Kung Fu Panda 3, Cheese, and Your Life's Ultimate SignificanceDec 31, 2016
My family returned recently from a long-distance road trip, and yesterday being our first full day back at home, we ended it with a relaxing family movie night. The kids chose Kung Fu Panda 3, which I had never seen before. Po, the main protagonist, must defeat Kai who has returned from the spirit realm after rounding up the qi (pronounced "chee") of each of the kung fu masters there, and has also gathered almost all qi's from the mortal realm as well. (Shoulda' known all the real power centers around cheese.) The only way Po can defeat him is to become The Master of Qi, which took Po's previous master 30 years of solitude and asking "Who am I?" to achieve. At the end he does manage to achieve it and defeat Kai (who would have guessed).
The movie grossed over $500M, so it's safe to say people liked it (or liked its predecessors). What makes this type of movie so appealing? What gets the viewer into the story line and gets them excited? First, the movie draws the viewer into Po's shoes. He's an ordinary Joe, with a touch of extra klutz and oblivion. Not above any of us. Yet he has gained great skill, awesome moves and reflexes, and by the end of the movie gains superiority and power above all others. So for the viewer, who has put himself and his emotions in Po's shoes, feels the glory of gaining a triumphant blast of power and greatness. In short, besides the usual resolution of conflict, the movie appeals to our natural desire for greatness and significance. "The universe needed you, Po", says the Grandmaster Oogway. Secondarily, the spiritual realm Po and Oogway are in satisfies the desire for something hopeful and bright beyond mortality.
A successful screenwriter and movie producer appeals to our natural desires. Think of how many movies and TV shows appeal to the same desire for superiority or significance: all of the martial arts movies, who's protagonist usually has skills beyond all others, all of the super hero movies -- superman who can fly, batman who has power largely through technology, The Flash, who is an pretty ordinary guy that obtains superhuman running speeds through a lightning strike, The Big Bang Theory who's Sheldon boasts superior intelligence, on and on.
Facing the Question
So let's go straight to a question all of us have thought to some extent and in some way before -- can I have a real significance in the whole scheme of things? Can my life matter? Yet at some point we also come to grips with the fact that everyone else in the world also has their own life story, with their own ambitions and goals, a story in which they are the hero or the main protagonist; we come to realize that we aren't really more significant than they like we may have thought in a way, and that there are billions of such individuals, billions of me's, and that we ourselves, like everyone else, are really very, very tiny. In fact each of us will most likely even be utterly forgotten in the world within the next 200 years or less. (Think about it -- how many of your ancestors from the early 1800s do you know about? How often do you think about them? [would they notice?...]).
The Good and the Difficult
We're faced with some good news and difficult news. The good news is that we really do have the opportunity to have a sure significance to the entire universe, and a bright eternal afterlife. The difficulty is in that we quite naturally don't like the means.
In KFP3 the key twist for ultimate significance was to "Turn me into me" -- that there is no need to change, that you can look to yourself, and into yourself, amplify who you are, and therein find superior power. In the real world, we must realize our own insignificance, failure, and even wrongness, recognize the omnipotence, holiness, and worthiness of the true and only God, and humble ourselves to his solution, letting him change us from the inside to live for him rather than for ourselves, seeking glory to his name and not ours. (I know that doesn't sound like something we want, but we'll get to that...) At that turning point, one obtains something he has never had before, something beyond the material and beyond the sliver of time we call a "lifetime" -- spiritual life. The individual is reconciled to his Maker, previously separated by our own imperfection, and in that connection he has actual significance in the universe, through the Creator of it. He can carry out his mission in the world, with eternal impact, for God and for others. In the words of the miracle worker himself, "He that findeth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." We each have our goals, we have that emptiness we're working to satisfy, and we feel that if we can just make that next step we're going for, we will be content...only to find we need something more. We are trying to "find our life", seeking for ourselves. But when we finally learn to stop looking to ourselves, and instead give our life to the most significant One, then we find full satisfaction, never ending peace, and what eternal life really means. Oh, and this isn't something we can obtain for ourselves -- exit religion. Religion tells us we need to do this, or follow a list of do's and don'ts, pay some money, inflict such-n-such pain or death upon ourselves, do this or else. But let's take a look at the words of the only individual who ever raised himself from the dead (which is historically founded by the way...):
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
That's it: "believe in him". I didn't see anything about doing or don't-ing, in fact another part of the Bible records, "For by grace are ye saved, through faith...not of works." But what does it mean to "believe in him"? His name: "Jesus" means "Savior", and "Christ" means "Annointed" . That is, he is the one and only one who could save corrupt mankind from himself. The only man (God became a human) who had no evil in him, never a wrong thought even, who then paid in full the just sentence for our sin ("all have sinned") while he had no sentence to pay for his own self, so that the perfect Judge could only be just by accepting that payment for us. There is nothing left for me to do, but to "believe in" his finished work for me. (And in him alone, else if I believe I need something else in addition, I am not really trusting his payment to be sufficient, I'm not really believing in Him.)
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:17-21)
Oh, and that's where the difficult news comes in: we tend to "hate the light". We like the remedy about as much as a 2-year-old would like the remedy for a deadly venomous snake bite -- a sharp needle into the arm for injecting the anecdote. We like the others ideas better: the ones where we look into ourselves, do something mighty by our own strength, and become superior and powerful for our existing ambitions and by our own doing. Yet how important it is for us to look past the sting of being humble before the Creator, recognizing his existence, holiness, and our own sinfulness and need for his substitutionary sacrifice, so that we can receive the anecdote, the ultimate gift: eternal life, saved from a hopeless place of everlasting separation from everything good ("Hell", broadly misrepresented). And that doesn't just mean living life forever in full joy and peace in the spiritual realm (which is not the golden floaty place of KFP3); it also means "finding your life", now, here. It means there is no problem that can defeat you, nothing that can steal your peace, your relationship problems are solved, your depression is gone, everything you do has new meaning and real purpose. Nothing that can harm you, even losing your physical body, though ending your time on this earth, only means everlasting freedom from pain and dying. All because Jesus Christ, the Savior appointed before time, suffered full Hell for you, and because you are willing to take the initial sting of the truth.
No, I don't think this little article is enough to convince someone of these truths, and the gaps are necessarily huge for a topic with such individual needs (because everyone is in a different place in their path to truth). Just sharing some ponderings after watching a movie. But let's just do one thing for ourselves: promise yourself to give all possibilities of truth a chance. Don't join with the scoffers who laugh off things before they fully think or investigate. Don't fear your circles of people and how they might react if you were to be open to giving a chance to that "old religious book" the Bible. Look past (usually false or poor) representations of the Bible and Jesus given to you through TV and through other people, even religious people. Don't just hop onto others' opinions, such as that ideological aura going around of, "Science and the Bible contradict; science makes all that 'religious stuff' unnecessary." Give God a chance, "God, if you're real, I want to know the truth. I have questions. Please show me the answers." Keep that attitude and you will receive the answers. Then, instead of trying to glorify yourself or your desires above all else, and finding only more emptiness, you'll instead see first-hand that miraculous twist from losing your life for him into truly finding your life, finally, and forever.
God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.