"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone."
When I watched I Am Legend, my heart raced, my hands shook, and my teeth rattled a bit, never knowing when something would jump out at our hero in the dark.
I Am Legend is basically a story of the daily survival routine of Army captain and scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith), who appears to be the only man in New York City (perhaps also the world) in the year 2012 who is immune to a deadly virus that destroyed humanity in 2009.
In the three years since the virus mutated the human race into rabid creatures, Neville has been trying to investigate and potentially cure this plague. It's not an easy task, though; he must seek out animal and human subjects by night to test his theories. And at night, in the bleak darkness, these creatures rabidly feast on blood, making this much more difficult than your average science experiment. (it seems the mutants cannot live in the light; their skin burns alive when exposed to any light source).
Regarldess of the threat to his life, Neville remains stationed at his post in Manhattan, determined to save humanity from the virus that destroyed it. Even though he has lost his faith in God, he stays committed to helping the very creatures that want to eat him alive.
As I watched the film, my own survival mode kicked in. As I said before, there were times that I was truly frightened of the world in front of me on the silver screen. I was hoping that Robert Neville would pack up, forget the medical station, and go elsewhere. But he didn't. Even when another non-infected human finds Neville and tries to get him to join them in their run to a survivors colony in Vermont, he refuses to leave his post.
One might call this man suicidal, but I Am Legend shows that this is the life of a true hero.
The hero takes responsibility for not only his or her actions, but the actions of all humanity. The hero must oftentimes run alone, distant and apart from the world. The hero remains committed to their mission and vision. The hero acts with unconditional compassion towards all, even those that despise, hate, and even want to destroy them. And most importantly, the hero gives their life for the sake of the rest of the world.
Our lives may not be filled with blood-feeding zombies and we may not live in a post-apocolypic wasteland, but we are still called to be a hero. Isaiah 9 speaks of the hope this world has of its heroes: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone." (Is. 9:1)
If we are to be heroes, if we are to help one another, we must be prepared to live as Robert Neville and shine brightness in the darkness. Compassion, dedication, service, and selfless sacrifice are what defines a hero. Each of us is called to live like we were the last person on earth, and the fate of the planet depended upon us. It sounds outrageous and over-the-top, but if we could point our compass towards that goal in our everyday world, imagine what we might be able to accomplish.
It's probably not going to be easy, as it wasn't easy for Robert Neville, but there is light at the end for those who dare to go there.