Friday, December 26, 2008

Its a Wonderful Life ( a great SF Classic )

You know this classic.

What you may not realize is that it is a science fiction classic.

O.K. - maybe "science fantasy" because it has angels doing the work of altering reality - but in all other cases, its plot flies as strongly as the episodes "City on the Edge of Forever" and "Mirror, Mirror" from Star Trek: The Original Series.

Also, in film, Back to the Future and The Butterfly Effect and even Sliding Doors all have relied on this alternate reality concept: life is a series of events, linked in a chain - change one, you change them all. Change the past, and you change the future.

Some doubt this sophistry in a post-modern society, and I can see why. It places a huge emphasis on the responsibility of individual decisions and actions. It also means that you can be a slave, a victim of your past. But taken in the right context, with an ordinate amount of wisdom and respect for human responsibility, it affirms the power of a man or woman to brighten or darken the world - or at least the areas of responsibility they have.
- A mother leaves her children. This has consequences - for the rest of their lives.

- A father decided to remain fathful to his invalid wife and thus his family - this has consequences for the rest of their lives.

- A child decides to embrace drugs as a means of comfort. Another decides that education is more important.

All these "personal decisions" impact all the lives connected to that person.

In Its a Wonderful Life, George Bailey desperately wants to get out of Bedford Falls. Yet, time and time again, this "bright, talented young man" does not get his wish. Instead, he has to do business with an incompetent uncle, support an 'act first, think later' brother and eek out a living, having made a home out of an ancient run-down manse he "wouldn't live in if [he] were a ghost!"

Money is the perennial problem. He never has enough. Yet Potter, the Scrooge of Bedford Falls has loads of it. He - through the mishandling by his uncle AND the conniving of Potter - is placed in a "no-win" scenario. He considers suicide to 'save' his family financially, rather than face prison and scandal.

Enter Clarence Oddbody, a second-class angel, who saves George's life by pretending to risk his own and temporarily diverts George from his path of self-destruction. But (and this is where it gets good) he cannot change George's perception of reality. George is so consumed with his lost dreams, his "missed opportunities" and is facing such a terrific ruin, he cannot see that the purpose of his life was not for himself.

It was to serve others. Clarence finally gives up on reason. He decides on a rather chilling tactic to awaken George to the reality of his calling. When George complains "I guess it'd been better if I had never been born..." he acquiesces and says "That might work..."

He then has George Bailey's existence removed from the timestream, from ALL human existence. Retroactively. In a heartbeat, George Bailey ceases to exist.

Oddbody makes him a Nobody. George wanted to commit suicide. Well, this angel does him one better and gives him NON-EXISTENCE.



This movie has often been ridiculed, and for good reason (in our worldly eyes).

It places humility, service to the weak-minded and submitting to the divine plan of God as superior to self-actualization. We can't stand that message.

George should have had Uncle Billy institutionalized, put Mary on birth control and forced Harry his brother to work at the Baily Building and Loan while HE got an education! What a moron!

He gave up his dreams - and for what? So he could serve a bunch of stupid people who run around like cattle whenever Mr. Potter prods them? Who jump whenever the old man yanks his chain?

Yes. That's exactly what he should do. You see, George is a pragmatic man in many ways, but he is still a man of deep-rooted morals and a man of faith. This film starts off with prayers to God for him, then George prays in a bar with tears streaming down his face and ends with him praying for God to send him back. "I don't care what happens to me - send me back! Please God - I want to live again!"

I want you to note one thing in that particular scene though.

When George prays for Clarence to help him, to send him back, nothing happens.

But when George prays to God, the snowfall begins, signifying that he has indeed returned to Bedford Falls and left Pottersville - for good.

"Pottersville" is in each of our hearts if you think about it. Where dancing and drunkness and desperation are all mixed together. We are crushed by our lack of ability and only the very worldly can survive in such an environment - or the very otherworldly.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Do not be so heavenly-minded you are no earthly good!"?

Its a piece of crap.

It is those who are MOST "heavenly-minded" - yes I mean that in style as well as in faith - that CAN do the most earthly good. As C. S. Lewis said: "Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither," and "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this [one]."

George Bailey has lost sight of what his life was truly about. He even says "I got a punch in the face as an answer to my prayer!" Clarence corrects him: "Oh no, George - I'm the answer to your prayer!"

You will get punched, lied about and bamboozled by worldlings, make no doubt. That's not from God. That's from men.

But if you really want to have a wonderful life - or just want to discover the wonder of YOUR life - you will need to look not to sinful men, but to a loving God.

"Behold, I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. You will find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord."

Once George sees what his life has meant and it has all been God's doing, placing him in the gap to stop the schemes of old man Potter, joy enters his life.

Unquenchable joy.

"I'm going to jail - isn't that wonderful!?!"

Well, thankfully, George does NOT go to jail - and Potter's scheme is foiled. But George said this when he did not know the outcome. He had seen the light, as we say.

May you see the light too - no matter how terrible your current circumstances - and accept the plans God has for you, this season.

Amen.

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