I haven’t forgotten that I still need to write about my top two favorite episodes from Matt Smith’s era. I will finish the countdown sometime after I finish my last final on May 8. For this week’s entry I will be discussing five of my favorite Doctor Who quotes.
5. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things. And, if you look carefully, maybe we did indeed make a couple of little changes.
— The Doctor, Vincent and the Doctor.
At the end of Vincent and the Doctor Amy is devastated. She had been so sure that by showing Vincent how valued his art is to future generations that he wouldn’t comment suicide. But Vincent’s illness is much more powerful and a trip in the TARDIS cannot heal his mind. Amy believes that because they couldn’t prevent Vincent from ending his life that they didn’t really accomplish much. But the Doctor points out that’s not necessarily true, they couldn’t stop Vincent from killing himself but that does not mean that their time with him was in vain.
Life is messy and extremely painful. There are issues that as individuals are beyond our capability to understand let alone solve. As a result it is easy to feel a sense of despair. I know that I do. How am I supposed to react to the news that over 200 girls in Nigeria have been kidnapped and chances are they are being raped and tortured? How am I supposed to respond to the widespread poverty throughout the world and the United States? Yes there are things we can do-we can be socially and politically engaged, we can work to try and change the way governments view the poor and the oppressed, but at times oppression seems so widespread that I think, “well if we eradicate or minimize one form of injustice another form will quickly rise up and take its place. And if that’s the case what’s the use in trying to make the world a better place?”
In seminary we keep coming back to the problem of pain and suffering. How are we supposed to react in the face of unbearable pain and suffering? Is there any hope of things getting better? It’s hard not to resort to theological platitudes such as, “God is in control” or “everything happens for a reason.” Excuse me if I find those responses to be inadequate in the face of large scale atrocities. It becomes so easy to focus on large scale issues that we miss the little things that we and other people are doing to try and change things. Things that might be small, but which are significant. I can’t always focus on large scale issues-not unless I want to be paralyzed by depression. But I can try to find a few issues that I resonate with and try to make some changes there. I am passionate about encouraging Christians to focus on social justice issues, I am passionate about shedding light on dangerous theologies that exclude and oppress and providing alternative theological ideas that encourage inclusivity and compassion, I am passionate about studying moral injury and how war effects veterans. I can’t change the world and I won’t end war, but I can try and make small changes. I can try to add to someone else’s pile of good things.
4. DOCTOR: You okay?
RORY: No. I watched her die. I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it still does. I’m a nurse.
DOCTOR: Letting it get to you. You know what that’s called? Being alive. Best thing there is. Being alive right now is all that counts.” The Doctor, The Doctor’s Wife
We live in a culture where strength and independence is highly valued. We don’t want to hear stories of poverty, oppression, or injustice we want to hear stories of people who through their own merits were able to overcome tragedy. We might even view ourselves as an example of someone who single handedly overcame a life of pain and suffering. So when we hear the stories of other people who are struggling, we often say, “oh they are just complaining.” Or “they just need to work harder.” In fact, dismissing the stories of other people is often easier than feeling a sense of compassion. Why? Because if we acknowledge that perhaps there are some situations where individual strength is not good enough, if we take the time to listen to the stories of individuals without judging them or dismissing them we might start to care too much. Caring is scary and painful, especially when we realize how many people are suffering and in pain. Instead it is easier to shut ourselves down emotionally. It is easier to dismiss others as inadequate instead of contemplating the idea that perhaps there are some unjust situations in the world. And to be fair, as I’ve mentioned before, the sheer weight of all the pain and suffering in the world can be overwhelming and paralyzing, yet what does it mean if we shut ourselves off from trying to understand the pain of others? Or if we try to maintain a stoic façade and pretend that nothing gets to us? What kind of life is that? In The Doctor’s Wife, Rory is surprised that he took Idris death so hard, after all he is a nurse and has seen people die before and as a companion of the Doctor he has definitely been exposed to the death more times than he cares to think about, why should he care about another death? But does he ever really want to get to a place where the death of another becomes so common place that he becomes desensitized? What type of person would that make him? What type of life would that be? Of course we don’t want to let every little thing wound us or cause us pain, but sometimes we need to take a risk and care. Caring is frightening and risky. But what’s the alternative?
3.When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.
