Our Struggle With the Major Dramatic Question


You understand, of course, why this so troubling. I didn’t even want to think about it at first.

Thankfully Paula wouldn’t let me off the hook so easily. And understanding the power of story and desiring a deeper understanding of our own personal stories, coupled with being as knowledgeable about McKee as she was, she showed me this…


Story gives you foresight to see the consequences of future events long before they happen. A leader prepares for change no matter how illogical its cause. In fact, sensitivity to irrational change is quintessentially rationalif you wish to lead.

WHITE PAPER STORY-IN-BUSINESS: Why Story Works, Overcoming Negaphobia, and Authoring the Future, BY ROBERT MCKEE

Well, this got me thinking. And right away I connected it up with this…


This idea that in order to make a decision you need to focus on the consequences (which you can know) rather than the probability (which you can’t know) is the central idea of uncertainty.

Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan


So, if I wish to lead, I need to think about consequences rather than probability. Humm…Those insights are forcing us to try and think more broadly, or more majorly you might say, because we want to know how the major dramatic question…


How will this turn out?


…may unfold in America’s story.

And we know — you’ll probably push all this away.

But, if we were going to fulfill the crazy assignment we had received from my Uncle, then we had to do this kind of exploring.

And then one day we saw this…


Dick Cavett: Is it at once getting much better and still hopeless?

James Baldwin: I don’t think there’s much hope for it, you know, to tell you the truth. As long as people are using this peculiar language, it’s not a question of what happens to the Negro here, or to the black man here. That’s a very vivid question for me, you know. But the real question is what’s going to happen to this country. I have to repeat that.

James Baldwin, Interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show, in I Am Not Your Negro

There it is – the question which has our attention – and yours too …


What is going to happen to your country?


So, if you look through the lens of story, you can see that we share a common experience…


Curiosity drives the thirst for knowledge – our intellectual need to solve puzzles and answer questions. Empathy drives the hunger for connection – our emotional need to identify with others and root for their well-being.

When the rational and emotional sides of life merge, they generate the phenomenon of suspense. Suspense, simply put, is curiosity charged with empathy.

Suspense focuses the reader/audience by flooding the mind with emotionally tinged questions that hook and hold attention:

“What’s going to happen next?”

“What’ll happen after that?”

“What will the protagonist do? Feel?”

And the major dramatic question (MDQ) that hangs suspended over the entire telling: “How will this turn out?”

These powerful questions so grip our concentration that time vanishes.

Robert McKee, Dialogue

All this is very interesting, drawing me right in. But, I tell you, and make no mistake — that major dramatic question got very personal, all of a sudden. I told Paula I would rather not even think about it.

“I know,” she said with a smile. “But, because this comes from Robert McKee, we just can’t ignore it.”

As so often, she was right. There’s some things that can’t be ignored. Check this out…


If the depth and breadth of conflict in the inner life and the greater world do not move you, let this: deathDeath is like the freight train in the future, heading towards us, closing the hours, second by second, between now and then. If we’re to live with any sense of satisfaction, we must engage life’s forces of antagonism before the train arrives.

Robert McKee, Story


And this song, that Paula showed me, also slapped me with the reality that death can come suddenly …



I hate that train. I don’t want it to come anytime soon for Paula or me. But that major dramatic question…


How will this turn out?


… is like a billboard hovering over our train station. It just won’t go away. And that is disturbing for us, because Paula came across this passage in your book of Ecclesiastes…


I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11


Your God has “put eternity into man’s heart“? That sounds a lot like what this famous guy said so long ago about who we are here in the story…


Man, in all ages and all nations of the earth, is the same. Man is a peculiar creature–he is the image of his God, though he may be subjected to the most wretched condition upon earth, yet the spirit and feeling which constitute the creature, man, can never be entirely erased from his breast, because the God who made him after his own image, planted it in his heart; he cannot get rid of it.

David Walker, Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, Written in Boston, State of Massachusetts, September 28, 1829

“…cannot get rid of it”? No wonder it won’t just go away!

I can try and ignore death, but what if death isn’t my only struggle? What if there’s something for ME beyond death?

So, I continue to ask myself…


How will this all turn out?


The more we try to ignore death, the more it fascinates us. The more we tell ourselves that mortality doesn’t apply to us, the more it surrounds us. And the more we try to fight off the fear, the more we feel like the beleaguered survivors resisting the zombie herd.

Zombies Remind Us That Death Is Social, by Spengler, May 15, 2012

Sooner or later, we all have to face the question of the meaning of our lives, if only because our lives inevitably end in death.

