The future: a bleak desolate, place. Mutants and the humans who helped them, united in defeat by an enemy we could not stop. Is this the fate we have set for ourselves? Could we have done nothing to stop it?- Prof. X
Yes, today, I am inspired to write about fate, agency and free will by X-Men. I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend and it was awesome. I had pretty high expectations going in, having loved X-Men since I was a kid and the Days of Future Past arc in the ‘90s cartoon was one of my favorites (along with the Dark Phoenix and Shi’ar sagas. Also, I wish I was a mutant). It met and exceeded my expectations. The acting was great (bits of over-the-top drama, but it’s a time-traveling superhero movie, with two awesome casts brought together, so it fit).
|Mutants for days (of future past).|
I’ll try to muse on some of the themes weaving in bits of X-Men, but remaining largely spoiler free. But, be warned, there are probably going to be some mild (although mild for me may be huge for someone else, given the amount of back story that I know and sometimes expect others to know, so be prepared) spoilers ahead.
The film follows two timelines, one in the future that is bleak and desolate, as Professor X says in the quote above, the other in the 1970s (which leads to some excellent costume design and music choices). The goal is for Wolverine to go back in time and change the past, so that the future ends up much better than it is/will be (tenses get super jumbled when you throw in time travel…). That’s the basic set-up and should be sufficient, although familiarity with the movie may enhance your reading experience.
Is our fate set? Some members of the Church believe that we established relationships in the pre-mortal life that we then promised to have here (with our parents, siblings, friends, spouses, children, etc.) and may have even covenanted to reach out and help certain people in certain times. Such a worldview would suggest that our fate is set and that what is going to happen, will happen, regardless of our efforts, the end result will be the same.
As you can probably guess, I reject this idea. Again, it strikes me of God being like a chessmaster moving me around like a pawn on the chess board (I think of a scene from the 1981 Clash of the Titans where Zeus moves different monsters and people around on this board, setting up their futures. *shiver* It just doesn’t jive with me).
It also is difficult for me to find hope in such a scenario, where it is unclear whether my actions will change the end outcome. How can I hope and believe that things will work out when it is completely out of my hands? I can’t. Especially for someone that finds themself in a position that they don’t want to be in, desiring to change, it could be soul-crushing to feel helpless to change your future.
Thankfully, we have the reliable Charles Xavier to once again provide some wisdom and teachings about redemption.
Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they can’t be saved.
Xavier in the ‘70s is lost and in a sort of drugged daze, unable to use his powers, trying to drown out the pain that he feels for himself and for others (which eventually he embraces and is what gives him strength. Powerful Christ-figure symbolism and embodiment of baptismal covenants, bearing one another’s burdens, mourning with those that mourn, etc.). So he speaks from the personal experience of being lost and then finding a path. A powerful example of the change that we can all experience in our lives because of Christ and His love for us.
I was especially struck by a sequence in the film where they felt as though everything was hopeless, yet Wolverine pleads with Xavier to still find all of the X-Men. It was interesting because it drove home the point that even if the end result is the same we can each make a difference in the lives of others that is worth making. (Ultimately the film chooses to show that the future can change, but the idea is made more powerful by the emphasis that helping others matters even when that doesn’t change the overall endgame.)
There is hope for change. It is never too late for us to be saved, to find the path that we have lost. The future is fluid and we are made better by feeling the pain of others, by striving to help them through their suffering. Even if their end is tragic and dark, the touch of our lives can do something powerful.
William Ernest Henley’s words from Invictus will close:
I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.