Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gattaca: There is No Gene for the Human Spirit

I am re-listening to the soundtrack for Gattaca, and its breaking my heart again.

I saw this "near future" sci-fi movie 12 years ago at beginning of my spiritual journey with Jesus. It grabbed my heart, this story of Vincent, a 'defective' natural birth - a "God child" as they are called - who wanted to travel into space, but was considered unfit because of his less than desirable genetic code.

To accomplish his goal, Vincent must surreptitiously borrow "a ladder" (the DNA code used for identification in biometric scanners) from a "perfect" man, Jerome (played by Jude Law) - one who had all the undesirable traits removed from his DNA.

The story centers around a murder mystery that ultimately reveals Vincent as an imposter, but, in a beautiful backhand, he is saved at the last minute by a sympathetic soul who already knew he was not what he purported to be.

Vincent's striving to beat all the odds against him are the stuff most American films are made of. What makes this film memorable is that hope and sorrow are both so well presented in the music and in the decisions of the principals. When one decides to give his life to insure Vincent's 'identity' is never endangered again, we are struck by his love for Vincent - for there is no other reason for him to do this, to give his very life.

There is breath-taking suspense along with the pathos in this film: will Vincent succeed in his "crime" of being imperfect when a true crime - a violent murder - has taken place? This film strikes a strange chord in me like a film-noir with an almost happy ending. I think I felt the same way as I finished watching On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando - you know, the one where he says "I coulda' been a contender; I coulda' been somebody - instead of a nobody."

You see, you can do many things through training, desire, effort and will, but without love - and a great sacrifice for love - you will continue to be a nobody in this world, for it is set up only to recognize the ones it favors: the perfect, the beautiful, the rich, the movers & shakers. There is a trump card: love.

Jesus did that. He turned us nobodies into somebodies the day He died for us.

"For the son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many."

Jesus ransoms us from despair, from our physical inabilities, from our lack of education. Jesus was loved by the very least of his society - the disenfranchised, the ugly, the deformed, the bitter and argumentative, the women of ill repute.

We were studying the death of Christ last night, and I was listening to this soundtrack from Gattaca and it all ran together in my head: the wrenching heartbreak of those women, wailing as the only man who treated them good was dying in front of their eyes. The shock and awe of the Roman centurion as darkness fell on the land; Christ cried out and the ground shook.

The most terrible day in human history was THAT day. Yet it was also the day that brought hope for the saints, as Christ paid for them to live and inherit the stars.

In Gattaca, there is a scene I cannot forget: Vincent is swimming out into the ocean at night, in competition with his "perfect" brother, Anton. The goal: swim out as far as you can, and the first one who turns back loses.

Vincent beat Anton years ago, and it was the turning point in their relationship.

After minutes of punishing strokes into the darkness, Vincent's brother stops, gasping for breath, and treading water "Vincent! How are you doing this, Vincent? How have you done any of this?"

Vincent replies, "You want to know how did it?"

"This is how I did it Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back."

If we as Christ-followers want to understand and know the love of Jesus Christ, we are going to have to do something insane.

We are going to have love and live like we are going to die today.

We can't save anything "for the swim back."

He did not, and it saved our souls.

Let us accept that gift in the spirit it was intended and reciprocate unequivocally.


p.s. The ending of Gattaca [with MAJOR Spoilers, do NOT watch if you have not seen the movie, please], also shows the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ and what it means for us amazingly well. Watch again if you HAVE seen the movie: "Maybe I'm Going Home".

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