THREE STARS – WHOLESOME
The desire for everlasting life reveals our spiritual nature. Intuitively aware that we were not created just to die, we look for remedies to our curse. From Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth to the promises of modern genetic engineering, the goal is the same: we want to cheat death. But when this goal is seen as merely continuing life in this world, its promises are so incomplete that everlasting life here also seems to be a curse. Both of these realities are explored in Disney's "Tuck Everlasting."
The tale that is told centers on the emptiness of simply continuing life. Weaving together the desire to cheat death with the inherent emptiness of an unending life with no real purpose, the tale celebrates the life well-lived, though mortal.
The story begins in the present and morphs into the past as young Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson) takes us to a summer in the transitioning days of the early 20th century. As horses are giving way to automobiles, it is clear that we are going to walk through transitions of the soul as well.
The central character of the film is young Winifred 'Winnie" Foster (Alexis Bledel). Her 15th summer has brought her to a moment of change in her own life as her wealthy parents decide to send her to an oppressive boarding school to force the rituals of wealth and manners upon her. In adolescent wisdom, she flees from their plan by running deep into the woods that comprise their vast estate. It is there that she meets Jesse.
At first, we are unsure of the nature of the seclusion in which Jesse and his family live. His father, Angus (William Hurt) and his mother, Mae (Sissy Spacek), are obviously loving and caring people. His brother Miles (Scott Bairstow), though troubled, is clearly not evil. But as the title of the film explains, they are hiding because they have discovered a spring that transforms them into everlasting, immortal beings.
The expectation that this would be a blessing is affirmed superficially as Winnie experiences the unhurried nature of their lives - as though they have all the time in the world to do the simplest of things. But it soon becomes clear that this everlasting life is in fact a curse. Without a real purpose to their endless days, they feel, as Angus describes it, "like rocks on the side of the stream." Insulated from aging as well as the relationships that create a life, they hide in fearful isolation.
This suggestion that unending life here on earth would be a curse is a profound spiritual statement. Different from living fully a life of faith and then passing to an even greater, spiritual life, their experience keeps them continually and everlastingly prisoners of this world.
In the end, Winnie must decide whether to join the Tucks in their everlasting state, or choose to live through the cycles of life into which we are all born. Either choice doesn't come without pain. It is a decision that thankfully none of us have yet had to make.
- Toward the end of his life Freud changed from emphasizing our sexuality to emphasizing our fear of death as the major psychic repression of our lives. This shift not only represented his own life journey but his professional experience. Consider how the fear of death has impacted your own life – what have you done or not done because of this fear? How has it impacted the whole of humankind? What would be different about our society and world if we came to accept our mortality?
- In Christian teaching we are told that “eternal life” is the life God lives, a difference not in length but in quality. Consider how this goal of a “godly life” is different from an “everlasting life.” Consider how the Tuck’s experience of their unending existence would have changed if they had lived a “godly” life of loving ministry rather than one of living in hidden seclusion.
- In the desire to live a fulfilling and joy-filled life, the primary requirement is an ability to accept reality. The reality that this physical life will end is seen as only a transition moment for those of Christian faith, but it is seen as a final ending of life for those who reject the transcendent existence. Bertrand Russell, in his painfully honest work, “A Free Man’s Worship,” states that a life lived without belief in God comes to a place of “unyielding despair,” consider how this is true.