"The things which scare us the most are the things we should go right for because there's so much more security on the other side of that than there ever is in clinging to what we always thought was safe. Wherever fear is that's where to walk."
Fear, all the wisdom traditions teach us, constricts our souls. It bears down on us like a heavy weight. We are less able to creatively and fluidly respond to everyday challenges. And we are easily tempted to do something anything to make it go away. We are even willing to give up freedoms we have come to treasure for the phantasm of a fear-free existence in a totally safe and secure world.
Director Steven Spielberg's audacious and imaginative Minority Report is a science fiction thriller that projects present-day attitudes and trends 50 years into the future. In the characters and the society they have created, we see intimations of our future. As such, the story is a great discussion starter. This Values & Visions Film Guide covers the themes of fearful Americans, fear amplified, privacy, life without killing, safety, free will, and the opening of the heart.
The film runs 144 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violence, brief language, and some sexuality and drug content. For our review of the film and a plot synopsis, click here.
1. Fearful Americans
"The most fearful people in the world are Americans, because they have so much to lose. And never has there been a people with so much who are still afraid of not having enough," Richard Rohr writes in Job and The Mystery of Suffering.
- What role has fear played in the life and work of John Anderton? How well does he deal with this dark companion? Cite scenes in the film where he deals with different kinds of fear.
- What fears bother you the most? What spiritual resources have you found to be most helpful when you are overcome by this emotion? Have you ever tried shining a light on your fears and seeing their true colors? What happened?
2. Fear Amplified
"With terrorism, fear becomes amplified a thousandfold . . . The measures taken to defend against this form of fear also contribute to the dehumanizing process. We are subjected to guards at the airport, the courthouse, schools, sports events. Video cameras watch us at the bank, the store, the parking lot. There to protect us, they nevertheless turn us into objects and cause a contraction of the soul. They make us all more mean-spirited, paranoid, mistrustful," Robert Sardello observes in Freeing the Soul from Fear.
- Share your response to the scene in the film where agents from the Pre-Crime unit enter a housing complex in pursuit of John Anderton. They release a squad of robotic spiders to get the eyeball prints of everyone in the building. If you were in one of the many situations depicted, how do you think you would feel?
- Many Americans say they do not mind the inconveniences caused by heightened security at airports, public buildings, and other places today because they believe it offers them protection from terrorist attacks. Share your responses to Sardello's belief that the technological incursions are dehumanizing and actually serve to build walls of distrust between people.
"Privacy is many things to many people: a stolen moment in the midst of a harrowing day, an hour-long meditation, a home at the end of a long winding road. Sociologists talk about it in terms of how close we let others come; psychologists see it as necessary for emotional recharging; lawyers argue it as our right to be let alone. But there is no debate that we need personal privacy. All of us." June and William Noble write in The Private Me.
- The citizens of Washington D.C. are willing to put up with certain intrusions on their privacy for the promise of a city with no murders. Which of the many violations of privacy depicted in the film are most bothersome to you? Which don’t concern you? Explain your choices.
- Solitude is a sacred right to many people on a path of spiritual practice. Phyllis McGinley has said: "We need a little privacy quite as much as we want understanding or vitamins or exercise or praise." How important is privacy to you and what would you be willing to do to defend it?
4. To Live Without Killing
"To live without killing is a thought which could electrify the world, if people were only capable of staying awake long enough to let the idea sink in," Henry Miller wrote in Reunion in Brooklyn.
- What do you think of the basic philosophy and view of human nature that lies behind the Pre-Crime division? What is your opinion of the use of the twins and Agatha as crime-fighting machines?
- If you were asked in a public opinion survey to name the three best ways to stop murder in the country, what would you say? Elaborate on one of your choices.
- What are your views on capital punishment? What do the world religions have to contribute to the discussion of killing and how to stop it?
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," Benjamin Franklin observed.
- Safety has always been highly cherished in American society. Each year, a list is published of the safest places to live. In the film, the Pre-Cogs become heroes for their contribution to ensuring the safety of residents of Washington, D.C. Share your reactions to the scene where Danny, John, and others discuss the religious dimension of the work they do with the Pre-Cogs.
- On a scale of one (don’t think about it) to ten (concerned all the time), how important is safety in your life? What are you willing to give up to insure the safety of yourself and your loved ones? What does your religious tradition have to say about the quest for safety as a major goal in life?
6. Free Will
At a Gonzaga University commencement speech, Lou Holtz said: "The greatest power God gave us is the power to choose. We have the opportunity to choose whether we're going to act or procrastinate, believe or doubt, pray or curse, help or harm."
- Share your reactions to the scene where John Anderton stands before the man he is destined to kill, according to the vision of the Pre-Cogs.
- What new insights does this film give you into the formidable idea and ideal of free will? Tell a story that illustrates the role of this God-given gift in your recent experiences.
7. The Opening of the Heart
"To accept shadow means accepting the inherent ambiguities of life. We need to honor shadow, make it part of us, not banish it, or heal it, or be dominated by it. An important result of shadow work, perhaps the most important, is the growing development of compassion, the opening of one's heart, the real and actual acceptance and love of others specifically for that piece of humanity's imperfection which they carry," Jeremiah Abrams writes in The Shadow in America.
- Discuss the ways in which Minority Report has opened your eyes to the need to respect and honor the imperfection of other people. Then share your emotional response to the soul movement of John Anderton from the house of fear to the house of love.
- What has this sci-fi thriller taught you about the need for Americans to accept the inherent ambiguities of life and to deal more realistically with the shadow elements of reality?
This guide is one in a series of more than 200 Values & Visions Guides written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Text copyright 2002 by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat for the Values & Visions Project. Photos by Photo credit: David James, TM and © 2002 Twentieth Century Fox and DreamWorks L.L.C. This guide is posted as a service to visitors to www.SpiritualityandPractice.com. It may not be photocopied, reprinted, or distributed electronically without permission from Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. For this permission and for a list of other guides in the Values & Visions series and ordering information, email your name and mailing address to: email@example.com.