“It’s just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don’t have to really face up to the fact that we’re just temporary people. You can distract yourself a billion different ways, but the key is to distract yourself.” – Woody Allen
At the start of the movie we see her move in with her sister and we soon uncover that Jasmine has taken a mighty fall from fortune and marriage to the rock bottom pit of penniless lonely desperation. We encounter moments of her talking to herself, flashbacks to past events and excessive drinking. She looks out of control.
Yet it seems that nowhere throughout the film does her situation cause her to confront her demons, instead it moves her to bury her head in the sand. Furthermore she takes every opportunity to lecture her sister on “how to do better” in life or “how to get a better man” who can look after her – despite the fact that her own life is falling apart.
It reminds me of a scene in the Matrix where Cypher is asking to be taken back into the matrix rather than facing the reality set before him:
Cypher: You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?
[Takes a bite of steak]
Cypher: Ignorance is bliss.
Delusion and ignorance seem like a worthy pursuit when all around you is falling apart. We can often be like Jasmine, wanting to bury our heads in the sand and just pretend nothing is wrong. And it is easy to do that with the vast array of ways to delude or even numb the reality around us – TV, internet, books, hobbies etc.
We jack ourselves into our own personal matrix when things get too hard. And why not? A bit of imagination that takes us outside the prison cell isn’t a terrible thing.
But what Woody Allen goes on to say is interesting:
“I personally don’t have any faith in anything. It’s great if you can. The only trouble is, sooner or later, reality sets in. But it’s nice if you can delude yourself for as long as possible.” – Woody Allen
He links faith and delusion together. It is as Marx says: “religion is the opium of the people“. Woody Allen doesn’t see any harm in it, it’s just the human way of coping with life but he admits that at some point the delusion will be shattered. In the meantime just breathe deep the religious fumes and be carried away to a far and distant land.
I suppose this could be true if the gospel story was about a jolly father christmas in the sky or just about being nice, doing good things and waving flags.
And in many ways if we just focus on the future hope – a hope we cling to, a hope that God will wipe away all our tears and there will be no sickness and dying. Then it could seem like pulling the wool over our eyes.
But that isn’t the complete story.
The gospel story firstly shows us the stark reality of our human hearts. And what pulls us out of our own self-made matrix is the brutal reality of the cross. The cross doesn’t allow us to hide in ignorance or delusion but confronts us square on with the sin in our hearts. When we see the Son of God dying in our place, he unveils the stark truth that there is something deeply wrong with humanity and it needs to be dealt with and only he can do that.
With the gospel, there is no place to hide like Jasmine or Cypher or Adam and Eve. The Cross shines a light in the darkness and exposes what is concealed.
What Woody Allen says here is interesting because he believes its faith that deludes us. Yet I actually think its faith in the gospel story that uncovers the delusion that we all live in everyday. It is the cross that helps “reality set in” and allows us to face our demons. But it’s hard to stomach because the human condition is a lot worse than we think.
Though the good news is a lot brighter than we deserve.
And until our delusion breaks, we can dress up our aging bodies, watch TV to escape the hum drum of life, look the other way when someone is in need, buy until we are in debt and make excuses while convincing ourselves that we are doing ok and we are worth it.
But the cross beckons us to stop hiding, to bring out our demons and emerge from our own matrix. To acknowledge that the illusion never satisfies and even though the harsh reality of this feels like death, there is One who deals with it. He emerges himself into our reality and smashes the bubble we are in so we can no longer be distracted.