There is an old fable that tells the story of a schoolboy that comes across a bizarre gold ball with a cord extending from it. He learns that when he pulls on the cord, it causes him to go forward in time. This seems to be a grandiose discovery to the youngster, as he can skip through uninteresting or undesirable points of his life such as school or the army. However, he quickly finds himself at the end of his life in deep regret. Once the cord has been pulled out, it can’t go back in and his entire life has been dissipated with no memories to show for it. When he is allowed a do-over of his life, he is eager to show he has learned his lesson. And what is that lesson? Slow down, don’t miss a single moment.
The tale’s modern counterpart, Click, points out the same moral, yet adapts it culturally. The problem hasn’t changed, people of all ages still take their lives for granted, but the film, starring Adam Sandler, speaks in a language that hits close to home. It is sometimes uncomfortable to watch, due to the egregious truth of it.
Instead of a gold ball, the modernized version features a remote that can do pretty much anything one can imagine—except change the past. Michael Newman, the owner of this infamous “all purpose remote,” is already looking for ways to blow off his family for work at the start of the story. He discovers that the remote can “skip chapters” of his life and eagerly uses it to get out of a dinner with his wife, parents and kids so he can get straight to work.
Michael begins skipping more and more little things like showers and fights with his wife until finally, he finds himself skipping an enormous portion of his life. The architect falls into a vicious and inevitable cycle, missing out of the lives of those he loves despite his efforts to stop it. The remote programs itself according to the owner’s actions, and apparently he has programmed it to skip out on not just the small things—but life in general.
Michael is on an autopilot mode during the parts of his life he fast forwards through, and is quick to foist the blame for his ruined life on that fact. The man who gave him the remote, however, tells that he is lying to himself if he believes that he would have lived any differently than how the autopilot version of Michael Newman lived. The fact was that he had been on autopilot long before he ever laid hands on the remote.
We can’t pretend like this is a completely alien concept, for we can go into somewhat of a sleep mode when we are doing things like work, volunteering and taking that unwanted visit to an old relative. In an effort to not waste any time, it’s easy to throw away moments and opportunities that really matter. Michael’s family needed him, as people around in our lives need us. Having a true and deliberate conversation with a kid in the hospital or an elderly person may have more impact than just being there. Sometimes “just being there” isn’t enough. To witness, to show God’s love, we need to be alert and turn off autopilot.
I would love to believe that everyone who saw this walked out remembering the painful sections of the movies that brought them to tears, rather than just holding tight to the fact that everything turned out okay in the end. Thinking that things will just work themselves out is falling into the same trap Michael did. Our families need us. Non-believers need us. Now is not the time to fast forward. Now is not the time to go on autopilot. Forget comfort; forget what you’ll be doing that afternoon. Be here, right now, and live.