I don’t know how they do it, but somehow the writers of Supernatural manage to make a show about demons, freaks and monsters a continued source of reflection – at least for me.
While most Supernatural episodes make me think of something or another, Season 4’s second episode, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Dean Winchester” sent me on a reflection that has already lasted two weeks, given me at least three nights worth of dreams (reflective dreams, people, nothing else!) and driven my close friends up the wall (I may have talked about it a little too much, perhaps?).
What can I say? Inspiration sometimes comes from the oddest places.
For those of you who don’t watch Supernatural, it’s in (very) short the adventures of Dean and Sam Winchester, two brothers weeding out demons and other such monsters from our world (thank you, boys). While Sam believes in God, Dean doesn’t think He exists. Throughout the first three seasons, Dean mentions in passing his disbelief in God, a concept that, according to Dean, cannot coexist with that of evil.
In this particular episode, Dean is having a huge crisis of faith – or rather, a huge crisis of unfaith. An angel from God, Castiel, visited him and yet Dean still has doubts as to His existence.
The dialogue goes a little something like this.
Sam (after Dean tells him about the angel visiting him): Dean, this is good news.
Sam: Because for once, this is not just another round of demon crap. I mean maybe you were saved by one of the good guys.
Dean: Ok. Say it’s true, say there are angels. Then what, there’s a God?
Bobby (their friend): At this point, Vegas money is on yeah.
Dean: I don’t know, guys.
Sam: OK look, I know you’re not all choir boy about this, but this is becoming less and less about faith and more and more about proof.
Sam (excitedly): Yes!
Dean: Proof that there’s a God out there that actually gives a crap about me personally? I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it.
Sam: Why not?
Dean: Because why me? If there is a God out there, why would He give a crap about me?
Dean: I mean, I’ve save some people, OK? I figured that made up for the stealing and the ditching chicks. But why do I deserve to get saved? I’m just a regular guy!
Sam: Well apparently you’re a regular guy who is important to the Man upstairs.
Dean: Well that creeps me out. I mean, I don’t like being singled out for birthday parties, much less by… God.
Sam: OK well too bad Dean, because I think He wants you to strap on your party hat.
So first of all, I like that Dean doesn’t just accept Castiel as being an angel because he said so, and asked for proof. After all, we’re not meant to blindly accept what we’re told; we have to strive to understand, to the extent of our capacity, the truth. Go Dean!
However, even when presented with proof, Dean has a hard time accepting it, or even accepting that the truth might be different from what he thinks it to be.
This isn’t very rigorous an approach. After all, even if God isn’t what Dean thinks He is, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. It just means that the definition of God that Dean had was wrong (at least, according to the proof he was being given). A concrete example of this would be people’s perception of Africa; just because Africa isn’t anything like what most people think it is doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I know, the example is lacking (comparing God to Africa? Ouch), but it gets my point across
Thirdly – and this ties in with, believe it or not, Barack Obama – is that people don’t feel comfortable accepting the responsibility that comes with believing in God. To believe means to act, and to act in difficult times is to willingly pull ourselves out of our comfort zone and do extremely awkward and even painful things. Most people – understandably so – don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. After all, most have worked very hard to get where they are and deserve the ease and comfort they can enjoy.
This might be the biggest challenge the Obama administration will face: not the lack of hope, nor the lack of support for change, but rather, the lack of people going out of their comfort zones to be that change.
A fellow WordPress blogger, Tim Valentine, has underlined this very point:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 was not just the ending of an era of growing pessimism of our future and opportunities, but the beginning of a renewed spirit, passion and optimism. It’s not going to be easy and one person can not do it all nor should he.
The burden of this presidency is going to be the continual campaign of the pessimist and the lazy. It’s the person who works to persuade you that you can’t or shouldn’t and instructs you to be fearful, wait and see mentality.
One of the most difficult burdens of this presidency will not be what his predecessor left him to deal with, but to convince people that we have the power to change. It doesn’t have to be like this and that we can rise beyond our present circumstances. We are greater than our individual ambitions, factions, heritage and status. If we are ever to move beyond this mountain we can not walk alone. (Read the rest of the post here).
Why so many good people don’t act when it is evident everyone’s help is sorely needed? Like I mentioned in a previous post, a huge ocean is made up of millions of humble little drops, each holding their little part of the ocean together. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that people are blinded by their own limitations and failings, making them question their worth. In the abovementioned episode of Supernatural, Dean is in denial is because he is blinded by a vision of his own limited and fallible self; he can’t see himself as a potential channel for God’s work. On one hand, this can be good in small doses, since it can keep him humble. On the other hand, it keeps Dean from acting and fulfilling his part of the contract – i.e. keeping his part of the ocean together.
It’s interesting to note that many devout believers also question their role in the greater scheme of things, thinking that surely God doesn’t expect little measly them, who have not much to offer, to do anything.
There could also be another reason why some people aren’t eager to embrace their part of the bargain. Some people might be afraid to believe; because believing in God means you have to obey His rules, and He clearly asks us to do extremely difficult things (not only I shouldn’t slap the person who just slapped me, but I have to turn my other cheek?); because believing in God means systematically working on becoming a better person, admitting to faults we would much rather bury deep and ignore (who likes to admit, even to themselves, that they have issues?); because believing in God is a life-long commitment that implies action & reflection on everything we do.
It’s not easy, believing; no wonder Dean is creeped out at being singled out!
I still have a lot to say about this episode… But moderation in everything. Give me a few more days and I’ll come back to you with more!