Common Thoughts 8


I’ve turned into a hopeless romantic in my old age. I’m hooked on the Hallmark Channel with their endless Christmas movies where always a happy ending follows. I’m really tired of our new emphasis in those television series were there are only anti-heroes because we want to be sure to show we are all men and women with clay feet. It seems more important nowadays to show our warts in all their seemingly ugliness lest we continue this false narrative that we are really good people and good things should happen to good people.

I’m old enough to have either watched or was aware of several television series like Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Three Sons, and The Brady Bunch to name just a few. What did each have in common? An idealistic view of life where in the end the good won and we looked forward to living. Now we bitch and moan about how terrible they were by giving us a false view of life and how that idealism drove us into deep life depression and to the psychiatrist’s couch. We now replace those shows with depressing endings with no hope and we feel so authentic. Oh, how much better off we were and how stupid we are.

It’s understandable that the writers of these story lines are looking only for a “feel good” story to comfort us during a sometimes-tense season. Once in a while, whether they know what they are doing or not, they write a profoundly philosophical line that for most might just pass us by, but for me it hit me between the eyes. Here we go with the profound line: “We’re guided by the spaces between facts.”

What does this mean? How does it apply to we who want to know the meaning of life? The author of this line wrote it in the context of this story:

“After helping a boy take his little sister to see Santa, 13-year-old Holly Grant tells a shopping mall Santa Claus that she would like to have a boyfriend for Christmas. Twenty years later, Holly is a romantic skeptic and is more focused on her career as a social worker. At the time, she is in court helping a mother get her children back from foster care. When the mother’s lawyer, Ryan Hughes, does not show up in court, Holly is extremely angry and sends Hughes a letter via her secretary. On Christmas Day, she opens her door to a man carrying a Christmas tree and a bow on his chest. He hands her a note that says, “As promised, one boyfriend for Christmas,” and introduces himself as “Douglas Firwood”. She assumes he is a gag present from her friend Diane, and invites him into her home. Later that day she takes him with her to her parents’ house for Christmas dinner. Hoping to keep her matchmaking family, especially her manipulative sister-in-law Carol, off her back, she tells everyone that Douglas is her long-term boyfriend, and Douglas plays along. On New Year’s Eve, Holly learns from her scheming ex-boyfriend Ted that Douglas is really Ryan Hughes, who was sent to her by Santa Claus. She accuses him of lying to her and tells him to leave. After persuasion by Santa Claus and refusing Ted’s marriage proposal, she follows Ryan. They meet up at a park, where they finally remember where they first met – at age 13 when she helped him take his little sister to see Santa – and they watch the New Year’s fireworks together”.

The spaces between her facts was her need of a boyfriend for Christmas and the man who showed up on her doorstep carrying a Christmas tree and wearing a red bow. She was a workaholic dismissing Christmas because the spaces told her one thing about reality—she wasn’t worthy of having a “real” boyfriend and because she didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas what use celebrating something from which you get nothing. In the end facts met up and gave her the truth, she was worthy and there was someone special for her.

This is a simple rendering of that line. The deeper philosophical implications are that life is always lived in those spaces between facts and more than that we really don’t have. Here are our facts: God or not-God. Now let’s don’t get lost, here. It’s also important to have a boyfriend or girlfriend at Christmas. I’m not dismissing this story as inconsequential. It’s just that at the deeper level of meaning we all live in those spaces between God and not-God. These facts inform our spaces and how we live in them. Make no mistake about it, not to decide on either fact is to decide on whatever unconscious interpretation we’ve given ourselves in those spaces. By default we’ve decided one way or the other. We can’t help it, that’s the way of life as we know it.

Reality isn’t dependent upon me, my experience of it is. What a place to be put in! I don’t make reality. Whether there is a God or not, that’s already decided for me. The world-famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawkins writes this:

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” [Our facts from which we live in the spaces.]

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.” [This is really living in the spaces, not the facts.]

“We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no god. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.” [Again, living in the spaces.]

Now you know why I’m a hopeless romantic. I like feeling good, even if only from cheap movies.

But this is letting the spaces determine the facts. I’ll never get to real meaning, real Truth, real Reality this way. I just have to grit my teeth and bear it. So let me think on this:

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6: 11-13 NKJV.)