Tonight I revisited a movie that my wife gave me as a Christmas gift several years ago. Cast Away, with Tom Hanks.
I don’t guess I’d ever looked at this film as the metaphor for life that it really is. It speaks to me on an instinctual, epic, level.
Here’s this busy man, consumed by all of the ‘important things’ of life. “Tick-tock”, wasting time was a great sin in his book. He was a slave to what he worshiped. Zealous for Time. Punctuality. Precision. And in all that he did, in his relationships, in this rare and fragile flowering of love with Kelly, he was ruled, and ultimately ruined, by his sense of duty to time.
“I should have never gotten on that plane.”
After the crash, he is alone, barely able to feed himself, unable to even make fire. He subsists on a primitive diet, eating things at their most elemental level. Raw uncooked minnows, and the primordial goo from a crab claw. Makes me think of Nebuchadnezzar, grazing on the grass of the field in the rain, driven into darkness that God’s glory might be revealed even in him.
And in the process of being stranded for 1500 days, he becomes attached to strange things. In this exile, in this incredible loneliness, he befriends a volley ball, Wilson. Wilson resulted from the blood of his own wound, splayed across the face of the ball. Yet it became the one thing that in an odd way helped him through it all. I wonder what “Wilson’s” we’ve befriended in exile, taking hold of the first semi-comforting thing of our own making. Some of these things are not healthy for us, but in some way may allow us to survive in the short term.
And to escape this exile, he has to muster a courage that borders on lunacy. Someone has said that courage is foolhardiness at just the right time, that to find safety, or bring healing, or to rescue, we must risk all at just the right moment. Chuck escaped the island, by risking the very life he wished to save. How ironic.
We all know that he made it, arrived back in Memphis to a hero’s welcome. Now crab legs are a reminder to him of exile, of isolation, and suffering. Bigger crab claws are not better. Fire is an incredible thing, something nearly magical. And ice, ah, “You know I like ice.” But he relearned an important instinct. Perseverance. Survival. “I had power over nothing. But somehow I knew that I had to stay alive, keep breathing…”And another one of those odd attachments he made, to a Fed Ex box with angel wings stamped on it, somehow sustained him through his trial. He’d look at it, and even though he didn’t understand, he knew that this was part of what was driving him to survive. Some great foreshadowing in this, of course we know that there is a beautiful woman at the other end of that box.
After he’s reunited with Kelly, they recognize, confirm, that they were the love of each others lives, and yet they both know that life has moved them in ways they could not expect or understand. And while painful, Chuck remembers the lesson. Keep moving, keep breathing, stay alive. The question ceased being “WHY?”, but became acceptance, and “What’s next?” Sometimes it takes that kind of learning environment in order for us to get the message loud and clear.
“One day the tide came in and gave me a sail. And here I am, in Memphis, talking to you, with ice in my glass, and I’ve lost her all over again.” He partly understood the scene, but he was still thinking of his return in terms of the greatest thing that he felt he had lost in his isolation. He was focused, still, upon Kelly.
Now this movie makes few, if any, references to God, His power, His sovereignty, or that our sole purpose in this life is to glorify Him alone. But I think it does a fantastic job of describing the wilderness that many, no most, of us will go through at some time in our lives. We start with great promise, grand plans, and then the enemy does his work. We may see that as failure, punishment, or curse. But it is really the beginning of the Blessing. The only place where we can truly discover that we “have power over nothing’, and yet are given the grace to keep living, keep breathing, keep moving.
Somehow you must stay alive, keep moving, keep breathing. Standing at the cross roads, powerless, watching for angel wings.
“Tomorrow the sun WILL rise, who knows what the tide may bring”