Riches, Religion, and the New Atheism, by Robert T. Miller, The Public Discourse, June 19th, 2015

Meaning and death: you can’t live without it, and you aren’t living with it…This continues to disturb me, especially because Paula continues to encourage us to ask the ‘what if’ questions.

For instance, she reminded me of this ‘what if’ from your Moser man…


A better formulation is this: what, if anything, is behind all of the world’s changes, including the movements in my experiences, such as the experienced ups and downs, comings and goings, and dyings and risings?

The fact of the world’s changes seems undeniable, at least from where I sit (for a time). Is there, however, something behind it all, not just as a cause, but as a meaning-conferring explanation? In par­ticular, is there a unifying power with constant intentions or purposes behind all of the movement or at least much of it? In other words, is there an intentional agent thus involved in the mix as a superhuman guide?

Paul Moser, The Severity of God

And then she showed me a passage from your gospel of John, where Jesus was speaking to his disciples about his coming departure…


Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

John 16:7-11

This is troubling. Because, if Christianity is the story we are in, then your God is the Active Protagonist in the story we are in.

But I just wanted to push away that possibility.

After all, what are the odds on this?

And then Paula reminded me of our problem of probabilities…


I spent a long time believing in the centrality of probability in life and advocating that we should express everything in terms of degrees of credence, with unitary probabilities as a special case for total certainties and null for total implausibility. Critical thinking, knowledge, beliefs — everything needed to be probabalized. Until I came to realize, twelve years ago, that I was wrong in this notion that the calculus of probability could be a guide to life and help society. Indeed, it is only in very rare circumstances that probability (by itself) is a guide to decision making. It is a clumsy academic construction, extremely artificial, and nonobservable. Probability is backed out of decisions; it is not a construct to be handled in a stand-alone way in real-life decision making. It has caused harm in many fields.

“The Fallacy of Probability”, by Nassim Taleb, in What Have You Changed Your Mind About?, By John Brockman 

And then she showed me this, again, from McKee…


The past makes the future in this way: Memory builds an understanding of people and the world by recording patterns of experience, stacking them one on top of another by what they have in common, and then telling itself, “This is how the world works.” 

The mind then uses these patterns from the past in an effort to control the future by taking actions designed to make history repeat itself. But often, at critical moments, our memory-based sense of probability explodes when a tried-and-true action triggers a wholly unexpected effect, leaving us feeling that when it really matters, memory betrays us. 

As we will see in upcoming chapters, these violations of probability become the turning points that propel all stories. 

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

Our memory based sense of probabilities explodes, he says? Like your sense that everything in America’s story has been sort-of fine for 200 some years, right? But, if your God is the Great Storyteller, and turning points are propelled by violations of probability…what about America?

And, more troubling still, what about probabilities exploding in my face? It looks like we need to think more broadly about the upsetting of probabilities.

I told Paula, then, that the major dramatic question is on my mind like never before.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, if I kill myself,” I said, “and it turns out our version of the story isn’t the one we are in, then how will it turn out?”

Then I showed her this, about you Americans…


If you asked me what Americans today fear more than anything else, I would answer that they fear being left behind. (The anxiety even comes with its own handy acronym: FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.) They fear missing the boat, foundering in the backwash of the next wave. And what if “the next wave” is wholesale destruction?

Nihilist Nation: The Empty Core of the Trump Mystique, By GARRET KEIZER, New Republic, October 25, 2018

“And how can we even begin to think about the next wave, right?” she smiled.

“Right,” I smiled back. “Wholesale destruction sounds pretty final to me.”

“There may be a way forward,” she said. “We can think more broadly about this. Just like your Uncle does – along with Robert McKee.”

“How?” I asked.

“Robert McKee has left the door open. Just a crack. But it’s there,” she said. “Because unlike so many people, Robert McKee is brave, and does not want us to push away the train approaching our station.”

And then Paula showed me this…


Kevin Miller: “What would you say to Christians right now who are arguing about hell – that there may be no hell or maybe there is a hell but nobody’s going to be there?”

Robert McKee: “The notion that there really isn’t hell is simply a wussy effort by certain people to make God a nice guy–because they can’t deal with the dichotomy that god is both a protector and lover, and a punisher. They want to eliminate the punisher. If that’s the case then choice doesn’t matter, everything is forgiven, everybody goes to heaven, and that’s no way to run a society. And so, as an atheist I think that there are really world consequences of doing good or evil. But a lot of people want to postpone that to the afterlife, but there have to be real consequences. If there’s not, then choice doesn’t have any meaning. And if choice doesn’t have any meaning, life doesn’t have any meaning. And by eliminating hell, these people are sucking the meaning out of life.”

