Ethos Education

The Zero Theorem: A Sense of Purpose

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Assembly Objective:

  • Does your life have an intrinsic purpose and value? This assembly explores the Bible’s teaching that each person is not only distinctive and unique, but also intricately put together by God.

Film: 

  • The Zero Theorem (Sony, 2014, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Bible: 

Supporting Values Education:

  • The values of Respect and Tolerance derive from an underlying belief that everyone is valuable, whatever they are able to achieve. This assembly enables pupils to explore how we can maximise our sense of value no matter what others may think about us and our achievements or status in life.

OPENING ACTIVITY

Take Your Pick (game)

Download the Take Your Pick PowerPoint for use with this activity.

  • [PowerPoint slide 1]
    • Ask for three volunteers, and tell them that you want them each to pick a tool for a job. The only problem is, they don’t know what the job is going to be. We suggest that you don’t actually have the tools physically present for the assembly. Instead, use the PowerPoint to display images of the tools one by one.
  • [PowerPoint slide 2] Screwdriver
    • [click to reveal] Plunger
    • [click to reveal] Broadsword
    • [click to reveal] Tea spoon
    • [click to reveal] Pneumatic drill
    • Ask each volunteer to choose one of the five tools. Each one has to select a different tool, meaning that the final volunteer will only have a choice of three. You could ask the rest of the students to vote as to which of the three volunteers they think is the best equipped for their unknown tasks.
  • [PowerPoint slide 3]
    • Next, ask the volunteers to select their tasks and find out who had the most appropriate tool for the job. In turn, ask the volunteers to pick a number, then click on the appropriate box to reveal their task. (Please note if you click outside the number box the powerpoint will end).
    • Taking the top off a soft-boiled egg.
    • Defending Helm’s Deep from a hoard of ravaging Orcs.
    • Unblocking a sink.
    • Digging up the pavement.
    • Taking the hinges off a cupboard door.
    • Ask the students to vote to decide who had the most appropriate tool for the job. Make great play out of any wildly inappropriate combinations, such as the volunteer who has to open a boiled egg with a pneumatic drill, or defend Helm’s Deep with a teaspoon.
    • Point out that none of the tools were in themselves bad, but their usefulness depended upon identifying the purpose that they were made for and which they were best suited for. In today’s assembly you are going to be thinking more about purpose and how our sense of purpose impacts on our sense of who we are.

 Archery Practice (something to think about)

  • Say the following (or something similar) to the students:
  • How many of you are up to date with your homework? [ask students to show hands]. How many of you have spent two hours in the last week practicing archery? [express shock and surprise at the number of hands not to go up].
  • Did you know that it is still the law that all English males over the age of 14 are to carry out two hours of longbow practice each week, supervised by the local clergy. A lot of people in this room are going to be in big trouble if the Archery Inspectors turn up, including the local clergy for letting us get away without doing our weekly practice.
  • That’s an example of one of the many unusual and, frankly, bizarre laws still on the UK statute books. What’s the point of a law like that? Well, in the case of the archery one, there was originally a very good reason. This law dates back to the middle ages, a time when there was no standing army for the whole country. In times of war, the gentry were required to produce a quota of knights, infantry and so on, including a certain number of archers. At the time, the church was the only centralised instrument of bureaucracy that the crown could trust – the barons were too independent minded and more likely to rebel against the crown – so the clergy usually got the job of organising things like this.
  • But as times changed, nobody got around to removing the law from the statute books, they just stopped enforcing it. Just because the law looks ridiculous now, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t originally a very good purpose behind it.
  • In today’s assembly, we are going to be thinking some more about the purpose of things.

FILM CLIP

  • Play the clip from The Zero Theorem (Sony, 2014, certificate 15)
    • Start time:       0.41.29 (beginning of chapter 8 of the DVD)
    • End time:         0.44.29
    • Clip length:      3 minutes exactly
  • The clip starts with Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) clearing up. The first line is Bainsley saying, ‘You’re staring at me again.’ The clip ends with Qohen (Christoph Waltz) saying, ‘We dropped the receiver, disconnecting ourselves.’
  • The clip shows Qohen explaining his need to discover a sense of purpose to his life, and his belief that one day he will receive a phone call telling him what his life is all about.

TALK

Download the Identity Zero Theorem PowerPoint for use with this presentation.

