The OA for Lent — Episode 2: New Colossus

“I can tell you everything I did wrong. I didn’t eat when I was hungry. I didn’t sleep when I was tired. I didn’t get warm when I was cold. It made me weak. But the biggest mistake I made was believing that if I cast a beautiful net I would catch only beautiful things.” — The OA
The OA plays violin in the New York Subway

Episode Summary

The OA continues to tell her story to the the five. She says that after surviving an assassination attempt (and NDE — Near Death Experience) she went blind. Her Russian father sent her to a school for the blind in the United States as a place to hide.

In the school she learned to read braille, play the violin, and navigate the world without sight. The theme of The OA navigating places of difficulty will continue as her father dies and she is taken in by an aunt. Her aunt financially supports herself by running prostitution and illegal adoption rings.

The OA is found by two kind Midwesterners Abel and Nancy Johnson who had come to adopt a baby, but instead take home a 7 year old girl they rename Prairie and call their daughter.

Though everyone else is sure that her father is dead, Prairie is sure her father isn’t gone, but hiding. She is sure he is alive because she has vivid dreams in which he communicates with her — and she awakens walking with a bloody nose. Abel and Nancy are fearful of her night walking and consult a doctor who instructs them to medicate her.

On her 21st birthday guided by her continuing dreams Prairie goes to New York City to the Statue of Liberty.

This begins an important feature of the show; the narrative action between past memory and present day. As The OA’s ends her first night story-telling the five begin their daily lives.

The back and forth between the past of The OA’s story and the present of a misfit group begs the question, “how do other’s stories impact the way in which we see ourselves and navigate the world?” Prairie was unable to see the present. Her dream world was her reality. Will this be true of the five?

We see that each has their own difficulties: Alfonso uses Adderall as a morning upper, Buck is reliant on testosterone to transition from a girl to the man he feels he is, Steve relies on his anger to protect him, Jesse is a serial stoner, BBA uses her career as a teacher as a distraction from the grieving of her personal life.

The story of The OA offers a different balm for the pain of daily life. The five return to the house to hear the continuation of the story of how The OA disappeared — and reappeared with her sight.

The OA describes the disappointment of not finding her father and navigating New York York City by panhandling in the subway and playing her violin. The music attracts the attention of a man we will later learn is an anesthesiologist, pilot, and researcher of Near Death Experiences.

Dr. Hunter, “Hap”, Percy, tells Prairie everything she wants to hear. Suddenly the episode ends with Prairie joining three other “research subjects” held in captivity in a pentagon shaped terrarium built over a defunct mine.

The New Colossus asks big questions: what is the difference between freedom and captivity? Which guides our daily lives, reality or fantasy? Are those who tell us what we want to hear, and do harm; or those who harm us but tell us what we want to hear more dangerous?

Podcast Conversation

Scripture Reflections

  • “Who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) The opening question in the story of the healing of a blind man reveals Jesus’ disciples captivity to cultural and religious expectations. The healing Jesus provides reveals the power of God to upend cultural norms, give sight, and perhaps most import; the power of spiritual healing to awaken agency. The once blind man tells the story of how he received sight to those who ask again and again. Each time he is more articulate about what has happened. Finally the once blind man asks if people are asking, “because they also want become Jesus’ disciples” (John 9:27). As The OA shares her story she gives power to the five to share their stories. How are hurt and healing bound together? How is sharing a story of healing, transformative?
  • “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3) The traditional Gospel reading for the first Sunday in Lent begins with the temptation of Jesus — and some very good questions. If Jesus is powerful why doesn’t he use: social, religious, or political power to usher in the Kingdom of God. These questions are asked again as Jesus hangs on the cross (Matthew 27:38–44). If The OA has a special kind of consciousness as revealed in her NDE why is she so easily tempted and captured?

Reflection Questions

  1. The biggest mistake I made…

The OA says that she can tell everything she did wrong that led to her imprisonment. Can you recognize what have you done wrong when you have been in places of adversity? Are you able to see mistakes of your own making — in addition to the actions of others? Have you used this insight as a guide for future action? Have you shared these insights with others?

2. Aren’t you curious how it ends?

As the five who gathered in a house under construction went back to their daily lives it is revealed each of their home lives had a level of chaos. Hearing The OA, who has shown an ability to soothe animals and people, share her story gives hope. They return to hear not only her story — but their own. Has there been a movie, a song, a book that feels more real than reality?

3. Researchers warn that phone addiction is real. Do you spend more time on social media than connecting with people IRL (in real life)?

Spiritual Practices

  1. Close your eyes (or put on a blindfold). Take off your shoes and socks. Feel the ground beneath your feet. How are your feet connected to your eyes? How do you describe the space between your head and your toes?
  2. Chance the Rapper was recently asked how to write a rap. He gave what is amusing and perhaps profound advice, write with your toes. Can you grip a pencil with your toes? How do you prepare to tell the story of your life? What senses do you invoke?
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