There is probably little else in life that evokes as much emotion as the thought of death. Whether thinking of our own inevitable deaths or the unfortunate deaths of others, the uncertainty surrounding “what happens next” has spawned countless Hollywood interpretations and sci-fi theories grounded in nothing other than avid imaginations.
The sci-fi suspense flick, “Source Code” with Jake Gyllenhaal follows a similar route of questioning offering an eerie interpretation of one “life after death” scenario. The protagonist, a former Colonel (Carl) stationed in Afghanistan, awakens on a train in the body of a man he’s never met (Sean), sitting in front of a woman he’s never seen, who claims to know him. Within minutes, the train explodes and the Colonel (who is now Carl, not Sean) is transported back into his body and briefed on his mission.
Throughout the movie, one is left wondering about the Colonel’s existence—is he or isn’t he alive? What about the body he inhabits for eight minutes during every recurrence? Is the “Sean vessel” alive or already dead? Amidst this confusion about mortality, the sci-fi premise surfaces with the idea that following death, every person has an eight minute window or “halo” of life that can be reassigned to another individual, alive in mind but for all intents and purposes, dead in body. Confused yet?
Once the life and death situation is somewhat cleared up, the movie becomes a straightforward suspense thriller where the audience roots for the good guy and boos for the bad guy, who is, thankfully, not your typical racially-profiled lunatic. While the movie doesn’t pretend to impart any deep or lasting moral messages, I couldn’t help but take something out of the fascinating view of death that was presented.
The fear, the apprehension, the questions, the concern and the pure ambiguity that surround death are among the greatest commonalities that connect us as humans. As a Muslim, I’m often asked about my religious views on the topic. As do the other major monotheistic religions, the Islamic view of death includes a Heaven and a Hell and a Judgment Day that precedes the Hereafter. While the issue of death is often seen as a morbid one that many people feel uncomfortable discussing, it is an inevitable reality that deserves further pondering.
Muslims strive to live each day in preparation for a “forever” afterlife with loved ones. This makes “morbid” thoughts more bearable with the conviction that something more has to follow this brief life. Unfaltering faith in something greater than us humans is helpful in reconciling any doubts about death.
Knowing with full confidence that there is something bigger that connects us all--something greater that holds sway over our lives-- helps somehow ease the impermanence of earth. An inherent belief in life after death creates significance in the lasting marks that we might leave on others and provides a form of reassurance that our “halo” will continue to glow for longer than the movie’s proposed eight minutes. In the end, we can only hope that long after we are gone, we’ll be remembered for whatever legacy we have left behind—forever kept alive in the hearts of people we’ve touched and in the minds of people we’ve known.--Suzy Ismail