One of the greatest paradoxes told to us in the Scriptures is that if we would save our life, we must lose it in Christ (Luke 9:24). That is, we must die to this world to inherit eternal life. “Eternal” does not simply refer to the length of the afterlife, but to its fullness as well. To inherit eternal life is to become fully alive.
This idea that we must die to ourselves to go up to something higher is evident throughout nature. Minerals and other aspects of the soil are taken up into plants by being leached out of the soil. But in so doing, they “come to life” in the plant and are no longer simply inert minerals. Plants, too, must die and be taken up into the animal that eats them. But in so doing, they become part of sentient life. And animals, too, must die and be taken up into the human person. But in so doing they go up higher, joined to the life of a person with a soul, one who ponders meaning, studies the stars, writes poetry, and knows God. And man, too, must die to himself, die to this world, in order to be swept up in the life of the Trinity in the glory of Heaven. In every stage, we die to something lower in order that we may go to something higher.
The video above presents a very moving story, one which requires us to suspend some notions of reality. Obviously, robots do not have consciousness and feelings—but this one does. The robot is sent to the home of an older woman in order to take care of her.
When the robot is first taken out of the box and turned on, he behaves just like a robot, going through chores mechanically. But in his association with the woman, he begins to go up higher. Dying to himself and serving this woman puts him in association with her. This relationship begins to give him almost human traits: love and loyalty, joy and sorrow, and even desire. We see the first change in him as he admires a sunset, in imitation of his mistress. The lesson here is that we learn what it means to be more fully human from one another and by gazing into the light of God’s glory.
It seems that the circus is coming to town. And oh, how the robot wants to go! The tickets are purchased and the anticipation builds.
But one thing we notice in the story is that this robot lives on battery power. And no matter how good battery power is, it can only last for so long before it lets you down.
The day of the circus arrives, and oh, the joy that awaits! But alas, his mistress dies that very day. Misunderstanding the higher life he has been serving, the robot tries to revive her by putting batteries in her pockets. But no amount of battery power can help, for the power of this world is powerless over death. Upon her death the robot sits gazing at the sunset, remembering a time when he first began to experience life.
We who view the story know that the robot cannot last for long, because his batteries, which symbolizes the things of this world, are sure to fail. Sure enough, five days later, his lights go out, and his eyes close in a kind of death.
But in dying, we are born to eternal life. And suddenly his eyes open, and he is in a world brighter than he has ever known. And there she is, his mistress, the one he served. She has come to walk with him to the circus, a circus far more glorious than he could ever have imagined. In dying to his battery life, he has gone to real and eternal life.
But Father, but Father, robots don’t have life! I know, it’s just a story. But like many stories, it’s really about you and me. For now, we are like servants, depending on battery life. We learn what it means to be more fully human from one another, and by gazing at the light of God’s glory. But to become fully alive requires that one day our battery finally die. And then a new and more glorious life awaits us, if we faithfully serve in the house of mother Church, in the house of God’s kingdom. In losing our life for the Lord and His kingdom, we gain it back more richly. From battery life to real life.