Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Not So Hopeless Hope

On Friday I saw The Great Gatsby with my book club, and in preparation for our discussion I re-read the book because I hadn't read it since high school. (As a side note I did not really like the movie, but I didn't see it in 3D either which made the camera angels and zooms distracting.) 

What strikes me most about the plot is how it portrays hope of the future as meaningless. 

Gatsby's love for Daisy motivated him to attempt to achieve a different life for himself. The green light on her dock across the bay from Gatsby's mansion symbolized hope in the dark world, a tangible representation of his aspirations. 

Yet the famous ending to the book shows that Gatsby had “paid a high price for living too long with a single dream." The last words in the book state:

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning - 
So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Gatsby had traveled on a journey with no end, and his hope is cut off. There is no "one fine morning." He is stuck in his past by trying to re-create it. Waves metaphorically pushed Gatsby back from the green navigation light on Daisy’s dock, and the alliteration in the last sentence symbolizes the harsh truth that the past will always determine the future because you can't move beyond it. 

What is also shocking is the futility of his optimism, thinking that he will one day reach his hoped for future. 

So this story makes us question our own hope. Is it meaningless? 

Thankfully, no. We have a hope that is unshakeable: 

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23). 

We have hope because God follows through on his promises of the future. We do not have to be held back by our past ways:
"For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior" (1 Timothy 4:10).

In a talk I heard Donald Miller give, he stated, "It's not that life is meaningless. Maybe just your life is meaningless." He was referring to those living without hope, viewing the world as a meaningless place. He challenges them - and us - to examine, What am I living for? 

If you do not know to what end you toil and strive, then yes, your life would be meaningless. But as (surprising) Nietzsche said, "If you know the why, you can live any how." 

Do you know your why? 
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe" (Ephesians 1:18-19).
We have hope in a power far greater than we can imagine.


  1. I also found the movie disappointing but I went in believing that I would be reconnected to the classic novel that I had read years ago and loved. I found the viewer has to view the film separated from it's original story. It's just Baz Luhrmann's (the director) artistic representation of the novel. And as that it's a fine film, Ol' sport.
    Even though I fell in love the F.Scott's story portraying the affluent lives of the characters and their shenanigans,parties, and endless abundance of whatever. It is a truly sad book because of what you point out. Daisy doesn't care about Jay she can't even express herself because her comfort is more important to her. She is selfish living in her own here and now. And Jay hopelessly in love is a slave to the past living each day trying to re-create the illusion of love he has come to believe is reality.

    It is reassuring to know that our lives, if we so choose, are more tangible than fictive stories and if we choose the right path we, with help, can create a better future than our past.

    1. I love your thoughts on this- thanks for sharing! Your last line rings so true, that we, with help, can move beyond our past. Thanks for the comment!