GR stands for “Guilty Remnants” in the TV series The Leftovers which I have gotten into a habit of discussing every week. There were some very good episodes there, like the one about the pastor trying to save his church – we can all relate to such experience. This one wasn’t particularly inspiring or memorable. The plot just slowly moved along but I’m not interested in the plot, I’m interested in portrayal of religion, in portrayal of one’s faith.
GR is one of the strange cults featured in the series. No one really knows what they want, and they were the ones who took over local church, which made them into enemies of religion. On the other hand, I am also curious about that bunch and I once wrote about being in their cult as compared to being a Hare Kṛṣṇa. The point of that comparison wasn’t to determine which cult is better but to understand how joining a religious organization changes a person. Not counting spiritual progress (which GR people don’t get), the experiences are pretty similar.
Our ISKCON leaders have noticed that long time ago and I’ve listened to seminars on the topic, on how to strike a golden balance between being too weird and demanding too much and being too conventional and thus unappealing. People invest themselves into something they feel as special, if we were just like everybody else not many people would have seriously committed themselves.
Kṛṣṇa West, btw, is probably nothing more but another shot at finding that balance. I don’t know why everybody is on their case. If Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t make concessions to westerners there wouldn’t be ISKON. He hooked people first and demanded certain standards of material and spiritual purity later, same principle Kṛṣṇa West devotees hope will work again.
Anyway, these GR folks are mystery. The whole show is about life in a small town after some of its residents were “raptured” and went to Heaven, or so goes the official version. Some people are indifferent to it, some took it as an impetus to try harder in their lives so they don’t get left behind next time JC comes around. GR decided to strike at God with vengeance.
Being left behind is totally unacceptable to them, they refuse to recognize God who would do this to His people. On one hand they appear to be inimical to God, on the other hand they demonstrate an unusual intensity in their relationships with Him, which is never a bad thing. One of Kṛṣṇa’s favorite queens, Satyabhāmā, was similarly hot tempered, so there’s a space in relationships with the Lord for justifiable anger or frustration.
They are also angry at people who let themselves to be manipulated and cheated by a God like that. That’s why they stake their targets and keep reminding them about futility of base human existence – “God does not care, there’s no meaning in life without Him, so just drop it” – that seems to be their message.
There was one scene involving them last week – they staked a boy, gave him a flier that said “Everything that is important about you is inside”. He opened it and it was empty. Clever.
There’s no meaning to our lives without God. Even animals have a purpose – they will eventually become human, their lives don’t go in vain, they make their own steady progress. People who refuse to serve God in the human form of life, however, are a total waste of space.
Well, Kṛṣṇa is generous, they can have pretty good lives even without worshiping Him, but for most of us life without devotion is empty.
Christians aren’t that different. They might not have as strong sādhana as us but they know that whatever they do must in the end lead to reunification with the Lord. Sometimes they can do horrible things but this one realization – “It’s not right by Jesus”, might stop them in their tracks – everyone has limits.
GR people are there to tell them that there’s no point. God as we know is dead, we shouldn’t fool ourselves and should seek the meaning of life elsewhere. I still don’t get their message in full, I just remembered this phrase “We want them to remember something they want to forget.” What does it mean? It was mentioned casually as if it’s pretty obvious but I missed the memo, I guess. Are they saying that they want people to remember ultimate futility of their existence? It would make sense but it’s only my guess.
Even outside their fixation with God there’s a lot we can find in common with them. They are very renounced, for example. We have very advanced views of what proper renunciation means but in real life we are still very attached to sense gratification. GR members aren’t.
They don’t talk, for example – they control their tongues and their minds. Not perfectly, because they can write things they want to say on a piece of paper, but it’s still a reasonable compromise between running your mouth off with the latest gossip and not using your mouth at all.
There was one other thing I noticed about them. This episode started with one of GR woman being stoned to death by some lynch mob. The whole town was pretty shaken, the police chief tried to even impose a curfew. It was a horrible, senseless, inhumane crime but we can find something else to ponder about here – our deep rooted assumptions about the society around us.
Everybody assumes that killing is wrong, but why? Why do we expect people around us respect our right to live? Why do we expect the police to ensure our safety, as individuals and also as groups. Why do we think “I’m a part of this group therefore the government should protect me and my rights.”
If our lives have been rejected by God and have no purpose – what’s the difference between life and death? Why living should be better than dying?
Same applies to GR, too – they renounced the world, so what if one of them got killed? It’s not like there’s any hope or grand destiny for their cult members anyway. When they walk out on their families they cease to exist as members of the society, why should they expect the society to treat them as fully fledged citizens with all the rights and privileges? Renunciation should go both ways, here, shouldn’t it?
This goes for us, too – if we surrender to Kṛṣṇa we shouldn’t expect a fair treatment from the society we rejected
Then, at the end of the episode, the pastor came to preach to these GR folks. He got portable speakers to amplify his message and he expressed the desire to pray for their souls. He said that even if just one of them listened to his message and came out to join him in a prayer he would feel very grateful.
Finally, one of them did come out, approached the pastor, who was already melting with appreciation for God’s power, and then that GR woman blew a loud whistle in pastor’s face, which symbolized their attitude towards church. Whistle is a powerful, multifaceted message – it warns people to danger, it expressed disagreement, it’s meant to wake people up, too.
“Stop doing whatever it is you doing, it’s a waste of time, search for the real truth within, God is not there for you anymore” – that seemed to be that woman’s message.
I don’t approve but I agree with quite a large part of it