I was pleasantly surprised by the deep philosophy of the Academy Award winning film “Hugo,” which directly applied to life! It’s a kid’s story after all. The story addresses the question of how does one deal with the harsh reality of loss and suffering, particularly for a young orphan. What is a young boy living secretly in a clock tower of a train station with no family or loved ones supposed to do? When a loved one dies at a premature age, what are you to do?
Hugo’s background as the son of a watchmaker (a trade of his father who apprenticed him) formed his worldview. His worldview helped him to make sense of a tragic world. Hugo’s father taught him that the world was like a large machine, perhaps like a watch, where all its parts had a purpose and no parts were extra or useless. Hugo’s understanding of the world and life reflected the Watchmaker Theory of the 18th century philosopher William Paley. The Watchmaker Theory explained the world was like a watch or an organism with various purposeful parts, interlocked and inter-worked together as a system to make up the greater whole – all the parts contributed to a greater function. This conglomeration of purposeful parts reflects design. The presence of design in the universe means there is a Designer. That is, according to Paley, if you saw a watch and how all its parts were intelligently arranged to serve an overall function, you assume there was a watchmaker who made the watch. You would not assume the watch happened by chance. If the world is as Hugo viewed it, a world of design with purposeful parts, then there must be a Grand Designer.
Tragedy and pain can make life feel random. It’s these troubling times that often cause us to ask “WHY?” Because we are by nature purposeful beings, we look for purpose. Why? Because purpose communicates order. We strive for order in our daily lives from how we dress ourselves to how we structure our day’s activities to how we plan our lives. We are people who are wired for design. But when sudden tragedy hits and deep, unexpected pain strikes, we feel as though life is not in order because pain feels destructive. We feel chaos. So we search for purpose in order to find order. Hugo’s view reinforces the perspective that God does exist if we do assume the world is made by design. And we may not be able to answer the question of why certain tragedies happen to us. But like Hugo, we can find a measure of healing through discovering our purpose as a meaningful part in the grand design of this world. Hugo found his purpose in being a redemptive agent to an elderly man who lived in a state of tragedy from lost dreams.
There is a difference between merely accepting tragedy, which would be the only thing you could do if you believed the world exists in randomness (and in an absurd reality), and seeking redemption in the midst of tragedy because you believe the world and its parts purposefully exist (and a Designer exists). Hugo’s robust worldview of intelligent design not only formed the basis of his beliefs about the world but also was the framework for him to find healing and redemption as a part in a purposeful world.