The Gospel According To PIXAR pt 4
“Control verses Trust”
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 7/28/2013
Based on Mark 8:34-37, Mark 10:13-21 and movie Finding Nemo
In the movie Finding Nemo, we observe three main characters: Marlin the dad, Nemo the son, and Dory the absent-minded. The film begins with Nemo preparing for his first day of school. Nemo’s father, Marlin is worried that Nemo might not yet be ready for school. The reason for this was when Nemo was just an egg, a barracuda, attacked his home, killing his mother and all the other ninety-nine brothers and sisters, only he and his dad survived the attack. Wracked with guilt, Marlin promised never to let anything happen to Nemo. This overprotection leads to a conflict with Nemo, which results in Nemo’s capture by a diver.
This film is a story of humanity told through the lives of fish. As humans we wish to be in control, directing our outcomes, yet we find the reality is counterproductive, for we generally fail to achieve the outcome that we want. What we ultimately need often turns out to be the very opposite of what we initially pursued. The Gospel According to PIXAR, pg 31
Marlin wasn’t always an overprotective parent. At the beginning of the film, Marlin was a happy go lucky, everything in the world is going his way type of guy. But after the fatal attack on his home and family, Marlin’s perception of the world became adversarial, “it’s the world against me!” type of thinking. Nemo had suffered an injury to one of his fins in that attack, making him somewhat handicapped in his dad’s eyes, thus heightening Marlin’s over protectiveness; the major theme that Marlin teachings Nemo is that the Ocean is not safe. Marlin is a parent motivated by fear. He seeks to minimize every risk and prevent every foreseeable negative outcome. Every new situation provides new opportunities for danger. Marlin lives in a perpetual state of anxiety, yet the feeling of being in control provides for Marlin the only possibility of peace and security. The Gospel According to PIXAR, pg 32
Out of defiance to his dad, Nemo takes the dare of his school buddies and swims off the reef only to be captured by a human diver. This is one of the worst fears a parent could have. Determined to find his son, Marlin ventures out into this world that he views as hostile. Along the way, he meets a very absent minded Dory, who has the ability to read and speak Whale! Together they go looking for Nemo. On a personal note, Dory’s outlook on life is totally opposite of that of Marlin’s. Dory see’s life as a total venture (maybe because she is able to forget the past.)
At every turn, these two sojourners encounter danger, such as meeting up with sharks who are members of a “Fish are not food” anonymous group, some sort of deep sea monster, and a whale that swallows them. It is while inside the whale that Marlin has to learn to trust in something beyond his personal instincts of fear, which hasn’t been providing him with security all that well to this point. Holding onto the tonsil of the whale, Dory insists that the whale says to let go. For Marlin, it looks like letting go seems to be certain death, but his alternative of hanging on didn’t promise anything better. Turning loose, he and Dory are blown out of the whale through his blowhole to safety. Marlin then has the opportunity to practice this newly found trust when Nemo asks his dad trust him as he helps the fish caught in a fishing net to escape. At the end of the movie we see where Marlin has learned to let go of his fear, becoming a person who other fish enjoy being around, and develops a healthy relationship between he and Nemo.
How we view life is very closely related to our experiences in life. If we have never encountered much resistance in our goals or have had very little exposure to violence, we would tend to be less fearful of our environment. If on the other hand we have known violence or have been taught the world is an unsafe place in which to live in, then we would tend to view life more like Marlin.
A true story: I was in San Francisco some years ago staying at a B&B in the Mission district. A district that was at that time a rather rough place to be even in the daytime let along being on the streets after dark. I had been at a bar about three miles from my B&B. Come closing time, I couldn’t caught a cab so I decided to hoof the three miles hoping to catch a cab along the way. At one point a cab did stop for me, but once he saw how I was dressed, wearing a torn T-shirt and ripped jeans, drove off leaving me on the street to continue my moonlit walk.
As I entered into the Mission District I was using my very best defensive “this is how you stay safe walking alone in an unknown, unsafe neighborhood at 3 a.m.” strategy. As I came upon a group of people that I couldn’t avoid, and one lady screamed out, “Oh my goodness baby, did you get mugged?” I quickened my pace and answered politely, “Yes I did.” About two blocks further down the street, I passed a guy who looked at me and asked, “Is that a costume or was I in a fight?” I answered, “it’s my costume.” The questions that these two different people asked had a lot to do with how they perceive life. For the one, life was seen through the lens of danger and violence, for the other, maybe one goes somewhere intentionally dressed looking ragged.
This morning’s readings from Mark provide some parallels with Finding Nemo specifically that of “letting go”, knowing that we cannot control events around us and through this knowledge we can only live by trusting in a power that is greater than we are, God. I continually have to come back as a comparison to that of the simple trust in God that my mother possess to that of the more complicated way of viewing God that I have; mom is more like a Dory and I am more like Marlin. So much of my life, I work at trying to control and manipulate things so they will come out the way that I envision them to be.
It really takes up a lot of energy, trying to be in total control of things going on around you. And then when things do not play out the way that I am working toward, I have to fall back onto my mother’s understanding of God, that it is God who is in control. There are two theological worlds at play here; my mother’s theological world is a world 5, things are as they will be, so why worry about it, just have “trust.” This is as far away from my world 1 view, I’m not sure God really is out there working for me, therefore I need to make sure that I’m doing everything that I can to make what I want to be, work – total control.
In the story about Jesus saying we need to come to God as children, I am most struck by the verse, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” Too often the idea of picking up one’s cross and following Jesus is understood as, denying yourself and trying to become just like Jesus. I think what Jesus was truly trying to tell us was, we need to work at becoming who we truly are, that child full of expectancy, of adventure, and inquisitiveness, of trust. Even in the story of the young man that Jesus asked of him to sell all that he had, then come follow him, isn’t about taking a vow of poverty, but letting go of those things that give us false security, things that keep us from actually trusting in God’s love, power, and ultimate life giving. For me, it’s a constant struggle to not be like Marlin, for Jesus says we need to be a Dory in order to find ourselves, and it is in finding ourselves that we find life, true and full. Amen