This week’s blog come to us from the wonderful production team at Netflix and Ricky Gervais’s writing.
If you are unfamiliar with the show “Derek”, it is the the story of an unknowingly incredible adult that lives in a nursing home in London. His main function in life is too make others’ lives better, as this is his happiness. Simplistic summary and definitely worth a watch, but I have to brief for this sake of the writing. The show, itself, is Gervais’s comedic way of tackling life’s big issues: death, love, despair, hope and everything else along the spectrum.
I took a liking to this show for two reasons: (1) Ricky is funny. I loved The Office (both versions), I love Derek, and I like that Ricky isn’t afraid to say the things a lot of people feel. (2) Ricky is an outspoken atheist. On numerous occasions he has denied the existence of a god, or God, or anything. Instead, he simply says why can’t we all just be nice to each other; an overarching personality trait of the title character. Reason (2) seems a bit contradictory with my beliefs, but I’d like to state the logic briefly.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, in the 13th Century there was a Saint (note the capital), born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardino. A very typical young man born to a fairly wealthy family in Italy, Giovanni enjoyed the creature comforts: money, partying, his status as a knight. Long story short, Giovanni came up short in his life, according to himself. There was something missing and he felt the need to do something more meaningful. Now I know I seem divergent but here’s the connection…
Giovanni went out in search of what he was missing in his life. Ultimately he found what he was missing was the simplicity of not living for oneself, but everyone else. A huge conversion of personality led him to give everything he knew up for the sake of everyone he came into contact with. Like Giovanni, Derek does this on every episode. He doesn’t have possessions, he doesn’t have pride, he has only himself to give.
For those that didn’t follow on the Giovanni story, that man became St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most well known religious figures in history. So much so that he has a worldly following, branching sects and religions themselves. And Derek is incredibly similar. St. Francis was known as “God’s Jester”, or “God’s Fool”. He was so stupidly in love with God that people saw him as a child-like adult filled with wonder and awe. All the things we tend to lose as adults. Derek, due to an unnamed condition, is very much a child with a heart of gold and a humour that is easily captivated. He is very much the nursing home’s fool. Both serve the jester’s purpose: be foolish for the happiness of others.
I’m sure Ricky has made the connection and I believe he has commented on that connection in interviews about the show. His claims are fair: being nice to people has never amounted to warring nations, but religion sure seems to cause trouble. Judgement from those who believe they have power in their beliefs runs rampant and shifts outsiders views of the religion from one of loving to one of being discriminating. This same statement is currently being dealt with in great deal by Pope Francis.
The reason for the tangent was this: being nice is something to which people of any creed, color or culture can cling. I use nice because it is broad. It encompasses from the small lending someone sugar to the large sympathy during a struggle. you don’t have to be Christian to be on board as evidenced by Gervais and Derek, but at the heart of true Christianity it is every present.
What both St. Francis and Derek can teach us is the title above… It’s not hard. As we grow up and mature, we tend to learn and analyse a bit too much. For those that know me, I am an incredible culprit of this. I am always in need of the reminder that while we can learn everything, there is happiness in simplicity. That doesn’t mean to say knowledge is an evil, but more so that sometimes the adage holds true that ignorance is bliss. Some are born with more mental capacity than others and some gain that wisdom over time.
What both St. Francis and Derek teach us about life is similar: If we stop caring so much about what other’s thought of us and remained true to one truth we could all be stupidly happy. We could be each other’s source of entertainment. We could be each other’s source of support. We could forgive anything out of foolish love. Whether you choose to call that truth God, Niceness, or Buddha is a matter of faith. Being a fool is not so hard.
Therefore, all brothers must beware of all pride and vainglory. And let us keep ourselves from the wisdom of this world and the prudence of the flesh (Rom. 8:6). For the spirit of the flesh desires and is most eager to have words, but [it cares] little to carry them out. And it does not seek a religion and holiness in the interior spirit, but it wishes and desires to have a religion and holiness outwardly apparent to people. And these are the ones of whom the Lord says: Truly I say to you: They have received their reward (Mt. 6:2) But the Spirit of the Lord wishes the flesh to be mortified and despised, worthless and rejected. And it strives for humility and patience, and the pure and simple and true peace of the spiritual person. – St. Francis of Assisi