I joke around a lot here about my impending birthday… you know, my inevitable rush headfirst into middle age. It’s rapidly approaching now, and it’s causing me a lot of… reflection.
They say this will happen.
I can look back at the first 40 years of my life and realize that I probably have around 40 more, give or take a few decades. What have I accomplished? Does it really matter? Would the world be just the same if I had never been born?
These questions have been rattling around in my brain and have been amplified this weekend after … seeing a movie. We’ve been visiting relatives in another state and they kindly agreed to watch the kids while we went on our annual trip to a movie theater to see something other than the latest kid flick.
We chose The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Has anyone seen this?
The plot is fascinating. Benjamin Button (played by Bratt Pitt) is born into the world as an old man. He’s a little tiny baby, but he has all of the ailments of, say, a 90-year-old man. While the rest of the world grows a little older, day by day, Benjamin keeps getting younger.
The story is about finding true love. When he is a child (trapped in the body of an old man) he meets a real child (played by Cate Blanchett) who can see in his eyes that he is really very young. Their paths continue to cross until they both reach the midsection of their lives — when they are about equal in age.
The movie is heartbreaking as the two later move in opposite directions on the age spectrum. He keeps getting younger. She keeps getting older. For nearly three hours they age.
And in the end, they both return to the place from which they came. Just as they once gained the ability to focus, crawl, walk, run, eat, talk, read, play the piano and dance, they slowly lose those skills one by one. Just as we all will.
The movie is supposed to show that despite their differences, these two found what really matters: true love. But it’s depressing and agonizing that they can’t fully enjoy their lives together at the beginning and end where one is old and one is young. In his effort to deal with the hopelessness, Benjamin travels. He moves around the world. He tries different jobs. He tries to experience as much as possible as he continues to grow younger.
And even though he aged in an opposite direction, his fate is the same as that of everyone else around him who has grown old and then died.
Is that all there is? Birth, play, work, fall in love, raise children, travel, get old, work Sudoku puzzles, die?
This movie had an even greater impression on me because only days earlier my grandmother had moved into a nursing home. This woman who has been part of my life as long as I have lived is now facing the end of her days. She’s a strong woman and, even at 95, she could be here another decade or more. But her new home is, most likely, the last place she will live.
The few material possessions that she has left will be given away. She doesn’t need much in her little room in the nursing home. And yet, she was so happy to be there. So happy to be in a warm room where nurses will take good care of her. And she didn’t seem to care at all that none of her stuff would be coming with her.
“I hope you can find someone to give my things to,” she would say. “And if you can’t, give them to the Salvation Army.”
She really seemed so happy. According to the movie, she also had found meaning here on Earth. She had found true love with my grandfather. They had spent their lives together until a few years ago when he died.
She has traveled and worked. Raised kids and made friends. But she believes there is more to her life than the places she has been and the things she has done. Unlike Benjamin Button, she has hope.
And then yesterday, we went to visit the Creation Museum, which is here in northwest Kentucky.
It presents two very different views on life.
The first is that the earth is millions of years old. At some point, an event occurred that brought life from primordial goo. Plants and animals evolved to become all of the life forms that we now see on the planet. The ability for females to become pregnant and give birth to intricate little creatures who somehow come out with the same genetic code as their parents is the result of this random event. Those babies grow old and then die and become dirt. And that’s it.
The other view is that the earth was not created by a random act at all. God spoke. He created. He formed. He planned. He sent a savior.
We live. We have meaning. We have hope. There is a point. We have a future beyond the day we die.
Ahh, yes… I have been doing some reflecting as I face the midsection of my life. And, thankfully, the future is full of hope.