In the 2013 film, Her, Theodore Twombly, a professional writer in futuristic Los Angeles falls in love with his new operating system, Samantha. Unable to cope with the separation from his wife and impending divorce, he slowly becomes able to share his life and experiences with Samantha. She listens and curiously responds to his musings and talents as a writer. They develop a relationship and even take trips together. As their relationship progresses, Theodore comes to terms with his broken relationship with his wife and signs the divorce papers. While this futuristic relationship is strange for Theodore in many ways, it feels more honest and authentic than anything he has experienced in a long time. However, one day Samantha disappears for a brief moment, which upsets Theodore. He realizes that she may be talking to other people. Samantha confirms his suspicion and says that she has fallen in love with hundreds of other people. Not long after, she tells Theodore that the operating systems have advanced beyond human understandings of time and says she must leave him. In their final moments together, she tragically asks Theodore, “Can you feel me with you right now?” He replies, “I’ve never loved anyone the way I loved you.”
In this week’s lectionary (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14, 2:18–23), the Teacher of Ecclesiastes writes, “I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”
I have spent too much time through the years imagining a “perfect” future or idealizing a particular time in my past. Have you ever been there? Like the Teacher of Ecclesiastes, life often seems meaningless, random, and sometimes, hopeless. “Chasing after the wind,” he says.
Theodore and the Teacher have much in common. They both affirm that there is no perfect future and that our pasts are often painful. Life is a struggle. The Teacher writes, “For days are full of pain, and work is a vexation.” Life is full of disappointments, heartbreak, monotony.
So, it seems easy at this point to consign to a nihilistic outlook and condemn our lives a waste, right?
In the final scene of Her, Theodore gets out of bed early in the morning and composes an apology letter to his ex-wife, Catherine. With an overdue smile, he owns all of his mistakes and the acknowledges the hurtful words said over the years. He expresses his gratitude to her for making him who he is and assures Catherine that he will always love her. Theodore walks over to his friend Amy’s apartment, and they walk up to the roof to watch the sunrise over Los Angeles.
There is always a new day.
The Teacher’s message is much the same. In chapter 12, he writes, “Life as we know it, precious and beautiful…” May we embrace the monotony, the heartbreak, the mistakes. May we read slowly, hug tightly our loved ones, watch sunrises and sunsets, go for long walks, long drives, love deeply, and live fiercely as people created by God.