What Toys Taught Me About Discernment

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by Daniel Quintero, former Media Ministry Assistant

Recently, I attended a Vocations Retreat. Each speaker was unanimous: we have to find God first, and through that we find ourselves.

This simple idea is one that many in our society have failed to grasp. As I reflected on what the speakers said,  I couldn’t help but remember learning this message from one of my favorite television shows and my favorite movie.

In the television series The Twilight Zone, there exist an episode entitled ‘5 Characters in Search of an Exit.’ In this episode, five individuals are trapped in a circular room surrounded by a metal wall with the only light coming from the top. The characters have no idea where they are, what is on top, and they have no way of reaching it. But it is open, and thus their only means of hope. The individuals in this story have no names, no identities. In fact, that is the dilemma of the story, characters lost not only in a physical spot, but also in who they are. Their only notion of uniqueness is the character term for what they do. There is the clown, the ballerina, the major, the hobo, and the bagpipe player. Later in the episode, the major had the idea for everyone to climb on top of each other in hopes of escaping from above. They all stood on each other’s shoulders and the major made his way over and out of the room and into a pile of snow. (Spoiler) Then the camera pans out and we realize the major is a doll. The ballerina and the rest of the characters are dolls. And the dark room was a box for dolls to be collected and given to orphans. As the major doll is put back into the box, we, the audience, see tears flow from the ballerina’s face.

These toys were sad, lost, and confused. Contrasts that with the toys in the Toy Story series. Woody, Jesse, Rex, Hamm: they all know they are toys. They know they are created in the image and likeness of toys. Thus, they know their identity as toys and what they are called to do. Even Buzz Lighter finds greater peace when he realizes he is not actually a space ranger. Their purpose is to make kids happy, to be their friend. With that came certain responsibilities. They couldn’t come alive with kids around or else they would traumatize them, as they did with Sid in Toy Story one. They also had to be selfless, staying with the kids that loved them even if there was a chance the kids would outgrow them. But they did it because that was the purpose for them as toys. And for the most part, they were happy.

The dolls in the Twilight Zone however did not know they were toys. They had lost a true sense of their identity and what they were made for. Thus, they created in themselves what the Clown in the show entitled a “hell.” For a loss of identity in a confusing environment can bring the least peace of mind and the greatest temporal dissilousionment.

Compare that now to society today. Socrates asked us to know ourselves, but society tells us to just be ourselves. Yet how can one be oneself if he has yet to truly discern who that oneself is. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. Our purpose here is to know, love and serve Him. Many are confused, feeling restless of heart. Thus, even if one is being defined by what one does, it may by miles away from knowing who one is.

As Christians, as Catholics, as people, we are all called to begin that discernment to finding God. To know we are made in His image and thus to know we have a purpose and an identity that flows from it. To know we are not just characters in confusion, lost dolls in search of an exit. But instead we are individuals with a purpose. Let us strive to be as mindful of that purpose as the toys are in Toy Story.
“Reach for the Sky!”- Sheriff Woody

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