Why such brief candles?

I was watching the movie “ The Tree of Life” the other day. Honestly, I couldn’t connect all the pieces together the first time I saw the movie. It can mean completely different things for completely different kinds of people. The Tree of Life is about everything. About life, nostalgia, love, loss, hatred, anger, nature, grace, forgiveness, redemption, and everything else that could be there in life. The scenes are incredibly beautiful, as perfect as they could be and looks out of this world. The Tree of Life is a series of fragmented memories of a young man named Jack (Sean Penn) who reminisces his childhood memories as a young boy , and the polar relationships between his graceful, loving mother (Jessica Chastain), and his strict, disciplinary, and sometimes angry father (Brad Pitt). It is a simple family entwined in love,the kind we see in everyday life.

And,somewhere in the middle of the movie, there was this scene when the Brian family attends the church on a Sunday morning and listens to a sermon.It really struck me as I listened to it again and again. It haunted me.

The Book of Job explores the myth that we inhabit a world in which people who live virtuously inevitably receive blessing, while those who do evil, always suffer a painful fate. The story of the tragedies that fell upon virtuous Job, demonstrates that there is nothing in life that can protect us from the possibility of pain.The story of Job is quoted often when one gets angry at God and when misfortunes befall.

“Job imagined he might build his nest on high – that the integrity of his behavior would protect him against misfortune. And his friends thought, mistakenly, that the Lord could only have punished him because secretly he’d done something wrong.

But, no, misfortune befalls the good as well. We can’t protect ourselves against it. We can’t protect our children. We can’t say to ourselves, even if I’m not happy, I’m going to make sure they are.

We vanish as a cloud. We wither as the autumn grass, and like a tree are rooted up.
Is there some fraud in the scheme of the universe? Is there nothing which is deathless? Nothing which does not pass away?

We cannot stay where we are. We must journey forth.

We must find that which is greater than fortune or fate. Nothing can bring us peace but that.

Is the body of the wise man, or the just, exempt from any pain? From any disquietude, from the deformity that might blight its beauty, from the weakness that might destroy its health?

Do you trust in God?

Job, too, was close to the Lord. Are your friends and children your security? There is no hiding place in all the world where trouble may not find you. No on knows when sorrow might visit his house, any more than Job did.
The very moment everything was taken away from Job, he knew it was the Lord who’d taken it away. He turned from the passing shows of time. He sought that which is eternal.

Does he alone see God’s hand who sees that He gives, or does not also the one see God’s hand who sees that He takes away? Does he alone see God who sees God turn His face towards him? Does not also he see God who sees God turn his back?"

The sermon is a profound piece of theology, a beautiful piece of poetry, and a deep well of spiritual wisdom and insight.

“Is there nothing which is deathless? Nothing which does not pass away?”

“The Tree of Life” also offers an answer in the voice of Mrs. O’Brien when she declares, “Unless you love, your life will flash by… Do good, wonder, hope.”

There are only two routes through life: “the way of nature and the way of grace.” Grace is abundant in the story’s mother figure, the pious and loving Mrs. O’Brian and a sufferer of the most awful of all tragedies – the death of a child, her middle son in his late teens. How he died we never learn, but the rest of the film can be seen as a reaction to his cruelly shortened life and to the question it inevitably poses.....Why? Why such a brief candle?

At the boy's funeral, a pastor tells Mrs. O'Brien "He's in God's hands now" and she replies with something like... "He should be in my hands." I could not think of a better answer than hers. Perhaps that answer is the one which shook me up.Whenever I hear of the death of a young child, I am reminded of my own personal loss. Why? Why such a brief candle?


  1. you well ask the eternal question, and you generously share wisdom that has touched yourself!
    Thank you my Brother-in-life

    Warm Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >

  2. Dear Dr. Anotony! It feels so nice to hear from you after so long. Just the other day I was wondering about you and hoped all was well at your end.

    There are so many questions we will never have the answer for... But inspite of it all we can trust we are in safe hands, whether we live or die...

    After reading this post I too wish to watch this movie. Will try to get a copy. Thank you for the review.

