Life is crazy when children enter the world. Yup…birthed entropy. My wife and I finally had a date night–our first since our son was born in August. We went to see 7 Pounds, the latest Will Smith movie. What a great date movie–not because it was heavy, heartbreaking, crushing, etc., but because we are still talking about it. I just can’t get the movie out of my head. As I discuss this, I have to mention the ending, and the ending does matter. So if you don’t want me to ruin the movie, don’t click through!This movie follows Ben Thomas (Will Smith) through the final two weeks of his life. Throughout the course of the film, we learn that Thomas has killed 7 people in a car accident–his fault for checking email while driving. One of the seven people was his wife. Thomas tries to fix the situation by helping 7 people by literally giving his body away. He gave a lung to his brother, a kidney to a youth hockey coach making a difference in his community, bone marrow to a sick child he never met, his liver to a woman who was a social worker, and he also gave his beach house to a woman and her children who couldn’t get away from an abusive boyfriend. To this point, Thomas is quite the humanitarian. However, the viewer finds out that he is planning a suicide so that he can give his eyes to a blind man and his heart to a woman with a rair blood type who is on a waitlist for a new heart.
So he climbs into a bathtub filled with ice and cold water, dumps a jelly fish into the tub, and dies as the venom from the fish kills him. Will Smith should win best actor for this part, but that’s beside the point.
Thomas portrays the ultimate sacrifice–he gave up everything he had–literally–to help 7 people that he felt were worthy of his sacrifice. At first I was moved by this–what if everybody lived with such abandon, such willingness to put others first?
But something just isn’t settling as I process this movie. Thomas still killed himself. In the humanist line of thought, this may be the solution: he gets to escape his own agony while ending the suffering of others, and yet he gets to live on (in sorts) without suffering. Not leaving room for reconciliation, forgiveness, etc., Thomas takes things into his own hands–he limits his opportunity to further impact those around him by surrendering to the right now.
Some may see Will Smith’s character as a Christ figure, but that’s a falacy. Sure he made the ultimate sacrifice, but it all came down to him anyways. He played God, passing judgement on people he felt worthy of saving. This suggests that people can acheive salvation simply by trying hard and being good people, but Christ himself taught the opposite. The humanist movement teaches that man can save himself, but this movie suggests that people are still hoping for some sort of help beyond themselves. Emily, the young woman that Thomas falls in love with, doesn’t even know that Thomas’ real first name is Tim, not Ben–Ben is the brother! She falls in love with a lie. He never shares his hurt or his pain, just his physical body. So Smith’s character proves more human than Christ-like, a humanist savior of sorts.
I think this is why the movie saddens me (beyond the obvious struggle of suffering/guilt/etc). Christ taught to love your neighbor–not just those we feel are worthy. I think that’s what too many Christians get caught up in–such and such is a jerk and I’m not going to waste my time on them. Had Thomas not killed himself, the woman he had fallen for (I still don’t think he really loved her, as he was never really able to disclose everything) may have died. Which is better–for her to keep living alone or to die in the company of a friend? Thomas could have befriended the blind man and shown sacrifice that takes more dedication than suicide.
My wife and I went round and round about suicide–does a soldier who throws himself into the line of fire to save his fellow soldiers commit suicide? Does an adult who lunges in front of a car to save an unaware child commit suicide? We finally settled on the idea that these acts of sacrifice and bravery are spontaneous, not premeditated. And that’s the difference.
I’m still wrestling with this idea of which is better–to build relationships with the potential of living with a broken/lonely heart or to give what you can to others and then get out of the way. The problem is though, once you get out of the way, the chances of making any impact in the lives of others vanishes. So then, what next?