“I did everything you asked. I created the perfect system.” –Clu
“I know…It’s not your fault.”–Flynn
If you haven’t seen Tron Legacy, I recommend it (and apologize for all following spoilers). Yes, the movie has numerous faults, and no, its not as thoughtful as the original. It is trying, nonetheless, to say some interesting things. While watching it with the CSM youth last week, what struck me was this: There is a very real difference between perfection and wisdom–between being good, and seeking the good life.
The premise runs thus: After the fall of the MCP (see Tron), Kevin Flynn, enticed by the possibilities of User power on the Grid, sets out to create a perfect utopian system. To this end he creates CLU (Codified Likeness Utility), in his own image, to carry out his will when he is not around. All goes well; until a “miracle” happens–something Flynn neither planned nor created. Flynn chases this new idea, CLU feels rejected, rebels, traps Flynn in the grid, and seeks to build the perfect system as originally instructed. Flynn, meanwhile, spends a lot of very humbling time hiding, pondering his mistakes.
Flynn made perfection (as he saw it) his central goal and source of meaning; he tried to play God. In the process he convinced Clu that if he worked hard enough and long enough, if he brought order to the whole system, if he lived up to expectations…then he would be perfect and, because of that, pleasing to his creator. If Clu can just get every detail right, he will be loved.
I know I have been Clu. I suspect most of us have at one point or another. But after watching Tron, I think the bigger danger is being Flynn. It is wrong to put too much pressure on our children–to ask for perfection in everything, even if we don’t really mean it. It is risky even to teach them that “perfection” is the goal. I know that sounds momentarily un-Methodist, but “perfection” for Wesley was not doing everything well. It wasn’t even being a model Christian. Perfection is to seek God in all things, to live for the Word of the Lord. Yes, he felt that life would have some markers, but readily acknowledge that would would all fall short, probably often. In the real world failure isn’t just an option, it’s frequently the outcome. We learn more that way.
Flynn learns a great deal in his failures: respect for CLU, love for Sam, the difference between might and power, the dangers of single-mindedness, the value of patience, the importance of sacrifice. These he passes on to Quorra with great humility. At the end of the movie, his greatest gift to Sam is not the Grid or even Quorra, it is wisdom.
Flynn is opened to the wonders and possibilities of a world that is far to big and too strange for him to craft or control. Sadly, the CLU he formed in his former image cannot get there. The ideas of perfection and dominance are too far in grained; the pain of Flynn’s perceived rejection permanently mars their relationship. He cannot grow, he cannot marvel, he cannot forgive. CLU does everything Flynn asked and in the end, it’s not enough because Flynn taught him the wrong question.
Some of what Flynn learns can only be won through age and experience. But his mistakes with CLU aren’t necessary ones. We can offer our children more than the unfulfilling pursuit of empty perfection. We can teach them to do more than just “be good”. We should set them searching for God; we should teach them to awe and wonder. And we must walk beside them on their path, even if it’s not the path we would choose for them. We can teach them to seek wisdom.
Then Job answered the LORD: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. –Job 42:1-3