Toy Story could change your life


These are Woody's infamous words to Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story. Last night I rewatched that movie and was blown away; it's nothing short of a masterpiece. Few movies have matched its quality. I'm sure you remember the story. Buzz Lightyear is a new toy on the block who insists that he is in fact a 'Space Ranger' from another planet, sent by 'Star Command' to protect the universe. Woody (another Toy), as seen above, spends most of the movie trying to convince Buzz otherwise. Because as Toys, they all really belong to their owner, Andy.

You are a Toy. I felt like weeping for Buzz when he finally discovers the truth. He takes a great leap of faith off a staircase, to the empowering tune of Randy Newman, only to plummet to the bottom. Here he realises he's wrong. Woody is right; he can't fly, he's not a Space Ranger. He's a toy. And there are millions more in the world just like him.

It's an incredible story told by the guys at Pixar. Original and powerful, then and today. But what has it to do with us? Let's say there's an allegory in this story--who would we be? Are we Toys who think we're Space Rangers? Or Space Rangers who think we're just Toys?

I'd really like to say the latter. Sometimes I feel more like Buzz. I may live in a world of mere toys but I actually have a dramatically higher calling, and my life is all about my mission; it's all about me and my identity as a Space Ranger. I'm not some child's plaything, some puppet in a box. I'm a man on a mission, ready to change the world. Perhaps you know what I mean. The majority of my thoughts in a day can revolve around myself: how I look, what I've done, what I'm doing next, what others will think of me, what my future plans are...I'm often mainly concerned with me. We can often live our lives in a rather self-orientated way. But it's easy to do; being a Space Ranger sounds so much cooler than being a toy. Right?

Well towards the end of the movie, Buzz has given up trying to be the person he wasn't, and has accepted his true identity as a toy. We might think that's a bit disappointing. Hasn't Buzz lost his dignity now? He's not actually a powerful Space Ranger. He's just a toy who belongs to someone else.

At this point Buzz and Woody are no longer in the safety of Andy's home, but are trapped in the cruel toy torture chamber that is Sid's house. Sid as I'm sure you remember, is a BAD GUY. He has a skull on his t-shirt to prove it. And an evil laugh. Anyway, a now deeply despondent Buzz has lost his purpose in life, and remarks to Woody: "Andy's house, Sid's House...what difference does it make?"

Well, what difference does it make? Well, for starters, Andy loves his toys. He cherishes them, he acts out stories with them. He inscribes his name upon them so they don't get lost. He considers them friends. Sid on the other hand, abuses his toys. He tortures them. He rips their bodies apart and creates mutant-toys. And when he's bored of them, he blows them up, just because it's fun. Not cool. Andy's house...Sid's house.

The difference then, is hopefully pretty obvious. The difference is, as my Theology Professor Alan Torrance would say; is that "It's not 'who' you are. But 'whose' you are." You can bet my professor wasn't talking about the characters of Toy Story though. He's talking about us.

Because like Buzz, we have to accept in life that we're not Space Rangers. We can't fly for starters. In fact, rather aptly, one quick glance into Outer Space can remind us just how small we are. Life certainly isn't about us. There are billions of people on this planet just like me and you; and much of what we consider to be 'us'; my face, voice, personality, abilities etc...these things weren't chosen by me. I'm not my own. In Toy Story could say I'm a Toy. You could say we're all toys. In which case the question is, as my Professor said: 'Whose are you?' Who do we belong to?

Well...what if the Christian story about life is true? What if we do belong to someone? Someone who cares for us personally, who loves us and considers us friends? You might take issue with some of those ideas, even the idea that God exists. And that's fine. Let's talk about that. But you see, if  the Christian story about life is true, then everything I told you about Andy and his Toys, is true of God and us.

Who is Sid then? Well Sid is everywhere I think. Everything cruel and abusive in the world. Sid could be anything, any institution or idea that ties you up, tries to rip your soul apart, wants to see you suffer and ultimately die. They'll be hard to spot because they won't come with an evil laugh. But the lure of money or success or looking good can be just as destructive as the Sid in Toy Story. You don't belong to Sid though. At least, as long as you don't want to.

I felt terrible for Buzz when he discovered the truth; but actually it was the best discovery he ever made. Being a toy doesn't make him a puppet; properly understood, it means he belongs to someone. Which is possibly the best news ever.


Popular Posts