Black Mirror: Life, Death and Resurrection

blackmirrorI have come to an end of my mini series of engaging with the Black Mirror series. I only looked at 3 episodes but there are another 3 you can watch and they are worth watching, I just felt these 3 really resonated with me. I enjoyed observing and thinking about the ideas that black mirror presents to us. It challenges us on how we use social networking, technology, how we view ourselves and our desires and society. There are many other themes within these episodes that I did not talk about. But the ones I picked out were:

15 Million Merits: The fullness of life: Looking at Incarnation – the real, the dirt and the humanity of people. The tendency to hide in a virtual world where we become numb and lifeless and we find ourselves craving for something real and something true. So we must come and look at Christ who offers us fullness of life which is found in the reality of how fully human He is. Flesh not virtual.

The Entire History of You: Imagine you could remember everything. Nothing is forgotten. The only way to forgive someone is by erasing them from your memory. But is that enough? Does that really produce genuine forgiveness in your heart? Jesus offers us something better. He offers himself on the cross for true forgiveness and healing.

Be Right Back: We desire our loved ones back. We desire resurrection. But not a lifeless, hollow resurrection. Not a life that can only be found on facebook or in any virtual world. We want full, life filled resurrection. We want life after death. We want real hope. Jesus offers us real and true resurrection. When he said “Be right Back” He came back as a new creation, eating, drinking and fully beautiful. Only Jesus offers that.

So those are the three:

Incarnation, The Cross and Resurrection.

Life to the Full, Truly Forgiven, Life after death.

The world craves and yearns for it but it can only and ever come through and in Jesus Christ.

Black Mirror: Be Right Back

Black Mirror-brb  When you lose a loved one it feels like you are slung into an empty pit. A pit of darkness and numbness, with high walls and thin air. It is horrible and you would do anything to have them back. In the episode “Be right back” from Black Mirror it explores the idea of bringing back a loved one. Not like in some strange zombie way. At first its in a way that would ease pain and then it becomes strange.

Martha loses her husband which is devastating and as a method of coping her friend signs her up to the latest technology where a computer program can glean information about your loved one so that you can talk to them. They gather that information from facebook, twitter and e-mails. The more activity online the better. Martha can then start to chat with her dead husband (Ash) through this program. This program simulates Ash in a convincing way and Martha spends hours talking to him, spends hours on the internet and then on the phone as the program updates and it can sound exactly like Ash. It sounds strangely comforting. Imagine being able to talk to your loved one again? Being able to hear their voice one lastartificial-intelligence-ai- time. Being able to say I love you. It’s a very human response.

But there is a next step. Black Mirror takes us further. What if you could actually see your loved one? Where they physically returned to you as a very realistic robot (think less terminator and more AI or the Bionic Man). They would look like your loved one, same hair, eyes and skin colour. They would sound like your loved one. At any glance you would think it was them. It seems like a truly remarkable resurrection.

But a few hitches were encountered. Ash wasn’t really Ash. Ash was a computer program pretending to be Ash. Acting very much like him, but not really him. She hates how empty he is and she yearns for the real Ash. She cries:

““No, but you’re not you, are you? You’re just a few ripples of you. There’s no history to you. You’re just a performance of stuff that he performed without thinking and it’s not enough.”

I think Charlie Brooker is confronting our addiction to social media and our tendency to become so absorbed in it that it shows a few ripples of you, but it isn’t actually you. When thinking about this show my thought turned to fullness of life and real resurrection. Martha showed a great yearning – a yearning for Ash when he was alive and buried in his phone on blackmirrorbrbfacebook and then a yearning for Ash when he died and she was faced with a hollow resurrection.

I mentioned in my previous post on fullness of life in the Reality of Escapism. A virtual world that numbs us. In this episode Be Right Back, there is a desire for fullness of resurrection. We want our loved ones back. We want them back not in shell or on a facebook page. We want the fully flesh and fully human loved one back.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he didn’t come back zombie like or ghost like. He came back physically, with wholeness, eating and walking. He came back as a demonstration of the new creation. Resurrection is no empty shell. You will be fully alive, eating, drinking and wonderfully real as you can get with no sin or shame attached. Resurrection is beautiful. Martha was right to yearn for it. It’s a desire in us. We have eternity set in our hearts.

It’s good to yearn for life after death. But real resurrection and life can’t come through an android,  iphone or facebook. Thats not where to live or be raised to life from. Resurrection and life come only through the resurrection of Jesus. I’d like to say that this is an easy thing. But to get to resurrection there must be death. To get to the fullness of life there can be pain and suffering. The sting of death has been defeated – its claws and chains are gone. But there is still a wave of hurt and pain that comes over us when death knocks on the door. When that happens whats should we do? When looking for comfort where should we go? Not to social networking, but to Jesus. Come to Jesus who has been raised to life. He is the fullness of Resurrection and you will find all comfort in him. There is some solace in social networking, friendships and bonds that can help. But first come to Jesus – seek life in Him.

