On Friday I saw The Great Gatsby with my book club, and in preparation for our discussion I re-read the book because I hadn’t read it since high school. (As a side note I did not really like the movie, but I didn’t see it in 3D either which made the camera angels and zooms distracting.)
What strikes me most about the plot is how it portrays hope of the future as meaningless.
Gatsby’s love for Daisy motivated him to attempt to achieve a different life for himself. The green light on her dock across the bay from Gatsby’s mansion symbolized hope in the dark world, a tangible representation of his aspirations.
Yet the famous ending to the book shows that Gatsby had “paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.” The last words in the book state:
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning –
So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Gatsby had traveled on a journey with no end, and his hope is cut off. There is no “one fine morning.” He is stuck in his past by trying to re-create it. Waves metaphorically pushed Gatsby back from the green navigation light on Daisy’s dock, and the alliteration in the last sentence symbolizes the harsh truth that the past will always determine the future because you can’t move beyond it.
What is also shocking is the futility of his optimism, thinking that he will one day reach his hoped for future.
So this story makes us question our own hope. Is it meaningless?
Thankfully, no. We have a hope that is unshakeable:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for U)’>who is the Savior” (1 Timothy 4:10).
In a talk I heard Donald Miller give, he stated, “It’s not that life is meaningless. Maybe just your life is meaningless.” He was referring to those living without hope, viewing the world as a meaningless place. He challenges them – and us – to examine, What am I living for?
If you do not know to what end you toil and strive, then yes, your life would be meaningless. But as (surprising) Nietzsche said, “If you know the why, you can live any how.”
Do you know your why?
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightenedAP)’>you, the richesAR)’> in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
We have hope in a power far greater than we can imagine.