Hellbound? Documentary Clip: Robert McKee on Religion and Story


“Look at all that talk about meaning,” said Paula. “He wants real meaning. Just like everybody else.”

And she showed me this…


Weinstein: Why do you care so much about story?

McKee: It’s two things. One, if you accept the premise that life is intrinsically meaningless, how do we find meaning? There’s theology, philosophy, science and art. The four wisdoms. To read, to think about and to embroider into your life, to enrich it, to give your life meaning, the most powerful source of meaningful experience that you can inculcate into your life is storytelling.

This is why we’ve done it. We’ve done it for hundreds of thousands of years. We have told each other stories in order to make meaning out of meaningless.

The second thing is that not only is life meaningless intrinsically, but it’s full of suffering, so it’s painful. Anything that a human being can do to alleviate the pain in themselves and the pain in others is a meaningful positive action.

Story, because it makes sense out of senselessness and enriches us in those ways, reduces the suffering.

Why Is Robert McKee’s Marketing Strategy The Only One That Works?, By Bruce Weinstein, Forbes, March 20, 2018


“So, I’m wondering,” she said, “if Robert McKee is struggling with the same tension we are. And this is just what our friends, Hector Klumpp and the Nihilist Lites, are wrestling with too. But what if the tension is elevated for McKee?”

“What do you mean?”

“Look again at these quotes I showed you,” said Paula, “from the Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft, who recognizes the power of story.”


If we came ultimately from nothing and die ultimately into nothing, we are ultimately nothing.

Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christianity

If a thing makes no difference, it is a waste of time to think about it.

What Difference Does Heaven Make?, By Peter Kreeft

“Those are haunting,” I replied.

“I know this is crazy, Comrade Chow,” she answered. “But so is our assignment. Here’s the ‘what if’ I’m wondering about now. If Christianity is the story we are in, and their God is the Great Storyteller, what if he chose Robert McKee for just such a time as this in the unfolding drama of the world? And what if now that McKee has done his amazing work, the Great Storyteller is bringing him to a place where it’s time to reflect on this question of meaning? The train of death is still heading his way, after all.”

I was silent.

Paula smiled again. “You see it, right? Something is going on here. And I think McKee’s response to the Hellbound film producer shows that he has left the door open, even if just a crack.”

She may be right. McKee’s response to the question isn’t exactly what we expected from someone who embraces our version of the human story. It caused a pause for us.

And then Paula showed me how the following insights from the Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft seem to connect with McKee’s view of things…


If there is no hell, life’s choices no longer make an infinite difference. The height of the mountain and the depth of the valley, the importance of winning and the importance of losing a war or a game — these two things are relative to each other and measure each other. Drop hell, and heaven becomes a bland, automatic anything and everything for anyone and everyone. The razor-edge drama of life is blunted into a flat, safe plain.

Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

Hell and heaven make life serious. Heaven without hell removes the bite from life’s drama. C. S. Lewis once said that he never met a single person who had a lively faith in heaven without a similar belief in hell. The height of the mountain is measured by the depth of the valley, the greatness of salvation by the awfulness of the thing we’re saved from.

Hell, by Peter Kreeft

And she also introduced an eminent Christian philosopher named Alvin Plantinga, who seems to see like McKee.

Notice what Plantinga says about the question of risk in relation to the afterlife…


But couldn’t I be wrong? Of course I could! But I don’t avoid that risk by withholding all religious (or philosophical or moral) beliefs; I can go wrong that way as well as any other, treating all religions, or all philosophical thoughts, or all moral views as on a par. Again, there is no safe haven here, no way to avoid risk. In particular, you won’t reach a safe haven by trying to take the same attitude toward all the historically available patterns of believe and withholding; for in so doing, you adopt a particular pattern of belief and withholding, one incompatible with some adopted by others. “You pays your money and you takes your choice,” realizing that you, like anyone else, can be desperately wrong. But what else can you do? You really don’t have an alternative. And how can you do better than believe and withhold according to what, after serious and responsible consideration, seems to you to be the right pattern of belief and withholding?

Alvin Plantinga, “A Defense Of Religious Exclusivism”, in The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader, James F. Sennett, ed.

