My kids forewarned me that a new season of “13 Reasons Why” just came out on Netflix, knowing how I felt when this series originally came out. The schools and youth groups were sending texts and emails warning us that this suicidal story aimed at youth audiences was a talking point, if not a warning of contagious ideas. As a former youth minister and counselor, I have seen the contagious effects of suicidal ideation. Some say that watching these shows helps us understand the crisis of depression that is going on in our culture. As St Teresa of Calcutta used to impart, the greatest poverty in the world exists in the west, and it is that of loneliness; no doubt a source point of this crisis.
The issues of loneliness and depression are important and should be addressed, but watching images of someone struggling with these situations may be feeding a monster. Why don’t we, instead of enlarging a dark picture of hopelessness, enlarge the greater picture of the beauty of life and God’s creation? Why don’t we turn off dark images, and look at look up into the sky and ponder how God is everywhere? Or bend down low on the ground and watch through the grass at the ants and their network of life going on in the soil beneath us. God cares about all of that small detail, as well as those stars millions of miles away; and at the same time every hair on your head which are numbered because YOU, dear one, are precious. (Luke 12:7).
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22)
I was in what I mistakenly call the “Cardiac Cinema” (that gets a chuckle from my family…it’s cardio-cinema for those enjoy working out maybe?) and the feature film of the day was “Joe Verses The Volcano” (1990 Rom Com, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan) and I didn’t see the whole movie, just a 40 minute clip. But what I did see brought tears to my eyes. A man with six months to live knowingly goes on a secret adventure that will end in his demise, however, when everything goes terribly wrong, and he is faced with a more immediate death, he wakes up out of his numbness to a full moon the size of a house, and screams “Thank you for my life!” several times in a row. It was such a life-affirming moment; a truly authentic gratitude for God’s gift of life and His creation.
Before I actually recommend watching Joe Verses the Volcano, I think I better catch the ending first. But if you are a parent or youth minister, or just have a group of friends or a prayer group, and you want a life-affirming clip to take a lesson of turning our eyes toward God, His goodness and creation, this would be a gem.
Here are some quotes for discussion points;
Patricia: My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.
Joe Banks: Dear God, whose name I do not know – thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG… thank you. Thank you for my life. (as he is staring at the big full moon).
“All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” Message to Catholics taking part in annual Day for Life in Britain and Ireland July 28, 2013
“. . . we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.” (Evangelium Vitae)