This past weekend I finally got around to seeing the movie “Limitless.” The plot is rather interesting. A struggling young writer hits rock bottom – his girlfriend dumps him, he can’t get past word one on his book, and the rest of his life is a mess. Through a chance encounter he runs into his former brother-in-law, a shady drug dealer who offers him a sample of a new drug that is capable of expanding the mind. Whereas most people can only access 20% of their brain function, this new little pill opens up all of the mind’s capacity. Does it work? Oh yeah, it works! His book is written in a matter of days, he learns new languages at will, and makes a fortune on Wall Street. Even his old girlfriend is interested in him again.
Of course, there is a catch. There is always a catch. The drug is highly addictive and extremely hard on the body. A person cannot stay on it forever but if they try to get off the withdrawal effects can kill them. That just seems to be the way nature operates. Everything comes with a price tag. Using more of the mind means paying for it with the body. No one gets to be “perfect.”
As I was watching “Limitless” I kept wondering why. Assuming for the moment that our brains are capable of far more than we use them for (much like my computer and smart phone) then why did God create us with such limitless capacity and such limited ability? Is there a flaw in the design of humans that makes it impossible for us to reach our full potential? Are we a prototype, a Beta version of a being that God has perfected somewhere or sometime else? Or, are our limits an intentional part of the design?
Thousands of years ago so folks came up with a story that we now refer to as “The Tower of Babel.” The gist of the story was that humans wanted to be like God, something God was not all that thrilled about. So, when the humans tried to build a tower that was large enough to get them to where God was, God made it impossible for the people to communicate with each other. The tower project ground to a halt, humans remained humans, and God preserved the right to be God.
Some folks find this story problematic. Why is God so jealous, so territorial, so protective of being God? That God would make humans with the capacity to think and create and then limit those abilities seems rather mean-spirited and perhaps a little bit petty. After all, if God did not want us to fully use our brains then why give them to us in the first place?
Perhaps because it is not about us. While humans are created in the image and likeness of God we were never promised that we were God or that we were ever going to become God. Our potential is to be fully human, and part of that humanity is recognizing our limitations. Limits are not bad things. They help challenge us to achieve more than we thought we could and they keep us from engaging in behavior that harms ourselves and others. And limits remind us that we are the creation, not the creator.
Still, what I wouldn’t give for just one of those little pills!