We as humans are defined by many things. For some its our ability to reason, (some seem to be lacking in this though). For others they define it by the state of evolutionary cycle we are in (I’ll talk about that one after I finish Origin of a Species) and even some define it by having a soul (I honestly don’t know if All Dogs Go To Heaven). According to some philosophers and episode thirty eight of Avengers; Earths Mightiest Heroes, we as humans are defined by our capacity to strive for something more than basic needs. Most animals strive for survival and multiplying. Sounds like a nice simple life sometimes.
Today I am speaking on my favourite movie; The Apartment. It’s an old 1960 romantic comedy starring Jack Lemmon. In the movie Lemmon plays insurance accountant C.C. Baxter. A humble, hard worker who works alone, goes home alone and lives utterly alone in New York seemingly without a friend. He is respectful, kind to everyone, and giving to the point of harming of himself (I’m sure some can relate to this).
With his pursuit to make something of his life, and not being able to say no to anybody he is in the unusual predicament with his apartment of loaning it out to higher-up men in the company to have affairs in. He really doesn’t like doing it, but they are pushy and make promises of helping his career. Indeed his career is helped, but at what cost? In all this he strives for a higher position for some self-esteem. And maybe even to make a friend amoung those who use him and call him “buddy boy”.
The other main character of this movie is Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), an elevator girl (yup. It’s that old of a movie) who has made all the wrong mistakes in her life and is stuck living with her married sister and working a dead-end job. The only recent thing she enjoyed in her life was the affair with the company’s boss; Jeff D. Sheldrake (Played by Fred MacMurray). She loves him and tried to call it all off when his wife came back to the city after being away for the summer, but she could not get away. She wanted out, but he sucked her back in for his own pleasure. Now she is a torn-up soul feeling broken and ashamed of her life. The only hope she has is that Jeff will leave his wife for her, which he continues to promise without any intention of doing so.
The other characters of this film, including Jeff D. Sheldrake are the ones classified as “takers”. It seems that this entire building is overflowing with sexual escapades and affairs of people seeking pleasure and self-profit. The men take advantage of Baxter (Jack Lemmon) time and time again, preying on his timid-giving nature. Not to mention all of the women they keep taking emotional advantage of for their own physical pleasure. “Some people are takers, and others get taken”. “That’s just the way it crumbles… cookie wise that is”.
In the end after much drama and a suicide attempt; C.C. Baxter gets his big office and the status to match on the high up floor. Sheldrake gets divorced by his wife who discovered the affair. So Sheldrake and Fran can be together. So the two are together and Baxter can get his office. Win-win right? Wrong. Each one of these characters are seeking the wrong thing in the wrong place.
We are defined by what we seek. Whatever our primary drive is, whatever we work the hardest on, think the most on, spend the most time on; is master of our life. Luke 16:13 says “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despite the other. You cannot serve both God and money”. This verse is specific to money, but it applies in many other cases. Another is Romans 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit”. Almost everyone in this movie is most focused on their own fleshly pleasure. So what could they succeed in other than pleasure? This is a pursuit many pursue in life and they find themselves empty after the high, and hopefully; ashamed. Baxter was only focused on business and financial success. This is the basis of which our entire economic structure is based on! So what can we accomplish other than that materialistic and statured success if that is what our life goal is? In the end, we will find that riches and success do not make us happy. They leave us longing for something more, and we can’t take it with us after this short life ends anyway. And Fran was looking for love. What else would she be able to find but love? She almost didn’t even find that. Yes, she did end up with Baxter and it’s a touching happy ending without being too sappy (PERFECT!). But love is fleeting. People toss around the world love like it’s nothing and then lose the love and get divorced. And it’s devastating.
But is that all we are meant to achieve in life? Hollywood makes it seem like all we can ever hope to obtain in life is love and self-achievement. These aren’t bad things. These are GREAT things. But there is some things even GREATER that nobody in this movie achieves. This is the pursuit of salvation and relationship with God. They are by-far the most joyful, long-lasting pleasurable, and most successful thing we can hope to have because they are things beyond the restraints of this crappy world. And even better is the promise in Mathew 6:33 said by Jesus himself; “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. “These things” refer to our needs. Our need to belong, to have love and purpose. God will provide when we focus on him. So what is best to strive for then?