Seeking a friend for the end of the world

NOTE: This post was written a week ago; when the Flagstaff fire in Boulder and the Waldo Canyon fire that has devastated parts of Colorado Springs had just broken out. Since that time, thousands and thousands of people have been evacuated and hundreds have lost their homes. Sadly, for many in Colorado, it may well feel like the end of the world. My heart goes out to everyone affected and to the firefighters toiling to save lives, homes, and wilderness!

It was that kind of weekend in the dream; temperatures staggering into the triple digits, humidity stalled in the single; winds whipping along the Front Range like unforgiving thoughts in frantic pursuit. Fires were breaking out all over the great state of Colorado—thousands and thousands more people evacuated each minute–spewing smoke and ash into a murky haze already swallowing Denver’s mountain views, pushing air quality into the unhealthy range statewide.

In other news, a tropical storm/hurricane wannabe had strengthened and was bearing down on the Southeast coast, spawning tornadoes and floods along the spine of Florida. The dueling presidential campaigns were spinning on all cylinders in their attempts to curry favor with voters they’d alienated in their previous attempts to move to that widely publicized yet obviously fictional moving target of a “center.” European leaders were smack talking each other again; threatening to pull out of that oxymoron of a European Union as worldwide markets tumbled, and in the Middle East, well … Suffice it to say the world was too much with us, as the bard has said. I turned the car radio off. My daughter and I glanced at each other, shook our heads, and laughed the nervous laughter of the doomed. And so we decided to go see the new film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

Although it sounds like a classified ad for an A Course in Miracles study group, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is actually yet another depiction of Armageddon so popular in recent years, this time directed by Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist). The film opens on insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell) parked on a lonesome road with his wife as a radio newscaster announces that the last-ditch effort to destroy an asteroid hurtling toward earth has failed. The planet is now scheduled to meet her maker in three weeks; news that sends Dodge’s wife dashing from the car and marriage into the grassy, suburban wasteland to the tune of the Beach Boys’ song Wouldn’t It Be Nice.

At first Dodge attempts to conduct business as usual, showing up at the office along with a handful of other worker bees to learn that upper management positions are now miraculously available, watching television news coverage surreally punctuated by regular sports programming, and attending a friend’s party where revelers reveal and indulge their hilarious bacchanalian bucket lists. Threesomes, foursomes, orgies? Alcohol, pot, heroin? Why the hell not! Even going so far as to tell their spouses and teenagers exactly what they really think of them with foul and refreshing abandon. But the emptiness gaping within Dodge remains un-amused. He returns to his apartment where his cleaning lady continues to move about dusting and polishing, oblivious to impending disaster and upset by his attempts to get her to quit.

And then he meets the train wreck of a neighbor Penny (Keira Knightly), a daft self-proclaimed “romantic” who has broken up with her shiftless boyfriend and missed the last flight to England to reunite with her parents. When riots break out in the streets, Dodge, who has decided to search for a high school sweetheart, negotiates for a ride with Penny, promising her that he knows a guy with a plane.

An unlikely road trip transpires in which the pair along with an adorable abandoned dog encounters a variety of characters grappling with their last days in predictable—suicide and survivalism–and not-so-predictable—traffic tickets anyone?–ways. In a particularly humorous parody of chain restaurants serving up faux community along with sundaes, bar food, and beer, Dodge and Penny are welcomed by a blissed-out, uniformed staff high on substances and dreams of unknown origin. And then, of course, in longing, fear, and the mushrooming realization that their individual fantasized happy endings are wildly unattainable, they turn toward each other, despite the enormous divide of age and temperament.

Carell nails the role of a man we sense has been dodging connection all his life. Admittedly playing it safe at the expense of joy, his story of abandonment by his father blocking the opening to his heart in a performance breathtakingly spare, his quiet eyes and rueful smile revealing the ultimate hopelessness of the finite, separate “human condition” we believe we’ve traded for real, eternal union.  Although jarringly overwrought at times, Knightly’s performance nonetheless embodies the shock of youth still counting on the delusion of a happy future and plenty of time to straighten up their messes suddenly confronting a certain death sentence.

Although it devolves into a Hollywood ending one suspects may have been tacked on at the insistence of outside forces trying to broaden its appeal, the film strikes at the marrow of the ego thought system of sin, guilt, and fear. Spawned by what A Course in Miracles calls the “tiny, mad idea” that we could have wrenched ourselves free of a seamless union with eternally whole, all-inclusive Love and projected the guilty thought of it into an entire universe in which planets and people inevitably collide with devastating consequences. In a scene rendered preposterous by one of many plot details that just don’t add up, Dodge nonetheless recognizes that the meaning of life does not hinge on being loved but on loving; is not confined to a particular body or time. Love is right here, right now, in the giving; in the choosing the inner teacher of Love that always eventually prevails over the illusions of the inner teacher of fear.

In truth, all of us stumbling around trying to make the best of things here on planet crazy are seeking a friend for the end of the world, a finite world we imagined as a prison but can re-imagine as a classroom in which to learn the lessons of forgiveness A Course in Miracles-style. A forgiveness that teaches us to use the very bodies we dreamed up to prove we exist apart from our real Self but it’s not our fault–it’s the wife’s, the boyfriend’s, the teenager’s, the father’s, the asteroid’s–to heal our mind of all thoughts of guilt and bodies out to get us. By making the present decision to love the one we’re with right here, right now–to abandon our personal interests, past regrets, future hopes and fears and simply give from our one heart—we enter the eternal present and experience the miracle of our sameness. Thereby joining with all in friendship to find our one and only Friend; dodging all false beliefs in the possibility of individual or worldly destruction.


I am now speaking regularly at ACIM Gather radio, Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m., EST.

Comments

  1. The One Friend we all share is closer than heartbeat or breath… and leads us gently toward the unchanging World beyond our catastrophic dreams of cataclysm, catechism and catty schisms. 🙂

Speak Your Mind

*