I recently have been persuading my four year-old to watch snippets of the Disney film Fantasia 2000 (one of my favorite all-time films) on youtube. So far, he has been willing to do so.
I have a passion for classical music, and I find that the music featured on Fantasia 2000 (similar to the music featured on the original Fantasia) includes some of the greatest musical achievements of western civilization. I have a desire to show my children that there is something valuable, something profound, something meaningful, something transcendent, and even something divine in these great orchestral works, and thus in life itself.
The stories told by the animators, too, are primal and transcendent. Themes include pure romantic love, family love, the power of community, transcendent communal unity with the divine, individual strength, sacrifice, and timeless struggles of life vs. death and light vs. dark, among others. Thus, the movie is moving, enjoyable, and profoundly meaningful. I realize how far off the mainstream I am with this analysis: for instance, when watching this movie nine years ago with a friend and two siblings, I was the only one who thought the movie was better than a marginal “OK.”
And yet, when I compare these transcendent, timeless themes coupled with sublime music, I cannot help but compare this film presentation to that of the other extreme: nihilism, (or meaninglessness) as in The Dark Knight and The Fountain.
Discussing nihilism is pointless and contradictory: if everything is meaningless, then why put forth any effort to preach such a philosophy? If there is meaning or purpose in preaching meaninglessness, then one does not truly believe in meaninglessness.
It does not take a brain surgeon to comprehend this: such is really the default philosophy of existence. Just as failure is the default mode of success in life (if we do nothing, we fail to accomplish anything), so nihilism is the default mode of existence (if there is no meaning in anything we do, life must be meaningless).
Who is it that encourages us to adopt this philosophy, that life is dark and meaningless, that values bind us down, and that there is nothing else beyond this dark and dreary existence? The answer is obvious: the adversary wants us to believe this.
In contrast, the Lord wants us to be happy and to find joy even in darkness and despair. As we do so, we find the sublime fruits of progression, unity, love, and holiness. Living the disciples’ life, we can find the good wherever we look and wherever we go, if we choose to do so, and use that knowledge and those experiences to our eternal benefit and our exaltation.