My son enjoys watching animated Disney movies, so we purchased a subscription to Disney Plus. There was a TV show called “Wanda Vision” that a lot of people were talking about, so I started watching it. Wow, I loved it! It was funny, touching, mysterious, unique and more. The characters in the TV show had also been in many of the Marvel Avengers superhero movies. The only one of those I had seen was Black Panther. Our Disney Plus package includes most of those Avengers superhero movies, so I decided to start watching them. I have now seen thirteen of these movies, and they are fantastic! Some are better than others, but all were very entertaining. My favorites are “Black Panther,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Avengers Infinity War.” Apparently I have been living in a cave for the past thirteen years, because these are some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of all time. (I also like “Wonder Woman,” but she is part of the Justice League which is a different superhero franchise.)
As I watched the movies I thought a lot about the book “The Storytelling Animal” by Jonathan Gottschall. He writes about how stories can captivate us: “How odd it is…that a story can sneak up on us on a beautiful autumn day, make us laugh or cry, make us amorous or angry, make our skin shrink around our flesh, alter the way we imagine ourselves and our worlds. How bizarre it is that when we experience a story–whether in a book, a film, or a song–we allow ourselves to be invaded by the teller. The story penetrates our skulls and seizes control of our brains.” When I watched these superhero movies, I was completely pulled in. My house fell away and I was immersed in New York City, Asgard and Wakanda. I went through the emotional journey of encountering the Big Bad Evil Character with the plan to wipe out some percentage of the world’s population, feeling the overwhelming odds of success, and summoning the courage to take on the challenge anyway. I felt the excitement and fear of battle and the triumph of success.
What spiritual lessons can be found from the joy of watching an extremely entertaining TV show or movie? I don’t know what the evolutionary purpose of watching movies is. I do know that it is an enjoyable human experience. Part of the human experience is being able to MARVEL at the wonder, strangeness, beauty, complexity, and fascination of the world. We marvel at the wonders of nature, works of art, poetry, and the athletes of the olympics. Why are we here on earth and why are there so many amazing things to explore? I don’t know! But we are, and we can respond with gratitude that there are things in life that inspire and uplift the human soul. Storytelling has the ability to magically transport me to other places, meet new people and solve new dilemmas. I give thanks for the mystery of storytelling that brings wonder and joy into my life. I hope you find much to marvel at and delight in this summer.