  • [PowerPoint slide 1]
    • Do you ever wonder what the point of your life is? Maybe you don’t think there is any point to life: we’re just here by some cosmic accident, and the best we can do is to get on with things. Or maybe you suspect that there is some kind of purpose to our lives, that there is a point, even if you’re not entirely sure what it is. We’re going to watch a film clip now, let’s see what the main character here has to say about the search for meaning and purpose in his life:
    • Play the clip from The Zero Theorem:
      • Start time:       0.41.29 (beginning of chapter 8 of the DVD)
      • End time:         0.44.29
      • Clip length:      3 minutes exactly
    • The clip starts with Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) clearing up. The first line is Bainsley saying, ‘You’re staring at me again.’ The clip ends with Qohen (Christoph Waltz) saying, ‘We dropped the receiver, disconnecting ourselves.’
    • If you are unable to play the clip, say, ‘In the film Zero Theorem, Qohen [pronounced Co-un] has waited all his life for a phone call which will explain his purpose in life to him. In the absence of the call, Qohen searches desperately for any sense of satisfaction or meaning.
  • [PowerPoint slide 2]
    • Qohen sums up something that lies deep at the heart of the human condition:
    • ‘For good or ill we always wanted to feel different, unique.’
    • We all want to feel like that, don’t we? But Qohen’s hopes are cruelly dashed. Here’s how he went on:
  • [PowerPoint slide 3]
    • ‘Objective analysis, however, concluded that we are as inconsequential as anyone else. We are but one of many: a single worker bee in a vast swarm, subject to the same imperatives as billions of others.’
    • Qohen’s perspective is a bleak, dispiriting one. Is he right? Are we just interchangeable worker bees, helpless and hopeless, the same as everybody else?
  • [PowerPoint slide 4]
    • Here’s a different opinion. This comes from the Bible, from Psalm 139:
    • You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
  • [PowerPoint slide 5]
    • You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-16, New Living Translation.
  • [PowerPoint slide 6]
    • Christians believe that each one of us is uniquely made by God. [click] Not only are we, as Qohen hoped, distinctive and unique, but we have been intricately put together by God. [click] More than this, when God made us he made each one of us for a purpose. When the Psalmist writes that every day of his life was recorded in God’s book, that doesn’t mean that everything we do has already been decided. On the contrary, God gives us free will to live our lives as we see fit. But more than that, he also gives us a plan, for us to discover and for us to live out. The Christian response to Qohen’s despair is that we are unique, and precious, and able to live lives full of meaning and purpose.

Headings and Bullets

Download the Identity Zero Theorem PowerPoint for use with this presentation.

  • [PowerPoint slide 1]
    • Do you ever wonder what the point of your life is?
    • Maybe there’s no point, we’re just a cosmic accident.
    • Maybe there is some purpose to our lives, even if we don’t know what.
    • Introduce film clip: see what the main character has to say about the search for meaning and purpose in his life.
    • Play the clip from The Zero Theorem:
      • Start time:       0.41.29 (beginning of chapter 8 of the DVD)
      • End time:         0.44.29
      • Clip length:      3 minutes exactly
    • The clip starts with Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) clearing up. The first line is Bainsley saying, ‘You’re staring at me again.’ The clip ends with Qohen (Christoph Waltz) saying, ‘We dropped the receiver, disconnecting ourselves.’
  • [PowerPoint slide 2]
    • Qohen sums up something that lies deep at the heart of the human condition:
    • ‘For good or ill we always wanted to feel different, unique.’
    • We all want to feel like that, but Qohen’s hopes are cruelly dashed.
  • [PowerPoint slide 3]
    • ‘Objective analysis, however, concluded that we are as inconsequential as anyone else. We are but one of many: a single worker bee in a vast swarm, subject to the same imperatives as billions of others.’
    • Qohen’s perspective is bleak. Is he right? Are we just helpless and hopeless, the same as everyone else.
  • [PowerPoint slide 4]
    • Here’s a different opinion, from Psalm 139:
    • You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
  • [PowerPoint slide 5]
    • You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-16, New Living Translation.
  • [PowerPoint slide 6]
    • Christians believe that each one of us is uniquely made by God.
    • [click] As Qohen hoped, we are distinctive and unique. We are intricately put together by God.
    • [click] More than that, God made each of us for a purpose.
    • ‘Every day of my life was recorded in [God’s] book: doesn’t mean everything we do is already decided – God gives us free will.
    • He also gives us a plan to discover and live out. A Christian response to Qohen is that we are unique and precious, able to live lives full of meaning and purpose.

Photo Copyright for Take Your Pick PowerPoint: Slide 1 Unipro / all other images iStockphoto.com

Photo Copyright for Identity Zero Theorem Talk PowerPoint: Slide 1 Amplify / Slide 2 Amplify / Slides 3-5 iStockphoto.com / Slide 6 LUMO Project image 9


RESPOND

Prayer

  • Dear God, we thank you for the astonishing way each one of us has been created. Thank you for our bodies, our minds and for the lives you have given us to lead. Help us to make good choices, making the very best of what you have given, and help us to discover the purposes that you have made us for. Amen.

Reflection

  • How easy is it for you to believe that you are unique and precious? How readily do you accept the idea of your life having a purpose? What do you think the point of life is? What do you think is the point of your life?

YOU WILL NEED: 

  1. The Zero Theorem (Sony, 2014, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.
  2. Take Your Pick PowerPoint.
  3. Identity Zero Theorem PowerPoint.

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