May 25, 1993
A few weeks ago a young man was shot and killed in an Edmonton restaurant.
Try visualizing the scene. Do you see a movie or television story with shabby café in the rough end of town, narrow, dark alleys and garbage littering the curbside? Do waiters look like gangsters? Are the patrons tough and rough when masked gunmen burst in demanding the cash register contents?
Or do you see a classy uptown establishment with patrons dripping in diamonds and thieves wearing professional black suits with nylons over their faces and non-glare lampblack rubbed on their gun barrels?
The Edmonton restaurant doesn’t fit either picture. Paneled in dark oak with nautical decor, it is neither shabby or outstandingly classy. The waiters are friendly, ordinary people. The food is wonderful. As for patrons, my husband and I had ate dinner there, a few hours before the crime. We are neither tough nor dripping in diamonds.
We don’t know for sure, but the pleasant young man who waited on our table may have been the victim. If so, had we eaten a few hours later we would have experienced the real horror of seeing him die. Being that close (in time) to a murder is somewhat unsettling. It doesn’t seem real. Movie and television scenes keep jumping into mind but none fit the place where we ate that day. We are unnerved that life can end so quickly yet it seems so unreal.
Realism is a big issue in today’s entertainment. Viewers are no longer content with fairy tales or implausible yarns with “happy ever after” endings. These, so some say, are not true to life, not authentic enough. Perhaps this is why there are so many “based on a true story” scripts appearing before our eyes, scripts with twists in the plot and shocking endings.
While credibility is important, I don’t think “reality” in the movies will ever match genuine reality. It can look real but genuine experiences do something inside us that the most vivid portrayal can never do.
For example, houses burn down on Hollywood sets yet none horrify us like watching the Branch Davidian cult headquarters destroyed by fire, live on television. The video of a real jet crashing at a genuine air show does something inside us no staged airplane or automobile disaster ever does. Reality carries a pathos not aroused by even the greatest stage direction.
Perhaps this is why we make up plays and write stories; the endings can be controlled and even if they are unpleasant, the actors are not really dead because they never really lived. None actually set themselves on fire or are cut down by stray bullets. In the movies, the good guys win and the bad guys lose if the script says so.
But real life is not always that fair. Good guys sometimes die young and bad guys grow old, rich, even dirty, picking up whatever they can grab, no matter who it rightfully belongs to. Perverted demigods care nothing for children and burn them. Thieves care nothing for young men who try to hide from their guns.
While we also personally try to control life much like writing scripts or giving stage direction, none can get around the fact life will end someday. God says, “It is appointed unto man once to die....” We cannot control that.
The best we can do is choose our eternal destiny while we are alive and choosing, trusting Christ even if there is a final unexpected twist in the plot. Furthermore, the reality we experience after this one does have a certainty about it: it never ends.