Post Thanksgiving Thoughts: On Being Leftovers

There is a show I really like on HBO called The Leftovers. Based on the book of the same title by author Tom Perrotta, it’s about what happens to the rest of the world when a biblical Rapture-like event scoops up 2% of the world’s population. No one left knows what happened to them, where they all went. Everyone is just gone, disappearing with a whimper instead of a bang.

This morning I started thinking about the show and the ideas it tries to explore in all the post-Thanksgiving haze. Not being a Black Friday person at all, I am instead contemplating once again the more serious aspects of life. The holidays tend to do that me.

It’s a premise, an idea I find very interesting to think about, the state of being leftover. Especially today when so many people are enjoying them, having leftovers is a wonderful thing. But being them, I’m not so sure how that would feel. At least the turkeys no longer have to worry about it.

On the one hand, the remaining people on the show survived something catastrophic. They are still alive, still here. But on the other, they weren’t chosen – if that’s what even happened, the show hasn’t said – to be with whatever power took everyone else. They never got any sign or rationale for it, either. It’s a mystery. Lift still kind of looks normal, though, at least on the outside. Some of the characters are more successful at carrying on than others; some the verdict is still out on. Most are somewhere in-between.

It makes me wonder where I would be, how I would adjust. What would it mean to me if something like that really happened? I’m not a religious person, though I do have spiritual beliefs. But that would definitely cause me to reconsider things.

So many movies and stories take a very dramatic approach about the end of the world and are very frightening. This show instead skips all that, and let’s the real drama of what happens to people reveal itself. It isn’t particularly horrific – fire and brimstone don’t destroy the Earth, and there’s little talk of religion, heaven or hell involved. It’s really about how the remaining people deal with such an odd, painful, and cataclysmic event. How they try to understand it all, and continue to live with being left behind. And that’s where the scary parts usually come in.

I don’t think anyone deals well with being rejected, abandoned, deemed unworthy. That’s how most of the characters view what happened anyway. Would I make those judgments about myself? What would my friends, the people I care about think of it all? What would any of us do?

When I watch the show, at the bottom of it all I think are really questions about how we are living our lives now. Whether there is really a higher power or not, if we are or aren’t being judged by something, who are we and how are we without it? What would it mean to us if we suddenly learned there really was some force we couldn’t understand, and it seemingly denied some of us, God-fearing or not, without explanation?

Whether the show ever resolves those questions for it’s characters or not, I guess the answer for me is to just keep asking myself every day if I’m I being true to who I am, to my life at this moment. What is my real motivation for trying to be a good person, be happy? Am I doing, being, sharing in the best way possible, even if that ultimately means nothing to a higher power beyond me?

Then one day, if something like that were to actually happen I could feel, whether or not I was Raptured-up, that I was living a good life. I could be okay with staying here, being left behind. Maybe I would come to see that possibly it was a gift instead, not a rejection. That life and the chance to live it well was what were leftover, that it was meant to be a good thing. Maybe I would even be happy about it.