The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey was an awesome movie about Truman, a guy whose entire life was a television show. His birth was filmed in a TV studio and from that point on, everyone he ever encountered were actors. His whole life was filmed and broadcast for the whole real world to watch. He didn’t know his life was a TV show and never saw any cameras. As far as he was concerned, his life was normal life. He soon became suspicious that a “real world” outside of his existed and longed to discover it. When he voiced a desire to leave his home town and explore the world in search of this other world, all the people in his life–all actors playing a role–discouraged him. The rest of the world is risky and dangerous and just not worth his time.
Truman was what his name suggests: a true (hu)man, struggling with the meaning of life. The director of Truman’s lifelong TV drama was an actual TV show director, whose name was Christof (did you catch that?). Christof directed the Truman Show, planning conflicts and difficulties in Truman’s life and bringing them to resolution.
But Truman hungered for more. He rebelled. He sought the outer limits of his home town, directly opposing the fury of Christof. When he reached the edge of town, he found a stairway that ascended (you get it?) to a door leading to the real world. He opened the door. It was dark on the other side. It was scary. It was unknown.
Just then, Christof cranked up the volume on the speakers installed in the skyward ceiling and spoke through a microphone. Truman heard Christof’s voice boom from the artificial heavens.
Truman turned around and asked, “Who are you?”
Christof replied, “I’m the creator…of a TV show! And you are the star, Truman!”
Christof told Truman of all the things he had done for him. He created a life for him that had struggle, but also a prescribed meaning and purpose. Truman’s life had the purpose that Christof gave it. He promised to continue to give Truman adventures with the added promise of perpetual protection. No disaster would befall him. Christof will always look after him. All he had to do was stay inside Christof’s world.
Truman was silent. Christof pressed him for an answer.
Truman looked up and smiled, giving his staple greeting that was a part of every episode of his life: “In case I don’t see you–good afternoon, good evening, and good night!” Then, with fear and excitement, Truman stepped through the dark doorway into the exciting unknown to make his own way, forging his own purpose in life, with no divine safety net to catch him if he falls.
As I see it, the movie celebrates humanism–an idea that is just a few hundred years old and was kindled around the time of the Enlightenment. It’s the notion that humans can think for themselves and so they no longer need a deity to determine their course in life.
Such thinking is the heart of the “god is dead” concept. To the humanist, god was never alive, but the concept of god dies a slow death in a society where people celebrate reason. For example, if god won’t eradicate polio, then we will. If he won’t treat cancer, then we will. God created the mosquitos that suck our blood and spread disease. So humans create deet. The more humans create, the more we accomplish for the common good of mankind, and thus the less we need a deity. In this way, the concept of god “dies”.
Like Truman, we all stand before a dark door. An artificial life of false protection lies behind us. Christof calls us back into his constructed world where there are supposedly “pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11). But everything in that world is artificial and untrue. When we prayed for the healing of our loved ones, they remained sick. They were only healed when humans worked to find cures. The doorway before us is dark and uncertain, but I’m more confident in the uncertainty of human progress than I am in a divine certainty that is frequently proved false (and how many times does something need to be wrong before it ceases to be divine?). Walking into the dark door is the best choice for Truman. It’s dark, but he’ll find his way. We all will.
“However vast the darkness, we must provide our own light.” –Stanley Kubrick