Friday, August 2, 2013

Vivi Ornitier and the Meaning of Life

I just watched the finale of the video game Final Fantasy IX. I remember fondly playing the game back during my undergrad days; however, I was never able to complete the quest. Nevertheless one character really stood out to me – the little black mage Vivi.
     I found Vivi's story really compelling. Throughout the game, we discover that Vivi is a product of the villainous Kuja, who creates black mages for the Alexandrian Empire. Moreover, Vivi discovers that the mages expire after one year. Naturally, this sends Vivi on an existential quest in the midst of stopping the Kuja from destroying the planet they inhabit. In fact, Kuja's quest stems from his own disillusionment with mortality.
     For Christians who hold to the promise of the resurrection, questions of mortality seem misplaced. Yet, the older I get the more I understand the course of my own life running its course. Just as there was life before me there will be life without me. The idea of death (or “stopping” as the black mages understand it) unravels anyone who thinks about it long enough. I must admit my own night terrors thinking about the prospect of non-existence. Reviewing a game like this causes me to further reflect on this issue as well as the validity of video games. Granted, not every game is this dense (FF IX is surprisingly lighthearted despite this theme). The game then presents the player with facing their own purpose in light of death.
While death is a frightening thing, it can enable us to view life with greater gravity. Speaking from personal experience, I often took life for granted and assumed that things would simply fall into place due to some master plan. As an adult, I realize that life is a struggle. Now, I know that my struggles pale in comparison to many in the world, but these are still personal struggles. Anyway, death allows me to remember the short existence that we have on this planet. As Paul directs us, we should “[make] the most of our time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5.15). While Paul may have other things in mind, I think there is a principle that we shouldn't overlook. We should make the most of the lives we have been given. If we believe in God, then we understand life to be a gift. Thus we should not waste the gift given to us. 
    How, then, should we spend this gift? Well, for Vivi life existed on touching the lives around us. The little mage found friends, adventure and a home. He was grateful for what little life he had and his life touches any gamer well after the credits roll. I do believe that the game makes a great point. Life is too short for grudges and strife. We should enjoy the company of our friends and family knowing that it won't last forever. I know I have greatly neglected many of my friends. I should rectify that. Moreover, as I get older so do my folks. I must admit that I had a recent altercation with my father. I guess we both feel very strongly about things, but I can't help realizing that I still want a sense of approval from him. Funny thing is that I already have that approval. So, why fight? Why not enjoy the rest of my time with him.
     I know I sound like I'm pushing my folks into the grave, but I really think that death ought to make us celebrate life. So, as I re-watch the end of this game I notice Vivi's thoughts appear before various scenes of all the other characters in the game. As they all reconnect with friends and love ones, we see the point of life – relationships. God created a man and a woman to grow together in love. Unfortunately, pride and will defeated such devotion and plunged humanity into a cycle of covetousness and violence. As Christians we believe that Jesus' death and resurrection frees us from this catastrophe and reconciles us back to God and each other. He has torn down the hostility. May we then enjoy life in spite of death and live in peace with each other (Eph. 2.11-22).

Matthew Jimenez received his BA in English Literature at Biola University. He received his MAT in Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He currently teaches Sunday School at Calvary Community Church in Torrance, CA.