19 March 2015

Lucy: A Model of Maximum Brain Power?

by Angelene Goodman - Course Developer

I recently saw the DVD ‘Lucy’, and although the plot was frankly ridiculous, it did provoke some theological reflection on my part. Very briefly, the story is about a young woman who is forced to smuggle a new type of drug which is surgically inserted into her abdomen. The package bursts inside her and large quantities of the drug are released into her system. The plot is based on the popular myth that humans typically only access 10% of their brain. The drug causes Lucy to begin to access all of her brain potential, and as the nonsensical story carries on, she is accessing more and more of her brain, until finally she reaches 100%. As her brain potential grows and she becomes more “enlightened” she begins to utilise various “super” powers—blocking pain, telepathy, telekinesis, and mental time travel.

Theologically, it makes sense to me that in the fallen world we now find ourselves, humans may not be using their brains to their maximum potential. I’m not sure I’m completely sold on the 10% myth, however, it is interested to speculate what the brains of the first humans in their perfect original state were capable of. This movie gives us one version of what full human brain potential looks like.

What interested me was, as the movie wore on, Lucy became more and more aware of the big picture of all of earth’s history and less connected to her humanity and the situations of individuals. She is completely calm and undisturbed about killing the gangsters who held her captive, and calmly sits down to eat their food in the presence of their bloodied bodies. She shoots a patient who was being operated on because she knew they were not going to survive surgery. She recklessly races her car through the streets, so intent on her mission that she seems oblivious to the carnage and pain left in her wake as cars collide. As the movie progressed, Human life seemed to mean less and less to her; she was quite clinical in her approach to things and lost all empathy. What a strange picture of what it means to use all your brain’s power!

We are presented with quite a different picture of what it means to be fully enlightened in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is fully God, completely entered into the human world. The infinite stepped into the finite. He, more than any other person in history, understood the big picture of the world and its purpose. However, this did not make him less connected with the individual and personal, but the very opposite. Jesus showed great compassion for all people he encountered, ‘ordinary’ or otherwise, and found great value in human life. The Gospels show us a Jesus who weeps over the loss of his friend, heals the sick, welcomes children and gets angry at injustice. He could never be described as clinical because he was so involved; so in touch with his humanity. He taught and lived out a doctrine of love for others. Never did he become so consumed with his “important mission” that he didn’t take time for the needs of the individuals he encountered along the way. For, in fact, his mission was people.

It reminds me of the quote by Jessica Zafra “I love humanity. It’s people I don’t like.” This was Lucy’s problem—in becoming consumed with the big picture of human progress, she lost touch with her connection to people and her own humanity. Jesus, washer of his friends’ feet, shows us that to love humanity and gain a truly God-like perspective is to love the individual people we encounter every day. Meaning is found, not in the general, but in the particular.

So, what would it look like to have our brains using their full potential? Do we go with the vision of science fiction film makers of a clinical, but super-powered woman? Or do we turn to the person of Jesus for our true template of human potential? I know which picture I prefer.

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