I am going to come right out and say it. I love commercials. Well, good ones, anyways. You know the ones I’m talking about, commercials that make us smile or laugh, commercials that inspire us and might even make us cry. I don’t know if anyone is better at this than Apple, and their “Your Verse” ad from earlier this year is a perfect example.
Now I’m sure most of you have already seen this ad, but in case you haven’t watched TV or been on the internet in the last three months, it’s the company’s latest ad for the iPad Air. It features a series of stunning visuals depicting artists and dancers, athletes, engineers and children using their iPads in remarkable ways. These images are paired with a voiceover by Robin Williams from the movie Dead Poets Society in which he quotes Walt Whitman’s poem, “O Me! O Life!” When you put these things together with a haunting musical score, the result is truly memorable.
I’ve thought a lot about this ad since I first saw it a few months ago, but I’ve had a hard time articulating why I’ve been so captivated by it. I think part of it is that it’s just a great ad. Every component is perfect: the colours, the people, the locations, Robin Williams’ voice and the musical score. And as perfect as each component is, the final result is even greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a work of art.
It also makes me want to buy an iPad Air. Even though I know that the iPad is a non-necessary accessory for pretty much everything that takes place in the ad, it doesn’t matter. They manage to link the iPad with all sorts of wonderful and amazing things, from sumo wrestling to storm chasing. It makes it seem like life will not only be more exciting and colourful with the iPad Air, but also more beautiful. Every time I watch the ad, I’m inspired to go out and do something more creative and interesting than what I normally do with my iPad: check my email and Facebook messages from my couch.
The world, from beginning to end, is God’s garden and my life is but the gift of a few moments to till the soil.
Apple is using a brilliant scene from Dead Poets Society and a brilliant poem by Walt Whitman to sell their product. But there’s more. It tugs at my heart. The commercial ends with the final line of Whitman’s poem, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse,” and then the question:
“What will your verse be?”
It’s a good question. In fact, it’s a question that we already ask of our own lives from time to time, and it’s a question that we ought to ask. Because to ask it is to recognize the beauty and the significance of the life we’ve been given. The powerful play goes on and we’ve been given the privilege of contributing a verse. To ask what our verse will be forces us to look at our legacy. What will we leave behind? When seen from its end, what significance will my life have had?
The problem comes, however, when we lose sight of just what that powerful play is. It is not quarterly iPad Air sales results. It is not owning the latest and greatest technology. And it is certainly not the pursuit of a comfortable and happy life. The powerful play in which we may contribute a verse is God’s redeeming work in the world. The world is not ours, my life is not my own. The world, from beginning to end, is God’s garden and my life is but the gift of a few moments to till the soil. Therefore the only way to contribute a lasting verse is to ask God to form Christ in us. To ask God to breathe into us the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. For only then will I be able to look back upon my life and say that it has had significance. Only then will I be able to recognize the powerful play for what it is: not a mindless march towards our inevitable end, but the story of God’s quest to free us from death and decay.