Amazon’s new series Forever takes a creative stab at the nagging questions of life. As we shuffle through our Monday through Friday, 9-to-5, Day in/Day Out, pick-your-cliché routines, most of us eventually hit a moment that gives us pause. Perhaps there’s a move or a loss that shakes us, a relationship or spiritual experience that forms us. Eventually we wonder:
“Why am I here?”
“What’s the meaning of this life?”
“Is this all there is?”
“Is there a God?”
Forever explores these questions as it follows a quirky couple, June and Oscar, through the bland, stoic routines of their lives. Glancing quickly at the cast I expected a light, humorous binge—Oscar and June are played by SNL royalty, Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph. The series, however, quickly proves deep and provocative as it takes the viewer into significant marital and spiritual conversations that dominate our culture.
Forever launches with a brief overview of the life and (spoiler) ultimately death of Oscar and June, two awkward, somewhat bored middle-aged suburbanites. They die one year apart and reunite in the afterlife. Think The Good Place meets George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo, with maybe a little bit of Lost tossed in. Unsatisfied and trapped in a mundane marriage before their death, their reunion in the beyond brings back the nagging questions of their relationship. Plagued by the reality that the afterlife is just as monotonous as life before, Rudolph’s June and Armisen’s Oscar seek an answer to why any of life matters. How do we live together, forever?
As a person camped out in the suburbs of a major city, raising kids, trudging to work and school and church, turning calendar page after calendar page, I am among the tens of millions who might identify on some level with June and Oscar. Their situation resonates with most mid-career, mid-life, mid-marriage people. In episode two, Oscar and June sit together on a curb with tract housing as their backdrop. The scene is bright, the sun is shining, yet everything feels vanilla and plastic. Staring into the distance, with an exasperated sigh, June asks, “I mean, what’s the point of all this?” Oscar replies, “Well, what was the point of the thing before this?”
There is deep meaning in routine, for it is often in those places where God speaks and transformation takes place.
Indeed, eventually we all ask, “What’s the point in any of this?” Why were we created? Why do we exist? Is there a bigger purpose? A God? A forever? Proverbs 20:5 reminds us, "The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” I watched this series identifying with the slow-motion muck of life and relationships, but also wanting to fast forward to that transcendent, “a-ha” moment when the answer might indeed be drawn out. “Yes, you do matter. Yes, all of this matters. Yes, there is meaning and purpose.”
The divine resides in the moments when we recognize that purpose in the seemingly mundane. There is deep meaning in routine, for it is often in those places where God speaks and transformation takes place. The lives of people like L’Arche founder Jean Vanier, St. Francis and many of the desert Mothers and Fathers bear great witness to sitting with the moments that seem unremarkable, yet are training one’s heart and soul to take notice.="">
I both loved Oscar and June and wanted to slap them and wake them to this reality. Their characters are hapless navel-gazers who rarely meet the eye of significance. I wanted to somehow shake them and interject. All the earth is full of glory, how can you possibly have missed it?! There is purpose in all of this. It has everything to do with the God in question, the God who extends purpose, power and agency to all that has been created. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning once famously wrote in her poem Aurora Leigh, “Earth's crammed with heaven/ And every common bush afire with God;/ But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,/ The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.” Or, as the Prophet Isaiah once proclaimed, the whole earth is full of God’s glory!
As Oscar and June searched their life for meaning, I was reminded of the ways we chase after the shiny objects of now and in so doing, manage a shortsighted future where we miss the weight of God’s glory. Alan Yang and Max Hubbard lock into this penchant of human life with exact precision. When all that we’ve chased does not deliver, we find ourselves sitting on the curb, like June and Oscar, wondering what exactly the meaning is in any of it.
As Oscar and June appear to sit around and pluck blackberries, eternity carries on without them. The soul can rise up from its slumber anytime and open to the splendor and majesty of all that is life. This is neither mundane nor boring, but instead a call to fully participate in the now, just as Oscar and June long to do.