[Spoiler Alert: this article contains spoilers for episode four from Tales From the Loop]
In the previous issue of Reflect, we looked at the subject of death as it is presented in episode four of Amazon Prime’s series Tales From the Loop. We saw that Christians should not try to minimize death, but rather, recognize the reality of death and embrace grief. However, we also saw that Christians do not grieve without hope.
The same episode from Tales From the Loop also helps us think about our need for human connection and the importance of making the most of the time we have.
In episode four, Cole and his grandpa, Russ, must confront the reality of Russ’s imminent death (see the previous article for context). However, by this point in Tales From the Loop, we have come to expect the unexpected. In a place like the Loop, anything could happen. The audience is left guessing for most of the episode. Will something be found to save Russ? If he dies, will he make a mysterious reappearance?
This is where Tales From the Loop thrives in thwarting our expectations. As it turns out, no one finds anything to save Russ and there is no technology that brings him back from the dead. No shocking incident to grab our attention, no tying up of loose ends before (or after) his death. Instead, episode four ends in Russ’s death. In the midst of the tragedy of his death, which we have come to accept as just part of the way things are, we also confront an even more poignant tragedy—Russ’s failure during his life to make a meaningful connection with his son, George.
Life is a Vapor
We are given to understand that Russ was fully absorbed in his work at the Loop (an underground facility for scientific exploration) and had little time for much else, including his son, George.
Russ spent his whole life exploring the mysteries of the universe, but he never unlocked the secret of human connection. Russ failed to make a meaningful connection with most of the people in his life who really mattered. When Cole asks what his dad was like at Cole’s age, Russ can only say, “Oh, I was working long hours then.” At various points in the series, we feel the impact of this lack of relationship between father and son. We learn that Russ never took a sick day and that he didn’t even attend his son’s wedding.
Upon learning that he will soon die, Russ begins to reflect on his life. He thought that the Loop was everything he wanted, but as it turns out, it wasn’t enough. Russ turns the Loop over to his daughter-in-law, Loretta. As they talk about the early days of the Loop, Loretta asks Russ if it feels like a long time ago. Russ says, “blink of an eye,” and then offers her some advice: “Take a sick day now and then. You’ll wonder where all that time went, all that potential. Blink of an eye.”
I am reminded of the biblical book of James, which says that our life is like a vapor that appears for a short while and then vanishes away (James 4:14). Sixty, seventy, eight years—it sounds like a long time—but in the grand scheme of things, it is not much. Two hundred years from now we will be lucky if anyone even remembers our names. Life is fleeting. Time goes by in the blink of an eye.
Made for Connection
As his life draws to a close, Russ seems to realize that humans don’t really long for immortality as much as they long for relationships and connection. This makes perfect sense within a Christian worldview. We learn in the early chapters of Genesis that God made people for relationship with himself and one another.
Reflecting on the doctrine of the Trinity, we see that God is a relational God in and of himself. The Father, Son, and Spirit have always been in a relationship of love. God did not create us because he needed us, but because he wants us to share in the relationship that he already has in the Trinity. As Christians, this is our destiny: eternal life, which the apostle John says is knowing God (John 17:3)—not just knowing about God, but knowing him in the context of a relationship.
God also created us with a need for human relationships. In Genesis 1-2, God called everything that he created “good”—except when Adam was alone without a human companion. God said that that was not good (Genesis 2:18). So he created Eve. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, the writer reflects on the importance of human companionship; two people can help each other along. The writer pities the person who is alone and has no one to help them up.
If eternal life is to know God in a relationship, that means that eternal life begins now. And as we grow in our relationship with God, his love for us will overflow in our love for others. This is reflected in the two great commands to love God and to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40). The more we get to know God, the more we realize what is really important—not acquiring knowledge, making money, or becoming famous; but rather, connecting with, valuing, and learning to love our fellow humans.
The Best Time is Now
Tragically, many people, including Christians, do not make meaningful human connections until they are on their deathbed, and in Tales of the Loop, Russ never even does that. Russ never makes things right with George. Like Russ, many people spend their time chasing down a dream, working long hours, or trying to make life perfect for their kids. But who will be there when they reach the top of their career goals? Could it be that what their children really long for is not more stuff but a relationship with a parent? What George really needed was a relationship with his father and he felt the effects of that lack of relationship deeply.
There are other things that keep us from making connections. Because we live in a world broken by sin, relationships can be difficult, especially when another person has hurt us. It is all too easy to hold onto anger, bitterness, or envy towards another person. Perhaps we are waiting for someone to apologize, refusing to take the first step towards reconciliation ourselves.
However, while sin breaks our relationships with one another, the story does not have to end there. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. Through his power, we can work towards healing our injured relationships. This will not be an easy process, but it will be worth it to make that connection before it’s no longer an option.
The best time to make something right with someone, to make that human connection, is right now. You’ll wonder where all that time went when you get older. You’ll wonder why you held that grudge for so long, why you refused to forgive, or why you prioritized your work over your family. You’ll wonder where all that time went. “Blink of an eye.”
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