I rarely find myself in agreement with the message of a Hollywood movie, but I’m all in on this one.
I played hooky today and saw the new movie Ad Astra in an empty, midday theater, which was appropriate, because it is a lonely, expansive film, which asks the perennial human question: What are you looking for? We are all looking for something, and usually that something is something out of reach, far away, ad astra.
The movie is set in “the near future” when humanity has developed the technology for deep space travel. (Not all the physics holds up to even my pedestrian knowledge, but it looks entirely believable all the way through.) Major Roy McBride (played by Brad Pitt) is sent on a top secret mission to find his father, lost near Neptune decades before. Since being left by his father as a boy, Roy has always been looking for something, and his search takes him literally to the stars.
So many of us live lives of quiet dissatisfaction, always looking for the next thing, all the while encouraged in our restlessness by multinational corporations who have learned how to monetize our searching.
If you had this car
If you had this woman
If you had this body
If you had this house
Then you would be satisfied.
But, it’s not true, is it? And so we keep looking ad astra and never think there might be something to the advice of Jesus to “consider the lilies.”
It is a beautiful prayer: “God, thou hast put salt on our lips that we might thirst for thee.” Our searching is, of course, ultimately a search for God. But there is a second order of restlessness that also keeps us from delighting in the simple gifts of God: the people at hand, the water we drink, the daily bread God provides. If we can’t take delight and satisfaction in these things, then no matter where we go, there we’ll be.
Like you, I’ve read the stories about Brad Pitt’s family chaos over the past few years: how he left his first wife, the movie star Jennifer Aniston, for the movie star Angelina Jolie, how they had a total of 6 adopted and natural children together, how his marriage fell apart, how he was charged with and then cleared of child abuse. I wonder, has all of that chaos caused him to reflect on what really matters? He plays his role with a wisdom that suggests he’s learned a lot of this the hard way, and is warning us of the danger of thinking that contentment lies ad astra, elsewhere, and not where we already are.
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
What good is it to go to the stars if you haven’t learned to delight in the gifts of God already at hand?
Ad Astra (2019): recommended.
*****How to Subscribe to Updates from My Blog*****
If you sign up to receive my irregular updates, I’ll send you a white paper I’ve written called “The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use to Become a Better Communicator”.
I’m also blogging through the Gospels each weekday in 2019, and I have a separate mailing list for folks who only want to receive the Gospel posts. Subscribe here to receive a weekday update on that day’s Gospel reading.