Such Christian thinkers as Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Kuyper, however, recognize that there aren’t any certain foundations of the sort Descartes sought — or, if there are, they are exceedingly slim, and there is no way to transfer their certainty to our important non-foundational beliefs about material objects, the past, other persons, and the like. This is a stance that requires a certain epistemic hardihood: there is, indeed, such a thing as truth; the stakes are, indeed, very high (it matters greatly whether you believe the truth); but there is no way to be sure that you have the truth; there is no sure and certain method of attaining truth by starting from beliefs about which you can’t be mistaken and moving infallibly to the rest of your beliefs.

This is life under uncertainty, life under epistemic risk and fallibility. I believe a thousand things, and many of them are things others — others of great acuity and seriousness — do not believe. Indeed, many of the beliefs that mean the most to me are of that sort. I realize I can be seriously, dreadfully, fatally wrong, and wrong about what is enormously important to be right. That is simply the human condition: my response must be finally, “Here I stand; this is the way the world looks to me.”

There is, however, another sort of reaction possible here. If it is painful to live at risk, under the gun, with uncertainty but high stakes, maybe the thing to do is just reduce or reject the stakes. If, for example, there just isn’t any thing as truth, then clearly one can’t go wrong by believing what is false or failing to believe what is true. If we reject the very idea of truth, we needn’t feel anxious about whether we’ve got it. So the thing to do is dispense with the search for truth and retreat into projects of some other sort: self-creation and self-redefinition as with Nietzsche and Heidegger, or Rortian irony, or perhaps playful mockery, as with Derrida. So taken, postmodernism is a kind of failure of epistemic nerve.

Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief

And all this reminded me of Peter Bernstein’s classic book on risk management, Against the Gods, and what he had to say about irreversible change…


If we buy a stock today, we can always sell it tomorrow. But what do we do after the croupier at the table cries, “No more bets!” or after a poker bet is doubled? There is no going back. Should we refrain from acting in the hope that the passage of time will make luck or the probabilities turn in our favor?

……

Time matters most when decision are irreversible. And yet many irreversible decisions must be made on the basis of incomplete information. Irreversibility dominates decisions ranging all the way from taking the subway instead of a taxi, to building an automobile factory in Brazil, to changing jobs, to declaring war.

Peter L. Bernstein, Against The Gods

And after I showed that to Paula, she said, “Oh, it’s so McKee.”

And she showed me this again…


A leader prepares for change no matter how illogical its cause. In fact, sensitivity to irrational change is quintessentially rational … if you wish to lead.

WHITE PAPER STORY-IN-BUSINESS: Why Story Works, Overcoming Negaphobia, and Authoring the Future, BY ROBERT MCKEE

“See that, Comrade? And since story is about change, it’s possible McKee is leaving the door cracked open because he senses there is something going on in this irrational story we are living out. And what if he suspects that before the train of death comes into his station, he may change how he sees which story we are in?”

This is all crazy. But it’s making me think about things I had pushed away before. And I’m wondering if this shows that McKee is also wondering…


Yes. To get to the heart of the question, because life is intrinsically meaningless, we are on this planet, no matter what people of faith may believe, from my point of view, as an accident of nature. The earth could have been lifeless, or could have had life, that life could have remained unconscious and genetically driven, or conscious the way it is for us poor human beings…it’s an accident.

And consequently, there’s no intrinsic meaning. And because of that, the mind has, since it became conscious, tried to tell stories, tried to take the incidences of life and shape them into a story that expresses how and why things happen in order to discover, within life, meanings. It doesn’t mean it has to be an inspirational meaning. It could be a very bitter and dark truth. But, it’s a truth. And we’re just trying to figure out how and why our lives change the way they do. And that’s what the story teller does, is they take life and create a story out of it to express meaning in an emotional way.

Um…you know, my statement that there is no intrinsic meaning to life…I mean, that may be a bit rhetorical. I can think of a meaning. Here’s a meaning that I think is intrinsic to lifehuman beings suffer. Life suffers everywhere and human beings, because they’re conscious, suffer in extraordinary ways. There’s suffering everywhere in the world. This is a bad thing. This is something we do not want. We would want for our fellow human beings to live life in peace with little or no suffering, right?

Why Should Writers Express Meaning Through Story?, By Robert McKee, McKee Story, September 21, 2018

And remember, we do agree with this famous guy…


Nothingness haunts being.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

But, if Christianity is the story we are in, then maybe that haunting caused Sartre to change his mind before the train of death drove into his station…


I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here: and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.

