Sunday, February 26, 2012

Choices Have Unintended Consequences

I have been watching the AMC television series, "Breaking Bad". If you have not seen it and are planning on doing so, do not read the rest of this post because there will be some major plot spoilers.

I mainly started watching the show because a lot of my friends recommended it, it's been well-reviewed, and I heard the acting and writing are stellar. For those of you who don't know what "Breaking Bad" is about, the main premise is that it the story of a mild-mannered, unambitious, money-challenged high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who discovers that he has inoperable lung cancer. In order to earn money to care for his family and, eventually, his treatment, he hooks up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, a low-level drug dealer, and the two manufacture and sell a very high-grade and potent methamphetamine.

True to what I've heard, the show is very well-written and -acted. Bryan Cranston (Walt) and Aaron Paul (Jesse) are both amazing, and the supporting cast is great as well. But the show is hard for me to watch.

The show's creator said his initial idea in creating the show was to see what happens when your protagonist becomes your antagonist. He said it was his goal to start with a Mr. Chips-type character and end up with Scarface. It's been interesting, but very hard to watch. And I'm only midway through season 3.

The character starts out desperately trying to provide for his family no matter what he has to do, and progresses down a path where he he loses them and his soul. I'm glad Bryan Cranston is a good actor and makes Walt interesting because, otherwise, I'd have a hard time watching. Walt has lost his moral compass and has done some pretty reprehensible things. He lies to his family, which I find absolutely terrible. And it's lie after lie after lie after lie until Walt gets trapped by them. He's so full of pride and anger. He's deceitful, greedy, self-centered, and misguided. He betrays those he claims to love and/or care about. It's just sad to watch this character go down this path.

SPOILER ALERT - So towards the end of season 2 Walt is responsible for the death of Jesse's girlfriend, a fact that Jesse does not know and which, he himself believes he is responsible for. And it's because of his own selfishness that Walt allows her to die. He has no regard for Jesse's feelings or for the feelings of Jesse's girlfriend's father, who is an air traffic controller, and because of the grief he feels losing his daughter, makes a mistake that causes two planes to collide, killing 160 or so innocent people. Ironically, some of the debris from the planes ends up hitting his own house and yard.

And as I watched these episodes centering on these events, I was reminded that we never know the consequences, good or bad, our actions and choices, good and bad, will produce. In the show, Walt is aware that the death of the girl inadvertently caused the father to make the mistake that killed the airplane passengers, but I was thinking, how many choices do we make every day that impact people profoundly, and we're not even aware of it.

For example, I've talked to people who know my story whose lives were impacted in ways I never would have imagined. To me, I'm just living my life. To others, the choices I've made have been springboards to choices they've made. And I wonder, how am I impacting people by what I do, both good and bad? What choices are others making, either with good or bad consequences, because of how I live my own life?

The saying really is true: "No man is an island." The choices we make in this symbiotic relationship we have with all the other living creatures around us really affects all of us. They affect our kids and grandkids and future generations in big ways and small. The power of free agency really is one of the most powerful and precious gifts we have ever been given by our Father in Heaven. It is my great hope that I can live my life in such a way that my choices will have positive effects on those around me rather than negative ones. The really wondrous thing is that I will never fully know in this life.


Duck said...

You have given me much to think about. This was a very insightful and profound post- really, we do not know how our choices affect other people. Which is rather frightening, if one stops and really thinks about it. I hope I can make better choices and impact peoples' lives for the better. I do not want to be responsible for someone choosing something horrid because of choices I have made. That would kill me.

I hope things will go well with your mom. I have read your current posts about her- it is so tough when our parents get older and begin to lose some of their faculties. Hard to see them sad when losing independence and their health. My heart goes out to you and your family, and to all others who are in this situation. We love our parents and want what is going to keep them safe, akin to what they wanted for us when we were children. The roles really do flip around.

Sending good energy and love your way. Please give my best to Jonah.

Happy day!

LCannon said...

Walt doesn't sound so much different from Annakis (wrong name?) who later became Darth Vader. He crossed the dark side for the right reasons (so to speak) and just got caught up on it.
I love your analogy. I always do.

FYI I added to the post I sent in my last attachment. I plan on posting it tomorrow. Thank you for asking me to post it.