The 2012 film ‘Cloud Atlas’ was a challenge to take in due to six separate stories laced together, and yet, a basic concept began to form in my mind and has gradually brought clarity upon considering the bigger picture. Perhaps the author had something else in mind; hut my idea is well worth exploring.
The official synopsis described the film as "an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. An absorbing quote in the film comes from Sonmi-451: "Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
From the time of young adulthood, I have come to the same conclusion. Everything and everyone in this universe is connected. We are the product of the same substance, which binds us together for forever. What one does creates a chain reaction and in turn, affects those around us. Therefore, we must be careful when choosing our options.
Another intriguing quote is this; “There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well. This movement will never survive; if you join them, you and your entire family will be shunned. At best, you will exist a pariah to be spat at and beaten-at worst, to be lynched or crucified. And for what? For what? No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean. Adam Ewing answers: “What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”
The period in time varies during the course of the film, but within each story, I sensed a theme and sub-theme. The basic theme focuses on ‘choices’ and the sub-theme deals with ‘discrimination’. I have a notion that the author was attempting to convey that everyone has the option to choose for good or to choose to be hurtful.
Personally, I believe that sometimes a seemingly sound choice can end up causing harm without deliberately meaning to. Therefore, one must have enough sense and to take great care when making choices, because a wrong choice can have a ripple effect with long-term consequences for others as well as oneself.
Within the film, no matter the period in history, a social ladder system appears to prevail, consisting of invisible boundaries. The upper class with or without meaning to, prevents the lower class from crossing the social boundaries in their search for an abundant life.
For eons, humankind has endured numerous boundaries waiting to be conquered. Through the ages, due to individual and society choices, people have had to endure some form of discrimination. A few examples would be discrimination of gender, discrimination of skin color, and disregard of the lower class and those who might look or conform differently from what society has set down as the conventional standard.
Looking back through history, one can see how more often than not, the governing body as well as members of the aristocracies’ main goal was to keep order and lawfulness. However, due to a choice of using their power for personal gain, a distorted strategy was born. This distorted version employed greed and power to control the masses. Our predecessors have witnessed how plans can go awry due to the temptation of personal gain. Over time, they came to realize that those in power are at higher risk of being tempted towards dishonesty. They suspected that corruption would foul the works, because of the way it crushed the human spirit.
As a member of the masses, I have to ask myself, “If this is the way it has been for ages, then are we supposed to merely accept our fate without any kind of protest? My answer is a resounding NO. I believe that you will agree and you might then ask, “How can we go beyond or transcend these invisible boundaries?” I say that anything is possible if we remove the limiting mindset that is holding us back and replace it with enough confidence to take a leap of faith. That's when we will conquer the boundary that attempts to holds us back. This is why I am fond of what the author wrote in the film.
"All boundaries are waiting to be transcended and of first conceiving of doing so before one can ever begin to actually rise above the boundaries."
His concept parallels mine and reminds me of someone who did just that. He did not accept the system’s boundaries. He made ripples and waves, lots of them every time He convicted the establishment’s self-serving rules. Because of His determination and persistence, He rose above the social boundaries. His words and actions clearly annoyed the religious leaders as well as the governing body, especially since the masses were clearly miserable being under Rome's thumb.
I have included another quote from the film, paving the way to the One I speak:
Sonmi-451: This is what General Apis asked of me.
Archivist: What, to be executed?
Sonmi-451: If I had remained invisible, the truth would stay hidden. I couldn't allow that.
Archivist: And what if no one believes this truth?
Sonmi-451: Someone already does.
The above dialogue sounds recognizable. A particular Jewish carpenter from over two thousand years ago might have answered similarly, had he chosen to advocate for His right to live. However, He remained silent during His trial and execution, because He had complete trust in His Heavenly Father and His plan for humanity... I now present, Jesus of Nazareth, a profit, a teacher, a rabbi, and above all, the Son of God.
Without a doubt, Jesus was the greatest at transcending boundaries. One of the most remarkable triumphs of Jesus was His method of crossing social and religious boundaries by his open fellowship with the lowly and scorned. By doing so, he deliberately challenged the old testament rules regarding pureness. He even broke the Sabbath (The holy day of rest and reflection observed among the Jews) in order to help people. He regularly connected with the lower class and the rejected with a gift of a hopeful sense of love and equality.
One example of Jesus rising above man's boundaries was when He spoke to a Samaritan who happened to be a woman. His decision to have an exchange with the woman was uncharacteristic for that period in time because the social custom frowned heavily on both actions, but it did not matter to Jesus. Due to the social blunder that Jesus committed, the disciples were shocked to see Him in deep discussion with the Samaritan woman. When he saw the disbelief in their eyes, Jesus chose that moment to teach the disciples about God’s love for the human race. He told them to open their eyes and see that people of all cultures were hungry to hear about God’s unconditional love. He went on to tell them to see the harvest that is ready and accessible for the Kingdom of God.
Because of His ministry, Jesus’s was more noticeable than his disciples were. He shouldered more responsibility. Therefore, he had more to lose by having an exchange with the woman but he proved that it did not matter when he rebuked the disciples for being blind to what He could clearly see. At the end of the passage in John, we see that several people come to believe Jesus because of that woman’s eyewitness testimony. Jesus used the occasion to teach his disciples the importance of cross-cultural ministry and to get them out of their limited mindset box-- a box of discrimination-- in which they occupied.
This story is for everyone, because we are all capable of occupying a limited mindset box when we deliberately or even unintentionally choose to hurt others. It might be a rash decision to drink and drive. It might be a careless comment that reveals one's stance on inequality or discrimination. Whatever the cause, it is time to wake up and open our eyes. We have a choice to stay in or break out of our limiting mindset box. It is time to see what Jesus was able to see when He looked at the scorned woman. We can make a difference. It begins with one person, and then another, and so on, until we have become an ocean of voices. We must not deny people access to an abundant life and the grace of Christ. Like Jesus Christ, we can rise beyond man’s boundaries to reach the rejected, all social levels, and all cultures to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
May God's love be with you,
I sense a need for something greater than self. So, I am led by Christ's love to be an encourager as I share about His faithfulness and grace.