I have found that my favorite television show, Person of Interest, often delves into philosophical issues like free will and determination and even gives them a theological bent because of the character Root’s belief that “the Machine”, the artificial intelligence at the center of the show, is god. In a recent episode, “MIA”, the final scene gave what I thought was a fascinating treatment to the problem of pain and suffering.
Root is standing on the sidewalk. She is in a deep existential crisis, in great emotional anguish over the apparent death of Sameen Shaw, who she loves dearly. She is looking into a surveillance camera that the machine uses to see the world. Her god had previously spoken to her as the ‘analog interface’. But now the Machine is silent and she does not know what the machine is doing. As Harold approaches her she says, “She knows. The Machine must know where Shaw is and if she's alive. But she won't tell me.”
Harold tries to console Root of her existential crisis, “Ms. Groves, our only lead brought us to the brink of disaster. You and John came perilously close to being discovered. I care about her deeply. But if only for our own sake, we have to let her go.”
Root is not ready to give up so easily and says to him, “You gave up on her days ago. You really think she's dead.”
Harold tries to ground her in the reality of the situation, “I want to hold out hope. But hope is painful. We may never find her.”
But Root is adamant and looking into the camera, demands of her god, “We need an answer! I need an answer if Sameen is alive or if she's dead! Please, help us! Please!”
At that moment a nearby payphone rings. The Machine communicates with Harold through such phones using automated voices. Harold picks it up to hear the Machines message.
Root wants to know what her god won’t tell her, “Harold, what's she saying?”
Harold scribbles on his pad the message he hears in phonetic alphabet, “Sierra. Tango. Oscar. Papa. Sierra. Tango. Oscar. Papa. Sierra. Tango. Oscar. Papa. . .”
Harold translates the message, "Stop. The Machine is asking us to stop looking for her. Perhaps the Machine does know. Perhaps it has a plan. But for our own survival, our sanity, I believe we must reconcile ourselves with never knowing the truth. Otherwise, our pursuit of it will consume us entirely.”
Whenever we experience pain and suffering, we want an answer, we want to know why. But rarely are we ever afforded the knowledge we so hope and believe will satisfy our questions and give us peace we want. Hope can be painful. But the Living God does have a plan. And often we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that we will never know the truth. And possibly for our own survival, our own sanity, we must trust Him, lest it consume us entirely.
Have a little hope on me,