Slowly fading away
You’re lost and so afraid
Where is the hope in a world so cold?
Red – Until We Have Faces – Not Alone (Track 6, 2011)
Two weeks ago, I posted a response to someone’s political analysis of The Hunger Games. There’s no overt political agenda in these books. Collins has mentioned that both Orwell and Bradbury are influences. Yet, one could not categorize her books the same as the works of those sci-fi pioneers. Collins included a passing reference to Fahrenheit 451, and still there’s no indication of any political preference being advanced.
Still, one of the reasons why the books have become so successful is that they do encounter realities about human existence that are deeply meaningful to us as we experience life. I’m going to start here by pulling out these emotional tones from the plot and then bring the aspects of real life to my point.
Check out my cousin’s post about The Hunger Games. She was struck with essentially the same emotion I found in the books; hopelessness; sheer, utter, total, and confounding hopelessness. You see, after the death of her father, Katniss became almost an animal in how she relates to the world. She discounts forever the prospect of love and family. She views all exchange as transaction, and so Peeta’s repeated gifts are not borne of love at all. They become debts she must repay. She embraces only those people that she must, because of circumstance (for instance, she loves Primrose because she’s family, but she would never have children). She drives toward survival with the passion and determination of animal instinct, and yet empties her life of any enjoyment. She survives without grasping toward any purpose in survival. She’s without a future in The Hunger Games, aimless in Catching Fire, and lost to any life in Mockingjay.
*Warning! Plot spoiler in the following paragraph!*
For all the squabbles fans were having over whether Katniss should have ended up with Gale or Peeta, my own thoughts at the end of the final book were more deep-seated. The entire series, everything that happened to Katniss could be tracked back to that choice she made to protect Primrose from the Reaping. So no matter what happened to her, at least Primrose was safe. In fact, safe enough that it no longer occurred to Katniss to worry over her sister anymore. Primrose grew up a little and Katniss struggled with other problems. In the end Primrose dies. Horrifying… The thorough waste. All of it, every moment, every trial, every battle for naught. Oh sure, there were other people and the world was changed, but Katniss didn’t volunteer for that. She stepped forward to protect Prim, and in the end, she failed. The sister who understood what living meant died, and the sister who rejected life at every turn merely survived.
*Warning! Plot spoiler in the preceding paragraph!*
How depressing! Life is hopeless, because it eventually ends and the best that any of us can do to help someone else is delay that end. Even after people die, we pretend we can preserve them by remembering them. Katniss expresses this by trying to put together a book of memories about those she loved and respected. That book too will disappear at some point. Truthfully, almost every single person who has ever lived on this Earth has been thoroughly forgotten, their contribution to the current state of affairs entirely shadowed by general history. Think about this: even those legendary names of history will also be forgotten eventually.
Maybe we should fill our lives with love so that we can comfort those around us, and everyone will need comforting from the realization that all good things come to an end. And yet, what’s the point of that? Sooner or later, it’ll be over and those moments of peace will be nothing when submerged in the gaping void at the finish. How could Katniss ever love again when the most authentic love she ever had was so easily converted to infinite, irreparable loss?
I remember tearing up while reading the scene where Rue died and Katniss beautified her form with flowers and sang to her. Besides being a beautiful moment, it really knifes toward the central concern of human life. This isn’t all there is. It can’t be. Those who die do not simply cease to be. To grab an old Third Day song, there’s more to this life than being born and dying, and it’s not just the hyphen in between the dates.
Glance again at my most recent post about the staggering deficiency of materialism. How absurd to think of man as a mundane collection of chemicals and nothing more! The very consciousness we can hardly begin to understand has very definable immaterial parts. Rejecting the metaphysical, we lose hope and even our very sense (Frederich Nietzsche being the prime example). Hope is found outside of the physical being. Hope is found in a love that is eternal, a love that doesn’t end. Real peace is found in a sacrifice without measure. Fullness is not found within the self. It points conspicuously to someone else.
Every gift from man is at best a stopgap (Scrubs reference). We rightly revere doctors who do nothing more than delay the inevitable. We feel hope out of those victories, even as we know that hope must eventually fail. Is it not obvious that this points to an infinite hope found in a gift that could never fail?
My hope is in Jesus Christ because he defeated death itself! I didn’t create myself or give myself purpose. I didn’t endow my body with a spirit. How could I possibly assume myself capable of sustaining all of this? Man can’t even make the body eternal; who in their right mind thinks he can do it for the soul? Christ assumed the debt of our incapacity. That which we cannot do for ourselves, He did for us: creating us, sustaining us, and redeeming us from our forlorn mission of self-sufficiency, if we so desire it.
Where is the hope in a world so cold? To those who have lost someone very dear, the words of Red’s chorus to this song should be quite powerful. They are those of Christ.
I am with you
I will carry you through it all
I won’t leave you I will catch you
When you feel like letting go
Cause your not, your not alone
And I’ll be your hope when you feel like its over
And I will pick you up when your whole world shatters
And when you’re finally in my arms
Look up and see love has a face