Notorious illusionist and showman, David Blaine, captured headlines across the globe for his 44-day public imprisonment and fast. Hoisted high above the banks of the River Thames in London, Blaine lived in a 7 foot by 7 foot by 3 foot plexiglass box. Spectators watched as he endured the ordeal through the smells of street vendors cooking food for onlookers, people taunting him and physical exhaustion. Some view Blaine’s stunt as a spiritual event. Others think he just wants to grab public attention.
A friend and mentor called Blaine a “shaman.” This friend said to reporters, “He (Blaine) believes it is important to suffer.” Blaine told reporters before entering the box that he hoped to find his “truths.” People camped underneath the box with signs saying things like, “The butterfly will emerge from its cocoon.” One person said that Blaine will leave his ordeal, “Physically thin – spiritually fat.”
A former street magician, Blaine specializes in feats of endurance. At first people made fun of Blaine and hurled insults at him, but as the days ticked on, there was a growing public sentiment of amusement and respect for his amazing endurance. Blaine entered the box with allegedly only a quilt, a pillow, a journal, a change of clothes and a photo. Blaine has spent his time meditating, doing stretches, reviewing his journal, resting and waving at onlookers. As he nears the end of the ordeal, Blaine has been occasionally incoherent and exhibited signs of delusion. According to his Web site, Blaine may have to spend a month in the hospital recovering.
Why would somebody do something like this? How is Blaine’s ordeal a commentary on society? And why are people so mesmerized by Blaine’s stunt? Obviously, Blaine hopes to receive global media attention and boost his career as a result of the stunt. This can be noted by the fact that Blaine did not choose to conduct his ordeal in private. If all he wanted was personal fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment, he would have conducted the stunt in private beyond the eye of the camera.
Yet no man could go through something like a forced fast/isolation vigil without having a tremendous amount of personal drive and commitment. Something more than the almighty dollar must be behind his endeavor. Maybe Blaine wants to prove to himself how far he can push his body. Maybe by completely denying his impulses and bodily desires, he hopes to reach a higher state of spiritual strength and enlightenment. I believe all of these things are likely motivations. By pushing himself to his limits, Blaine will find out what matters most. Anybody could say they could endure a 44-day fast. But it is something quite different to actually do it.
Forty four of public imprisonment in a small cell would be enough to drive many people crazy. But you add the forced fast on top of that, and it is easy to see why the stunt has attracted so much interest. People in western society today are accustomed to feeding their every craving and desire. From food to entertainment to sex, people flock to whatever fulfills their momentary whim. The idea of enduring trials, suffering, hunger, and pain goes against everything considered to be the goal of life. Struggle is bad. Convenience is good. Pain is bad. Pleasure is good. You get the point. Blaine’s very mission goes against everything most people value. People want freedom not restrictions. They desire to be full not hungry. Is Blaine thumbing his nose at western consumerism? Is he trying to make a statement? He seems to be making one even if he is not trying to do so. The magician, whether or not he knows it or not, is modeling a lesson from the most radical man in history – Jesus Christ.
Jesus knew about suffering. He endured temptation to the point of death and still did not yield to sin. He denied His impulses, laid down His glory, endured unimaginable pain, and died for those who despised Him. Although Blaine’s feat of endurance is truly amazing, it cannot begin to compare with what Jesus went through on the cross. Beyond the mere physical pain, the greatest struggle must have come for Jesus as the Father turned His back on the Son. Jesus felt what it was like to be separated from the Father because of sin – your sin and my sin. Yet Jesus “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
Blaine’s stunt has shaken some because it has caused them to stop and evaluate their lives. They have begun to realize how worldly and hedonistic they have become. Most people can’t imagine going 44 days without food, water, a bath, human interaction, freedom of movement, or even TV. I feel the same way. I start to go crazy after two days without a shower. Even many Christians have become so overcome by the cares of this world that they have a hard time detaching from it. Forget the food fast, could you even separate from the world for 44 days to seek the face of God? I probably would be tempted to seek human interaction after day four.
People today have become prisoners to modern conveniences. Blaine makes us stop and think, ‘Who is really a prisoner?’ Blaine in a plexiglass box or modern society chained to its appetites? The cross is the furthest thing from our mind. But those who have dared to seek God and truly release their lives to Him have always at one point faced the cross. It takes different shapes for different people. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Unfortunately, Blaine can only go so far with his own strength. Eventually, even the strongest human body and spirit breaks down. Only God and His Spirit offer limitless strength. Hopefully, Blaine came to this understanding through his time of isolation and fast. Some people even started to look to Blaine for spiritual answers. One onlooker said, “This morning a woman brought a dead pigeon in a box. I think she hoped he could bring it back to life.”
But only Jesus holds the answer and key to life. You can spend a lifetime of personal discover in a plexiglass box and learn nothing of real spiritual value apart from Jesus Christ.