— Elton Pope, Love and Monsters
Obviously this quote shouldn’t be taken as a wide scale condemnation on marriage and having kids. But often times our vision of what makes life meaningful is extremely small. Often success is defined in narrow terms and anyone who does not fit into society’s definition of success is rejected or classified as a failure. But what if there is more to life than just material wealth? What if there is more to life than upholding the status quo? What makes a life meaningful? For every person the answer to that question will differ-some find meaning in their families, others in their work. There are people whose life revolves around a variety of political or social causes and others view faith as paramount, and of course there are those who balance a variety of tasks and roles that are all extremely important to them. But how many of us just settle for what is expected of us? How many of us reduce our life’s meaning to the tangible material things that are easy to quantify (how much money do we make and how does it compare to our peers? How prestigious is this school over the other one?
2. MOMENT: You know the sound the TARDIS makes? That wheezing, groaning. That sound brings hope wherever it goes.
WARRIOR: Yes. Yes, I like to think it does.
MOMENT: To anyone who hears it, Doctor. Anyone, however lost. Even you.
–The Day of the Doctor
Some people confuse hope with naïve optimism which often dismisses pain and anguish as unimportant. Blind optimism refuses to engage in the messiness of life and instead wants to wrap everything up in a nice neat little bow. Hope is much more difficult because it requires getting involved in difficult situations. Blind optimism sits back and says, things will get better. Hope says, “I am going to try and make a change and even though my efforts seem small, even though it seems as if history keeps on repeating itself, I am going to keep moving forward.” Hope says just because violence and war have been the norm since life began does not mean I am going to stop seeking alternatives. Hope says that just because poverty and hunger are worldwide issues I cannot solve by myself that does not mean I am just going to give up. Hope says I will seek a new way even when it seems that there is only one option.
In The Day of the Doctor we see the various incarnations of the Doctor struggle with the magnitude of ending the Time War. Everything else had been tried to end the war and it seemed as if the only option left is to destroy Gallifrey and kill everyone on it-including 2.47 billion children. It seemed as if in order to prevent the collapse of the universe the Doctor would need to end violence with the ultimate act of violence. Hope seeks another way when it seems as if there is only one terrible option. In the Time War hope is in short supply. But in the Day of the Doctor, hope wins out.
But in the real world things are not so neatly resolve in two hours. In the real world, difficult decisions are made and there is no opportunity to go back in time and change history. In the real world, difficult decisions have painful consequences and there is no going back. In the real world you don’t always have time to seek a better way. In those situations where is hope? Hope acknowledges the devastation. Hope embraces the truth no matter how awful, but hope says, I will never stop seeking a better way. Things did not work out in this situation, but I will continue searching for an alternative to violence. I will continue trying to ensure that no one else has to go through what I did-or what this nation went through. Hope says that even if this happens again and again, I will stand with the victims and keep working towards healing.
1. We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.
-The Time of the Doctor
There are major life changes that can cause anxiety, sadness, happiness or a mixture of a variety of feelings. But change isn’t just confined to major events such as marriage, graduation, moving, etc. Individuals change, for better or for worse. If we didn’t change, if we stayed static we wouldn’t truly be living, we would merely be existing. But when we change or someone we love changes-even if it’s for the better, it still involves a measure of loss and sadness. A child becomes an adult. Parents love their adult children and are hopefully proud of the person that he or she has become, but the relationship has changed. Their child has changed.
My biggest personal transformation occurred when I left my Pentecostal upbringing. It wasn’t an easy or instantaneous change-when I realized that my fundamental beliefs did not align with the church I spent my teens in-I was devastated and I felt loss. Pentecostalism has a specific worldview and when I gave that up, I gave up a part of myself. But I couldn’t deny the fact that I had changed. I was no longer the 12 year old girl that found the theology of the Pentecostal church to be comforting. I was becoming a different person and that meant that I had to say goodbye to a congregation that meant so much to me. Of course when I left at 17 I didn’t leave in the best possible way-I simply stopped going. No chance for a goodbye or closure. But nonetheless, my years in that church were extremely formative. I often find myself missing certain aspects and seminary is reinforcing how much I miss the culture of Pentecostalism (though not it’s theology). But change sometimes mean saying goodbye.
The Doctor always changes. In fact regeneration has enabled the show to continue on and off since 1963. Regeneration enables an actor to pursue other opportunities with the knowledge that the show will most likely continue even though he has left. But despite change being in the shows DNA, it still hurts to say goodbye to an incarnation of the Doctor. One can look forward to brand new adventures while still mourning the fact that a chapter has ended. In The Time of the Doctor Matt Smith’s Doctor admits that change is extremely important-as individuals we all change though not as dramatically as the Doctor. Our 25 year old self is not the same as our 13 year old self, but we hopefully remember snapshots of who we were when we were younger-we hopefully hold onto the relationships we formed, the lessons we learned. Goodbye does not mean forgetting it just means letting go and embracing something new.