelievers have argued over the years that a belief in a hereafter is man’s way of dealing with mortality. I suppose they could be right. We’ll all know better by and by. But, because there is a spiritual aspect of man’s nature, the theory “when you’re dead you’re dead,” doesn’t really hold up for me. Even Hollywood has borne witness to life having a spiritual aspect to it as well as a mental and physical reality.
For instance, The Passion of the Christ details the final 12 hours of Christ’s life, when mankind was allowed to destroy his human life in order that we might have an eternal one. And Signs, a sci-fi thriller that harkens back to H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, has an intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. Are the details of life governed merely by happenstance? Or are they a part of a great plan? Do things happen by chance or do they purposely serve to develop our nature? It’s a film that asserts we are more than mental and physical beings. I left the theater reminded that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
It’s not important that we are forgotten by our fellow man. It is not important that the temporal becomes lost in the sands of time. “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). In the terminology of a sports manager, we should be playing for the Coach, not the stands. They forget. He doesn’t.
BTW: If we did merely descend from monkeys in the trees or fish in the seas, then why are there still monkeys in the tress and fish in the seas? What, are they underachievers?
It’s sad when great art is forgotten, but far more tragic when we lose sight of eternal matters. The more we study God’s Word, the more the Spirit reveals God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice.
The purpose of this piece: don’t forget to read your Bible. Every day.