How "This Is Us" Radiates The Heart of the Family: PART I
So I literally could not wait to write this blog as I have a new favorite show on NBC titled "This Is Us." Now with most programming, it honestly can be depressing to find it filled with relativism, pornography and everything under the sun that is not good for the soul. It is very rare that you find something that not only moves you on T.V., but has the capacity to captivate something invisible to man; the soul. Without any spoilers, here is the plot:
"...this refreshingly honest and provocative series follows a unique ensemble. As their paths cross and their life stories intertwine in curious ways, we find that several of them share the same birthday and so much more than anyone would expect. From the writer and directors of "Crazy, Stupid, Love" comes a smart, modern dramedy that will challenge your everyday presumptions about the people you think you know."
Is your curiosity piqued? Well this show and the Catholic Church have SO much depth that this will be a Three Part Series, be sure to tune in to Fully Alive: LIVE to know exactly why!
"It is not good for Man to be alone..." (Gn 2:18)
What has struck me the most is the unparalleled acceptance of displaying the Family as a source of hope amidst adversity. The themes of forgiveness, authentic love, self-sacrifice, and so much more are the fuel to the flame that radiates the heart of God's plan for the family. A plan with such light, I believe, illuminates your soul.
At the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Fr. Luis Granados, DCJM, gave a presentation titled "Radical Surrender: Living Vocation According To God's Will." He discussed "the meaning of "radical surrender" as the path of every human person toward an existence fully alive, toward true happiness."
The presentation illustrated the much high anticipation of St. John the Baptist and how his ministry had a fruitful beginning. Although, "if compared to modern contemporary standards, it was a complete failure." All of St. John's disciples abandoned him, he was sent to prison for meddling in the "private business" of the king, and beheaded as a birthday gift. Yet, Jesus said he was the greatest among those born of women. (Lk 7:28)
It is from this apparent contradiction that Fr. Luis said, "helps us to pose the real question of our existence: What makes our life great? How can we define a "human person fully alive"? How do we become fully alive?" A seven point insight followed to explain this concept of Radical Surrender, but for the sake of brevity I will talk about three of them in relation to "This Is Us."
1. Radical autonomy or independence
"According to our contemporary world, human fulfillment is something very different. We are really alive when we are independent, autonomous, when we are no more under the authority of our parents. In our century, happiness means autonomy and self-determination. The man fully alive, the successful one, is he who attains a comfortable, wealthy and healthy life. Otherwise, he will be a loser like St. John the Baptist"
What is even more powerful is how the characters Jack and Rebecca Pearson become Mom and Dad. I believe it is at a Super Bowl party at their favorite bar and their other married friends glow about the beauty and struggle of raising their children. It was almost a mirror for Jack to realize it is about more than just his happiness; it is about something more than just him and his wife.
Jack interjects thoughts of starting a family and Rebecca relays the radical feminist thought of seeing motherhood as an imprisonment devoid of love that she witnessed in her parents' marriage. Nevertheless, this lovers' quarrel ends in a resolve to reject this desire to protect their radical autonomy and independence, and the choice to start a family together.
Fr. Luis said, "To be autonomous may be something possible or impossible, but is it really desirable?"
"Narcissus was not a happy guy, but a sick and anxious one. The hell described by C.S. Lewis in the The Great Divorce is a place of great autonomy, but huge sadness and fear. The narcissistic myth of independence is not a true path to fulfillment. Happiness will come from love, and those who love each other, are not independent, but they rejoice in their increasing dependence on each other." (Granados)
As the characters develop, a true depiction of the beautiful labors of love are seen in Jack choosing to be a father that rejects all of modern societal standards in autonomy or independence, mainly in being present to his children.
A moment that speaks so closely to this is the episode where Randall, their adopted African American son, is having trouble understanding his culture and ultimately identity amidst being raised in a Caucasian-dominant culture as a young boy.
It is suggested by another mother in the black community to introduce him into friendships with other black boys as a source of consolation in belonging. So, Jack signs up Randall for Karate in an all black Dojo, which interestingly means "place of the way." The leader of the dojo assembles all of the boys and their fathers to "initiate a new member."
My first thought was that it was for Randall, but oh no...it was for both of them, mainly Jack to make a promise to uphold the pillars of their community in being the rock and foundation for his son. Need a break? Watch the scene here now!
Now if you just watched the clip, you just found out too that Jack and Rebecca kept the secret that they knew who Randall's biological father really was his entire life. In a rhapsodic manner, his biological father, William, comes back into his life dying of cancer when he turned 36. Such tugs at the heart strings but look at these words Randall uses to confront Rebecca, they say a lot to the consequences to the labor of love of making such a tough decision.
"I have here a list of all the reasons I have come up with in the past few days in how you have destroyed me by keeping William a secret for 36 years. You kept that secret for 36 years, that must have been incredibly lonely."
While many say there is no book on parenting, I am not the judge if that was a great decision, however we can look to the fruit of that decision. Even amidst choosing the greater good to come out of themselves in rejecting a selfish desire of the autonomous freedom by not having children, it still flared up in making a decision on how it impacted them as parents, disregarding how it would impact their child.
What makes this even more beautiful is that through all of this, Randall chose to seek to understand his mother and father's decision. Amidst all of it, he still had a realization to have mercy and compassion on his mother's fruit of autonomy; loneliness. Yet, an apparent hope is born for reconciliation in time for wounds to heal.
I hope that this peer into one my new favorite shows lit a desire to watch it too! Heck, let's have a watch party on Tuesday! That is all for now but I look forward to going into more depth in Part II of this series.
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