Jean Paul Sartre, Interview With Simone de Beauvoir, 1974

And now we are wondering, if Christianity is the story we are in, what if God the Great Storyteller chose Robert McKee to do the work he has done and McKee is going to also become another Jean Paul Sartre?

So, you can imagine why that book from your Moser man has our attention…


Overall, the book’s lesson is that only a severe God would be worthy of worship, but such a God would be severely redemptive and thus vigorously transformative in a manner that overturns business as usual in religion, theology, philosophy, and related disciplines.

Paul Moser, The Severity of God

The limits on human power, however, need not entail despair over human suffering and death, particularly if God empowers the resurrection of humans after their death, instead of rescuing them in a way that avoids suffering and death. This book contends, accordingly, that divine severity does not support human despair. It identifies a trustworthy basis for human hope in God, an interactive God, as an alternative to unyielding despair.

Paul Moser, The Severity of God

And Paula has connected a dot by showing me what Robert McKee wrote about American culture in his White Paper Story-In-Business: Why Story Works, Overcoming Negaphobia, and Authoring the Future


Over recent decades, negaphobia, the fear of all things negative, has infested American culture. Rather than face the trials of life, we hide behind euphemisms. A marriage doesn’t have conflicts, it has issues; life isn’t an uphill struggle, it’s a journey; a pain-in-the-ass business problem is now a challenge.

Employees who point out obvious mistakes are the worst of all things: they’re negative. In fact, more often than not, those who complain are simply realists. But in today’s world, realism is treated as defeatism.

For a story to move the listener to a positive action, it must dramatize the negative side of life. In the same way, a positive work environment cannot exist without acknowledging the negative. When “positive thinking” ignores things negative, terrible business decisions follow as night the day.

The wise leader fosters a corporate culture that allows for the open expression of observations and insights – especially when those ideas are insightful, negative criticisms.

Robert McKee

So, what Moser is exploring is so different from how Charles Darwin saw the story we are in…


In a speech honoring Darwin’s hundredth birthday in 1909 Max Von Gruber, a famous professor of hygiene at the University of Munich’ expressed exactly this point. He opened his speech by countering the Common misconception that nature is peaceful, harmonious, and idyllic. Rather it is “filled with pitiless, gruesome struggle, with torment and death . . . Not only do animals murder animals, but plants murder plants) Darwin, Gruber exulted, had discovered a rationale behind all this seemingly meaningless misery:

The never-ceasing struggle is, according to him [Darwin], not useless. It constantly clears away the malformed, the weak, and the inferior among the generations and thus secures the future for the fit. Thus only through the inexorable extermination of the negative variants does it provide living space for the strong and its strong offspring, and it keeps the species healthy, strong, and able to live.

Suffering and death, then, were not gratuitous, but fulfilled a higher purpose – the preservation and advancement of all living beings. Even though Gruber thought human reason and pity could and should mollify the struggle among humans, Darwinism helped him find purpose and meaning in the mass destruction of other organisms.

Richard Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler

And I suspect that may be what is going on with my enemy, Shih Tzu.

So, you can imagine why I appreciate the British comedian Stephen Fry, a well-known atheist, expressing his personal struggle with what he perceived to be how his story will end…


1:53

It’s horrible to contemplate a futureless future, if that isn’t too impossible. And so you just want to step out of it. Step out of the whole race, the whole business. The monstrosity of being alive overwhelms you.


4:26

The thing that keeps one living is a sense of future. That there will be a tomorrow.

Stephen Fry Talks About His Depression  

We just can’t run away from it anymore. Look at this…


Is there life after death? This is one of the fundamental questions that none of us escapes. As we grow old or suffer the loss of a loved one, this question commands our attention. Although much in life has changed over the centuries, when it comes to death and what happens after, we are little different than our ancestors. Although modern medicine keeps many of us alive longer, death inevitably holds sway. Then, like previous generations, we find ourselves face to face with that which we cannot scientifically control or understand. 

Life After Death in World Religions, by Harold Coward (Editor)

But that experience has also helped us come to realize that you Christians, of all people, ought to give serious consideration to the major dramatic question in relation to the story of America.

Because, if Christianity is the story we are in, then your God is not passive, hiding behind chaos clouds, hoping someday to break through.



Our Judgment Struggle

Like we said before, if Christianity is the story we are in, then the ending of irreversible change is so very different than the nothingness in our version of the story.

And that is creating tension for our team. Even though we are faithful Party members, our team still does struggle with doubt.

Many of us have experienced what I expressed in the following memo to my Uncle…

Intelligence Memorandum

Classified: Top Secret
Mao Tse Tongue!

