Ignore Hollywood’s Dark Propaganda and Watch This Film About the ‘Breathtaking Reality’ of Human Life Instead
‘The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude …’ (Catechism 1700)
One of the common points raised by defenders of abortion is that some lives are not worth living. Physical, material or mental circumstances invalidate the right to life, they say. It would have been better for a person in miserable circumstances if they had never been born.
This seems to be the case made by the 1999 film The Cider House Rules. In fact, in the course of the film, the doctor at the orphanage says exactly that about one of the unfortunate boys: it would have been better for him if he had never existed. The film reaches culmination as an abortion is committed by the apprentice who finally seems to “get it” as the rapist father of the child ridicules and condemns the silly rules posted for the cider house workers by the out-of-touch and absent managers — obviously a metaphor for God and his laws.
How can one respond to such an assertion and such a story? How is it possible to explain to someone that every life, even one lived in poverty or with a severe disability, is precious, worthy, and can be filled with joy and purpose?
I think that logical arguments often fall short of creating converts, especially on such controversial issues, primarily because we have lost the ability as a society to reason about difficult matters. It is better to show than to tell, just as Harriet Beecher Stowe convinced more people that slavery was wrong by showing both the human dignity and the horrific conditions of slaves in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin than anyone else could have by argument.
That is why stories and movies are so important. The more honest and beautiful the story, the better. It is not possible to argue with the encounter of joy in the midst of suffering; it is impossible for anyone with even a shred of compassion, which I believe even our culture cannot destroy, to look someone in the face and honestly tell them that it would have been better for them if they had never existed.
Such an encounter is created by the award-winning 2008 film The Human Experience. There are no actors in the film. Events are filmed as they happen.
Two brothers living in a group home, coming from a family with an alcoholic father, decide to enter into the lives of the miserable and destitute in this world to see where they find meaning and purpose and, if it is even possible, joy.
They spend a very cold week living as homeless on the streets of New York City. They find a community of other homeless people, sleep with them, and accompany them to soup kitchens for food.
They then travel to Peru to help at a home for children with physical disabilities who need a stable and safe place to live while receiving treatment. Some of the children are not welcome in their own homes.
Lastly, they travel to Ghana where they encounter a leper colony and a group of people living, and dying, with AIDS.
In each place, among the “undesirables” of the world, they find deep joy, community, faith in God, and human beings who are convinced that even they have meaning and purpose.
These are people who, had the world seen what their lives would be like, would have been told that they would be better off being aborted. One child in Peru was born with no arms and only one full leg. He was rejected by his family, but the joy of life is clearly documented and communicated. A young toddler, born with AIDS, precious and beautiful, sits in the arms of her loving mother. Tragic? Yes. Beautiful? Yes. Meaningful? Joyful? Worth it? Yes. Yes. Yes.
Kahlil Gibran, in his poem On Joy and Sorrow, writes, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
St. John Climacus tells us that joy is like honey in the comb of suffering. Without the comb, there is no container for the reduction and storage of the honey.
No matter what someone has been through, no matter their circumstances, there is goodness and beauty in life. Suffering plunges us deeper into the experience not of death but of life. Every life is a celebration of deep truth and meaning.
This film is more honest, real and human than the artificially contrived and awkward Hollywood pro-abortion film Cider House Rules. Instead of trying to show, in a fictionalized world, a forced falsehood that some lives are more worthy than others, The Human Experience shows real, suffering people and the dignity, purpose and joy in their lives. And it convinces the viewer that every single life, no matter the circumstances, is priceless.
For those interested in seeing it, The Human Experience is available on Apple TV for rent or purchase.
- human dignity
- culture of life