Black Mirror: The Entire History of You

entirehistory Imagine if you had a perfect memory. Imagine if you could store in your mind every moment and every conversation you have ever had. You wouldn’t forget anything, you would never lose your keys and if there was a moment that you wanted to watch over and over again you could easily do that.

In Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: The Entire History of You, we are taken into a world where memories are stored on a hard drive in your brain (by a device behind your ear) and you can project those memories on the TV screen for all to see like an episode of Eastenders. This gadget seems like a perfect device for CSI – you can look at people’s past events and see whether they are lying or not. Employers can see your past events to see if your life matches up with your words. Your entire history can be accessed in extreme detail. It seems bliss and this episode shows successful young people in beautiful houses exhorting this technology for laughter and pleasure. But there is a darker side.

The protagonist, Liam, starts to become paranoid about his wife. He has doubts about her faithfulness to him so he goes back over and over situations they are in. He rewinds and plays moments over and over again. The truth unfolds to show that she is unfaithful. He makes her play those moments of the affair. These memories are stuck in his head.

Play. Pause. Rewind. Play…Repeat

The most horrific moment on constant repeat. Sounds terrible. The only relief and salvation is to remove the device from the brain. The only way to forgive and move on is to erase the memories altogether.

This happens in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The main characters Joel and Clementine want to erase their memories of their relationship – it becomes too painful to carry on with those memories so the best way to deal with it is to get rid of those memories and start again.

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.Alexander Pope

erasemeIt sounds like the perfect salvation. Imagine being hurt and having that constant memory stuck in your head, going around and around interrupting your sleep. The best way to deal with it is to get rid of the memory. Pretend it never happened.

“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Black Mirror challenges us on how we leave an entire history of ourselves on the internet, with our e-mails, bank accounts, facebook and photos. Everyone can see them, our history is displayed to see. Yet if something or someone upsets us, well lets just erase it, lets just delete that friend, lets just untag ourselves. Simple.

Except it really isn’t. We are creatures that often cling to the hurt and pain of memories instead of the good and truthful ones. Just reading the Old Testament  shows how forgetful Gods people are to His goodness and salvation. In my own life its easy to remember the hurt and pain of a remark or a friendship breaking down – it runs deep and raw. It would better to just pretend they never existed. But in reality that won’t ever heal your heart.

There is something of forgiveness that brings a great balm to our souls and memories. If we could just erase memories, I wonder if it would truly remove the heartache, would it truly heal the ache or just bring about emptiness? Sin runs deeper than memories, it’s a sickness of the heart and the painful memories are often a reminder of the need of salvation. True salvation is not simply forgetting or erasing the memory or hurt, but true salvation is forgiveness and love piercing through those memories and hurts and healing the heart.

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
Lewis B. Smedes

Just look at how Jesus forgives. He knows all our sins, all our idolatry and hate crownofthornestowards him and yet while we were still enemies he dies for us. A forgiveness that runs deep into the heart and gives us hope for the future. It can only be satisfied on the cross.

What Liam needed in this episode was not his memories erased, but he needed the cross – the place of true forgiveness where memories of hurt and pain run loud and clear and yet in spite of that they are covered in blood bringing forth a healing forgiveness and love. If we simply forget those moments of painful memories then we will never learn forgiveness, we will only seek a numbing half lived life where we carve out all the best and good bits. It’s the struggles, the pain, the brokenness that brings us to the cross and teaches us about true love, healed hearts and restored relationships.

15 Million Merits: Reality of Escapism

1doppelBM5 Million Merits is based in a world where exercise bikes power the world and those who are on those bikes earn merits (money) so that they can buy food and accessories for their “doppel” (which is a virtual version of you and you can dress them up etc), their bedroom are made up of screens where they have to watch adverts including adverts of porn and a game show called Hot Shots (a take from X Factor). It’s a world where reality is based on a screen, your life has adverts streaming to you where ever you are and there is a charge for not watching them. Those who don’t contribute to society due to being overweight, ill or old get ridiculed and some become cleaners where the bike riders hail abuse at them.