To: General Tso
Deputy Assistant Minister of State Security
People’s Republic of China

From: Chow Non Phat

Deputy Assistant Minister for Diet Control

Re: Our Judgment Struggle

Dear Uncle,

You know I am committed to the Party’s version of the story we are in — that we are the central protagonists in our story and there is no outside force like God.

But our team is still struggling with that freaks in the narrative tension we told you about.

For instance, if our version of the story is right, and our story begins and ends in nothingness, how do we account for the mystery of judgment?

Our team struggles with this.

We realize that we embrace the desire for repayment – really, for justice to be done – at least justice as the Party defines it.

And yet, there’s ultimately no real justice if our story begins and ends in nothingness.

So… since our version of the story begins and ends in nothingness, we eventually looked at each other and recognized that it’s all ultimately meaningless and absurd.

Why, then, here in the middle of the story, do we actually believe there is real meaning to judgment?

Freaky.

Let me give you an illustration.

One of my favorite TV shows is a fascinating American drama titled “Breaking Bad.”

And in the following scene —  Jesse Pinkman’s Speech – Why Not Self-Acceptance?  — one of the main characters, Jesse Pinkman, gives a pointer to the reality that human beings do think about the possibility of judgment.

Veiling his murder of a fellow meth cook in a story about putting down a dog, Jesse becomes engaged in the question of responsibility and accountability —and judgment.

Here is the dialogue beginning around the 25 second mark…


Group Leader: We’re not here to sit in judgment.

Jesse: Why not? The thing is, if you just do stuff, and nothing happens, whats it all mean? What’s the point? Alright, this whole thing, it’s about self-acceptance.

Group Leader: Kicking the hell out of yourself doesn’t give meaning to anything.

Jesse: So I should stop judging and accept that no matter what I do, hooray for me, because I’m a great guy? It’s all good? No matter how many dogs I kill, I just, what, do an inventory and accept? I mean you backed your truck over your own kid and you like, accept? What a load of crap!

Group Leader: Hey Jesse, I know you’re in pain.

Jesse: No! You know what? Why I’m here in the first place? It’s to sell you meth! You’re nothing to me but customers! You okay with that? Huh? You accept?

Group Leader: No.

Jesse: About time!

Jesse Pinkman’s Speech – Why Not Self-Acceptance?

You know we’re not against judgment, Uncle.

We’re all for the Party bringing down the gavel (and the hammer!) on our opponents and anyone who threatens the social order.

But what is it about us, that we’re like this?

If our story ends in nothingness, there is no final judgment for anyone. And there’s no one in the story to make a final judgment.

It’s all ultimately meaningless.

This is so very different from the Christian version of the story we are in — which you directed us to consider as a possibility.

In that story, the protagonist is not only the creator of us all, but he’s also the judge of us in both the here and now… and at the end of the story!

If that were true, it would be very disturbing.

It would mean that the story fits with Robert McKee’s classical design of story, in which there is an irreversible ending — but in this case, the ending is not that we go out of existence!

So if we end up on the wrong side of the relationship with the protagonist — a position which, if Christianity is the story we are in, is determined not by chance, but by our own choice — then our ending is very disturbing.

Look at this, because it shines a light on the simple story question – Who are we, here in the story?


The first thing that the Bible has to say about man is that he was made in the image of God. And Saint Thomas, following an exegesis that goes back to John Damscene and the Greek Fathers, interprets the phrase in the Prologue to his treatise on man and the moral life. Man, he says, “is made in the image of God; and by image here is meant that man is intelligent, free in his power of choice, and master of himself . . . the active source of what he does.” The first biblical truth about man is that he is free.

John Courtney Murray, Freedom in the Age of Renewal, 1967

Why are there such beings as ourselves with the remarkable feature of conscious free agency? We consciously act, for better or worse, on intentions to achieve our ends. We thus differ from the intellectually blind material world. The difference is not just that we can think. It includes our being able to act intentionally, with an end in view. We are purposive agents, able to act in a goal-directed manner. This is an astonishing fact about us, even if we often take it for granted. The Hebraic God’s existence enables us to answer our question about free agents. God created beings in God’s own image of conscious free agency to enable those beings to sustain loving relationships with God and with each other.

Why Isn’t God More Obvious? by Paul K. Moser

Of course, our team is all wagering that our version of the story is the one which is unfolding in reality.

But Uncle… if we’re wrong what if we’re failing to do risk assessment?