I only got a couple of minutes into Bandersnatch, the dark Black Mirror-related interactive movie on Netflix, before I had to pause it and sit, paralyzed, staring at the screen.
You see, when the main character–I haven’t gotten far enough in to even learn his name yet–is sitting at the breakfast table and offered a choice of cereal, Frosties or Sugar Puffs, by his father, I’m convinced that everything hangs on that decision. I chose Sugar Puffs. Then, a few seconds later, I had second thoughts. I backed up and chose Frosties. In the aftermath of both, the neighbor’s dog was barking and digging in the garden. Dad was yelling out the door. So far, there’s no difference, but who knows what cosmic chain of events was set in motion by the choice of cereals? That’s why I hit pause.
Decisions are important. They have consequences. One thing leads to another. If I hadn’t made an offhand comment about needing to get a job, maybe my high-school friend Dan wouldn’t have suggested that I work with him at Taco John’s. Then I wouldn’t have met Penny. Then we wouldn’t have gotten married and had four kids.
Ready for the topper? In the minutes since I started writing this entry, I learned that my youngest child’s first kid has made her entry into the world. And if it hadn’t been for saying something about needing a job back in 1980, then maybe she’d be a gerbil instead. (Don’t try to make sense of that. I’ve always thought the whole parallel universe thing was kind of ridiculous.)
Of course we want to think about the consequences of our actions, but much of the time, like in Bandersnatch, we have to simply make a choice without knowing where that choice will lead. As the great theologians of Rush sang, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” That’s deep, eh?
Where would my life be if I had decided to seek a job at Burger King instead of Taco John’s? Or was I always fated to make tacos and marry Penny? I just don’t know.
As I cast my mind over the Bible, I note how many stories seem to revolve around snap decisions, determined choices, that lead to a very good or a very bad outcome. Let’s think of a few in Bandersnatch fashion.
- Eve: Eat the fruit the serpent is offering / Barbecue the serpent
- Cain: Clobber your brother / Go fishing with your brother
- Noah: Build a big boat in the backyard / Use the gopher wood to host a big pig roast for the neighbors.
- Abraham: Sacrifice Isaac / Go out for falafel with Isaac
- Joseph: Get revenge on your brothers / Forgive your brothers
You see how this is going, and I’m not even out of Genesis. Of course other choices, in the Bible and in our lives, are not so clearly ones that involve obedience and loyalty. They don’t come with a clearly defined “right choice.” Some of them are as apparently random as working at Taco John’s or what breakfast cereal to eat. Or are they?