The only way out, the only salvation is by auditioning for Hot Shots so that you can win freedom. But all is not as it seems, the protagonist Bing meets a lady who actually has talent and a shot of getting out of this mundane bike riding life. But it’s all a fake, the judges don’t care for her or her talent and instead persuade her to go on the porn channel and be a porn star where she can become famous and never have to ride a bike again. This infuriates Bing and so he fights back and comes out with heart wrenching speech in front of the judges where he hits the nail on the head of how the world of the Doppel, the world of technology has numbed our minds:

“What, I have a dream? The peak of our dreams is a new app for our Dopple, it doesn’t exist! It’s not even there! We buy sh*t that’s not even there. Show us something real and free and beautiful. You couldn’t. Yeah? It’ll break us. We’re too numb for it. I might as well choke. It’s only so much wonder we can bear. That’s why when you find any wonder whatsoever; you dole it out in meager portions.”

“The peak of our dream is a new app” It’s disturbing isn’t it? Bing goes on to say:

“And only then until it’s augmented, packaged, and plumped through 10,000 pre-assigned filters till it’s nothing more than a meaningless series of lights, while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what? All tiny cells and tiny screens and bigger cells and bigger screens”15-million-merits-black-mirror

“It doesn’t exist”… “while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what?” A mundane existence that drives towards getting bigger cells (living spaces) and bigger screens (ipads, flat screen TV’s). We power on and on and we become numb and anything real or beautiful will just break us. Some of this is Ecclesiastes language, the idea of meaningless and striving and toiling and not getting anywhere. It makes you take a step back. Am I numb to life? Do I just want comfort? Is the constant viewing of screens and online life sapping something of beauty and wonder away?

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

brave-new-world

In Huxley’s Brave New World he also explores the place of technology and pleasure. Technology appears to be the saviour of mankind where they can find all their comforts and needs met while reducing danger and pain – but at the cost of mind-numbing dependence. Huxley gives us a grim view of the future on the same vein as 15 Million Merits.

Technology isn’t evil. But it makes you think about what you value and where the world is heading. Sometimes I find myself in a group of people and all I am doing is checking my phone looking at twitter and Facebook. In these moments I am missing the interaction and community around me.

In 15 Million Merits there is an escape from the mundane way of life through the Doppel and through the Reality TV show “Hot Shots”. Both which prove to be fake, they trap you in a world that drugs you and deprives you of real beauty and emotion.

This show makes you yearn for real life. The gritty real life of flesh, dirt and sweat. The place of real conversations and emotions. There is a moment when Bing and this lady hold hands. It’s the one thing thats real.

It makes me think about how Jesus takes on real flesh and becomes truly human. Truly human means he laughs and cries and hugs people and eats with people and gets tired. Truly human means having a perfect relationship with His Father in Heaven. He says he has come to bring life and life to its fullness. Fullness of touch, taste and sounds. Broken relationships restored.

We not only have the physical and spiritual but we now have the virtual.

Imagination is good. It’s needed for creativity. Escapism on some level that transforms us into a world of imagination and stretches our mind with stories is good. They draw us out of ourselves. But when our world is seen through a screen, eyes fixed on a black mirror, distracted by the beeping and adverts then life becomes very small, we are drawn into ourselves.

Is Facebook real life? In some sense yes, there is a reality to it, there is a community on some level. There is a function to it and its a good function. But also in some sense it’s not real life, it’s not where I should live my life or spend my money, it’s not where I solely cultivate community. Flesh is better. Face to face is better. A life less in front of a screen is fuller. Jesus offers us more. He offers us the gritty life of new creation and new family where we are invited to live in community like in Acts 2:42-47. He offers us true humanity in Him. If we want to escape the mundane and meaningless parts of our lives then we should turn to Him. Not a computer screen.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

At the end of 15 Million Merits, Bing is offered an escape where he can have his own 30 min show twice a week where he says soul-stirring speeches like the one above. But as the camera pans out we see that Bing has been sucked into the lie. In his room, which is much bigger then before, he stares out the window overlooking a beautiful forest. But its fake. It’s another computer screen. It’s not reality. He doesn’t have fullness of life. There is only one way to get that.

Be-Engaging: Black Mirror

blackmirror I have recently been watching Black Mirror and some of the shows within the series. It’s written by Charlie Brooker and recently the second series has been on our TV’s. Charlie Brooker in each episode gives us a glimpse of the dark reality of technology and how we use it today, he comments that:

“If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a Charlie Brookerdrug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The “black mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”[1]

It is a very clever series of short films about different areas of technology and the side effects of them. It makes you feel uncomfortable as you watch in horror at the things that shadow reality. Some of the themes that are picked up through the episodes are really interesting and I want to explore those themes within the three episodes that I have watched so far: 15 Million Merits, The Entire History of You and Be right Back. There are more episodes but I have yet to watch them. I will be writing these posts over this week, hope you enjoy them.