Recently, my sister encouraged me to start streaming a series on Acorn TV entitled “800 Words”. The star of the show, George Turner (played by Erik Turner) is a writer who turns out weekly columns of exactly 800 words. He originally lived in Sydney, Australia. On a whim, George sells his house, buys a new home sight-unseen in Weld, New Zealand, and moves he and his two teenage children overseas. The rationale behind the move is that in a place he cherished as a child on family vacations maybe he and his children can find solace and eventually heal from the sudden accidental death of his wife.
The show is a human interest comedy so not surprisingly in the first episode his decision, which everyone including himself questions, is fraught with humorous accidental encounters, snarky real estate deals, natural disasters and extreme bullying of his teens as they try to get acclimated to a new school. George has unwittingly bought the wrong house in need of massive repairs without the promised view. The rental car is destroyed by a random piece of art, resulting in a major community event. George insults the entire village by writing about how Weld is a “dead end”. George rescues himself only by attending a community gathering and stumbling through a message about his dead wife and how a dead end can serve as a new beginning.
The theme of dead ends providing new directions reminded me of a stickie note, I keep posted on my computer. “The farthest road to take is the road back to yesterday.” Our antecedents no matter how accomplished, guilt riddenaumatic and/or regretful are behind us never to be recovered.
In this week’s Bible Study, the irretrievably of the past reached out from the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot’s wife is ordered not to look back at Sodom as she and Lot escape destruction. Yet even with a stern warning from God, she can’t comply. Because of her backward glance, Lot’s wife is turned to stone, symbolic retribution, a rock stuck in the proverbial “hard place” unable to choose the future. Part of the human condition is to cling to traditional patterns and past habits.
Rationally, we know we can’t recreate or return to “Happy Days.” But emotionally, moving forward when faced with life’s challenges may be the hardest calling each of us faces. Alcoholics are asked to give up drinking and this may mean giving up friends and changing life patterns, such as transitioning from socializing in bars to extreme sports and regular meetings.Women in violent relationships may need to flee their homes in the dark of night with their children and nothing else to a shelter and uncertain future hoping to find safety. Refugees cram into small boats sailing to unknown places that promise a better future. The boat may capsize. Too many foreigners may have come before. The welcoming vision may transform into a nightmare of fences with barb wire surrounding camps. Life’s journey is thwart with the possibility of dead ends and the siren call to return to what one knows, no matter how intolerable.
Human progress can be traced to those who are able to see what appears to be a dead end as a culdesac, a bend in the road, an opportunity to move in new untried directions.The miracle of human creativity is our ability to seek new directions when all seems hopeless. We have created a term for this ability, “resiliency”, the ability to overcome adversity and move on. We do not have to remain rooted in one place emotionally like a stone or spin wildly out of control as if we were clinging to a rubber raft launched on white water without any oars or life jacket. We can make choices even bad ones and recover. We can’t go back but we can stride forward in an uncertain world with a hopeful heart.