Sometimes the villain in a story has a better grasp on reality than the heroes (to say nothing of cooler eye makeup). Observe the bad guy from the recent Doctor Strange:
Kaecilius: This world doesn’t have to die, Doctor. This world can take its rightful place alongside so many others as part of the One. The great and beautiful One. We can all live forever.
Dr. Stephen Strange: Really? What do you have to gain out of this New Age dimensional utopia?
Kaecilius: The same as you, the same as everyone. Life. Eternal life. People think in terms of good and evil when really time is the true enemy of us all. Time kills everything.
Dr. Stephen Strange: What about the people you killed?
Kaecilius: Tiny. Momentary specks within an indifferent universe. Yes. You see. You see what we’re doing. The world is not what it ought to be. Humanity longs for the eternal…for a world beyond time, because time is what enslaves us. Time is an insult. Death is an insult.
This perspective on death is starkly different than the view espoused by The Ancient One, Doctor Strange’s teacher:
The Ancient One: We don’t get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning – to know your days are numbered. Your time is short.
I am a Christian, so I believe fiercely in making the most of this life. The temporal perspective of The Ancient One is found in statements from biblical writers:
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10,12)
The Apostle Paul: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
However, Kaecilius is right in believing that death is an enemy that we should not befriend.
The Apostle Paul: The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Jesus: I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)
Yes, Jesus’ words could often be confusing, but he definitely does not consider death a good thing.
When I first saw Doctor Strange in theaters, I found myself resonating with Kaecilius’ motives (not his methods, obviously) in desiring “a world beyond time – beyond death” while openly scoffing at The Ancient One’s romanticized notion of death. How about you?
We were not born to make peace with dying.
One Step Further
Imagery in comics is often a bastardization of biblical themes and phrases.
Kaecilius: You cannot stop this, Mister Doctor.
Dr. Stephen Strange: I don’t even know what “this” is.
Kaecilius: It’s the end and the beginning. The many becoming the few becoming the One.
Jesus: Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)
It’s not a stretch to suspect that Kaecilius’ words above about the world’s becoming “part of the One” were ripped off from the Apostle Paul’s beliefs.
Kaecilius: Humanity longs for the eternal…for a world beyond time, because time is what enslaves us. Time is an insult. Death is an insult. Doctor, we don’t seek to rule this world. We seek to save it, to hand it over to Dormammu, who is the intent of all evolution, the why of all existence.
Paul: For “God has put all things in subjection under [Jesus’] feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:27-28)
I don’t claim to understand the deep meanings of Paul’s loaded phrases right now, but they sound beautiful to me, especially when the God he describes is benevolent, generous, and life-giving, unlike the fictional and murderously consumptive Dormammu.
The God of Moses and Paul is not someone with whom one has to bargain. He is the destroyer of death, in whom we are to believe.