Today I watched Don’t Look Up, a film on Netflix. I had already planned to watch since the trailer premiered, it looked fantastic and I believe that Leonardo DiCaprio should probably be officially classified as a national treasure. Then, last week, a Very Great Friend texted me that I just HAD to watch this movie as soon as possible so we could discuss it. This friend is deeply trusted – the last time I got a text like this was for Into The Spider-Verse, and we all know how that one turned out.
It’s about a comet (referred to as a “Planet Killer” by one of the characters) and it’s path towards the Earth. I’ll try to not tell you how it turns out, but I make no promises.
Sunday night a different Very Great Friend’s mother passed away suddenly, without any warning. They had shared a wonderful Christmas a week earlier. Seriously, there was no warning. Yesterday another Very Great Friend’s uncle passed, and the day before we received word that a young husband/dad was declining in the hospital. These last 2 years (maybe it’s the last 2,000 or 200,000 years, and I just haven’t been paying attention quite as closely as I am right now) have been an endless painful parade of suffering and loss.
How does this relate to some Netflix original? What does this have to do with a Hollywood produced 2 hours of political propaganda? (I’m only a little kidding about that propaganda jab – it is, but it’s quite a bit more than that.) What does this have to do with comets and yet another amazing Meryl Streep performance and a yet another slimy Jonah Hill character? And what does any of this have to do with Christmas Eve and the book of Genesis? Turns out a lot.
The end of the film has a small group of people sitting around a table talking about gratitude, enjoying a meal together, and the line, “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” This was after 6 months of forgetting/ignoring what exactly they had, chasing all sorts of different threads around and around. It’s strikingly similar to a Bible verse, practically a paraphrase of the passage in Genesis. Jacob wakes from a dream and says, “God was here all along, and I was unaware.” And I missed it. We usually don’t know when our mothers or uncles will be gone, the last time we shared was usually unremarkable, spent distracted, or in the worst cases, fighting. We say, “if I had known, I wouldn’t have missed it, I wouldn’t have gone to sleep. I would have….” (That is what the Christmas message was about this year; A baby was born and the people then & now missed it, they/we were unaware.)
The best scene of the movie was 7 people sitting around a table, some of them family, in the sense that they were husbands & wives, sons & daughters, and the rest of them the sort of family that isn’t born, it’s made. They look different, with wildly varied experiences and perspectives, but they held hands in prayer and love. It was the best part of the movie but it’s also the best part of life, having each other to hold our hands, to love and be loved. Doesn’t that sound exactly like The Church, and what the local church is called to be?
I’ve been thinking about a lot this New Year, what has been lost and as variants rise dramatically, what will be lost. A few weeks ago I concluded that the last year was a good one, mostly because my table was also full of both types of family. Maybe the biggest thing COVID stole was our families, our tables. And maybe the true cost was our awareness of our right here and right now, our gratitude, our attention, our experience of these divine moments. We’ll take them for granted, like we do everything else, and eventually have to say, mournfully, “I just didn’t know.”
I know that I very often write about this. I think it’s because I’ve missed so much, the Genesis verse is so profound to me because I’ve woken up with that kind of heartache. Now, the truth is, I can’t think of anything else we can do that is more important than to remind each other that we are loved, we are here now, and we are together.