    Please stay in touch. Warm regards to your family.

  3. Why? The answer is - no answer, since there are no questions. Until we realize that there are no pre-determined, pre-set pattern to life, we will continue to ask unanswerable questions. As James Campbell has said, the differentiating feature between animal and human minds is the realization of the human being that he and all that he care for will one day die. But we will never accept it, will we? We will continue to ask questions that cannot be answered, we will continue our quests to discover the unknowable. The myths, religious and others, will continue to lead us away from understanding the truth of Nothingness, for once man has understood Nothingness, there will be no locus standi for religions and Gods. So let us continue our searches. "What are we longing for?" "Nothing. There is only just the longing".

  4. It is of great relief to the reader of your blog, like I'm , that you finally found time to blog and that too a beautiful piece of statement,"He should be in my hands." That is the highest form of assertion of a mother who has been deceived by the higher design if there is one.

    Why such brief candle? It is because there is no design in this world. Though great man have differed.
    I can only see matters as sheer chance , if we manage to wade through the quick sand and marsh that life is.

    And Doc, find time to Blog.

  5. Job in the Bible leaves one with too many questions..

    Maybe it is best not to try and answer.

    Or like Job, one needs to accept everything, including a jealous(?) God.

  6. Dr. A,
    I have also asked the same question: "why?" in times when I have lost a loved one, unexpectedly. The most painful losses have been of those who have been murdered. I lost a 24-year old cousin, she was sexually assaulted and murdered. It's been several years ago, and I still ask: "why?"

    I'm actually preparing a post about writing to heal, a reflection I recently started as I realized I tried to repress painful memories instead of processing them.

    Great post, as always, Dr. A.


  7. I have been thinking...and reading. There are no answers. Arun Shouries book, "Does he know a mothers heart" talks about the same issue.

  8. SIr I dont know what to say. Why is something that never gets answered ever.

    I use to beleive in religion but that too has gone to .... well what do i say ... people have changed and twisted it accordingly ..

    I guess time is a healer everything heals one day...


  9. So nice to hear from you after a long time. That question has no answers. I've been meaning to watch that movie for a long while. Thank you for this profound post.

  10. no answer its life
    and every one knowingly or unknowingly keeps searching for them.

  11. Antony,

    It was a good read.Touching. Two poems follow. Mukesh Agarwal


    When you set out for Ithaka
    ask that your way be long,
    full of adventure, full of instruction.
    The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
    such as these you will never find
    as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
    emotion touch your spirit and your body.
    The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
    unless you carry them in your soul,
    unless your soul raise them up before you.

    Ask that your way be long.
    At many a Summer dawn to enter
    with what gratitude, what joy -
    ports seen for the first time;
    to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
    and to buy good merchandise,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
    sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
    to visit many Egyptian cities,
    to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

    Have Ithaka always in your mind.
    Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
    But don't in the least hurry the journey.
    Better it last for years,
    so that when you reach the island you are old,
    rich with all you have gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
    Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
    Without her you would not have set out.
    She hasn't anything else to give you.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
    So wise you have become, of such experience,
    that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

    Constantine P Cavafy


    Razors pain you;
    Rivers are damp;
    Acids stain you;
    And drugs cause cramp;
    Guns aren't lawful;
    Nooses give;
    Gas smells awful;
    You might as well live.

    Dorothy Parker

  12. where are you Dr Antony?

  13. As always a wise post.

    Good to have you back, many thanks for stopping by my place.

  14. We all serve as teachers to one another. I believe some souls willingly incarnate knowing it will be a short experience, however, there is so much growth, on both sides, in the short time they are here, much love arises in the way of touching the hearts of others. When one leaves early, it is an enormous shock to those left behind, it is not what is expected. As witnesses of a shortened life, we suffer, but in such deep suffering there is also Great Expansion. Thus, our loved ones who leave us early become our greatest teachers. It was the purpose of their lives to serve others in that way. They are courageous souls. This is what I have read and I find it comforting, thus, I share it with you, your readers.


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