Losing Weight

When my wife and I saw Arrival, she thought it was “ok” and I loved it.1 As we were discussing our respective views on the way home, she asked me why I loved it. Now, ordinarily, asking a man why he feels something is an exercise in futility. I, however, am very in touch with my feelings2 and had no trouble coming up with the answer.

Because it was a beautiful story, beautifully filmed, but most importantly, it had weight. Is love worth the pain? Would we make the same decisions if we knew those decisions would lead to tragedy?

“Weight” is actually something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Weight (like pornography) is tough to define but you know it when you see it. Weight is the thing that causes something to … weigh … on our minds long after we’ve seen it, or read it, or listened to it. Lack of weight is the thing that causes us to forget a movie or song or book five minutes after we see/hear/read them. Or, if they’ve burrowed themselves into our brain, make us want to get them out as quickly as possible. (I’m looking at you, Britney/Miley/Taylory3/Every boy band ever.)

“Weight” is the reason that Rich and Ashley are permanently on my phone. “Weight” is the reason I re-read Les Miserables and Lord of the Rings every couple of years. “Weight” is the reason “The Good Wife” was one of my favorite TV shows of the last ten years.

Gertrude Stein’s infamous putdown of Oakland, “There’s no there there,” is a different (and far cleverer) way of saying that it has no weight. We might also say that something or someone, e.g. maybe a certain President4, has no substance. Weight is the thing that leads us to substantive discussions and life changes and personal examinations. Without weight, we become astronauts in zero gravity, drifting aimlessly and bumping into the furniture.

Weight is the thing that puts the unity in community. If you’re wondering if you have good community in your small group, it’s an easy test — do you talk about personal things that have weight? A lot of people mistake hour-long discussions about the meanings of chesed for weight. That’s fake weight, like one of those boulders they used to use on Star Trek — big, imposing, heavy-looking but ultimately made of styrofoam.

Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is living and active, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. But in order for it to do that, we have to subject our thoughts and intentions to it. A lot of people go through community every week but never involve their thoughts and intentions. In short, there’s no weight. Do you want better community? Put some weight into it.

The same applies to our friendships. We (especially men) often mistake our best friends for those that like the same movies and restaurants and politics we do, never realizing there’s never been any weight to our friendship, and the first time any weight is applied to it, it crumbles into dust, and we’re left wondering what happened.

By a happy happenstance, the Old Testament word for “glory” comes from a root word that means … can you guess?

That’s right, it means weighty, heavy. If you wanted to connect the dots (I do), you could say that when our community and friendships and lives lack weight, we’re missing out on God’s glory. Rich sang, “There is such a thing as glory, and there are hints of it everywhere” and if you substitute “weight” the same is still true.

As I write this, the “Whole30®” cult is spreading like wildfire across the countryside. America is obsessed with dieting, but we’ve missed the fact that though our bodies look like Aunt Marge’s in Prizoner of Azkaban, our souls are as light as the crumbs from that chocolate cake we just polished off. We’ve lost the wrong kind of weight.

Reverse the trend. Make sure that wherever you are, there’s some there there.5

  1. My Best Picture of 2016.
  2. About movies.
  3. Although, to be fair, Ryan Adam’s version of 1989 shows that there is actually some weight to Taylor’s lyrics if you can eliminate the pure fluff of her music.
  4. His election opponent is lacking this as well; having a two-ton weight around your neck isn’t the same as having weight.
  5. And if you want to drop a few pounds while you’re at it, skip the dieting cults and just eat less and exercise more.

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