Tree of Life


“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life: the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself- accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself- get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them, to have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it… when love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.”

Mrs. O’Brien – the way of Grace:

-The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.
-Do good to them. Wonder. Hope.
-I will be true to you. Whatever comes.
-Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light. Forgive.

Mr. O’Brien – the way of Nature:

-Your mother’s naïve. It takes fierce will to get ahead in this world. If you’re good, people take advantage of you.
-If you want to succeed, you can’t be too good.
-Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything you can’t do.

Jack – becoming human:

-Mother, Father. Always you wrestle inside me.
-What I want to do, I can’t do. I do what I hate.
-I didn’t know how to name You then. But I see it was You. Always You were calling me.
-Mother. It was [she] who led me to Your door.

The film is slow. Painful and beautiful. The characters trace the subtle lines of law and grace — yet, the two forces collide with an explosive incompatibility. We tend to write off some of the differences between these two trajectories as simple semantics, but the film helps to reveal that there is a pure dichotomy at the root of our chaos. The Tree of Life is very well done — an excellent vision of the struggle between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of love. Without the God of mercy, we exist in a state of alienation and our methods are shaped by fear — fear that lives through endless attempts to be important and have control. In the end, it becomes evident that we can never experience awe and wonder if we’re just out to make our mark on the world. We may plead our good intentions along the way, but grace cannot be grafted into the old creation… grace is the seed that grows all things new. At great length, we see that we are being directed by two different paths: the way of nature is always calling us to be more aggressive, but the way of grace always beckons us to be more receptive.

~Happy Thanksgiving, peace in the Lord~

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2 thoughts on “Tree of Life

  1. I found that a fascinating movie as well. I sat on the edge of my chair for the whole opening sequence after the verse from, if I remember correctly, Job, filled the screen. Images toward the end got a bit confusing but would love to be involved in a discussion over coffee and doughnuts.

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