If you are not familiar with the movie or the short story by Arthur C. Clarke, it is the tale of two astronauts and a sentient computer, HAL 9000, who controls life support and computer systems on their space craft. This simple explanation does not begin to cover the many elements of the plot, but suffice it to say, Hal begins to malfunction, deliberately causing the deaths of one of the astronauts as well as three others who are in a kind of hibernation. It becomes a fight for survival between the last astronaut, Dr. Dave Bowman, and Hal.
Some of Hal's most remembered lines from the movie are:
"Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?"
"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
"This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it."
The voice of Hal was masterfully portrayed by Douglas Rain, an acclaimed Shakespearean actor. He performed the part with a bland, flat, non-accent in a quiet voice that, by the end of the movie sent chills up your spine. You could easily imagine that this machine could coldly but calmly execute you if it saw a logical need for it.
Rain was born on March 13, 1928, and even though Shakespeare seemed his main interest, he is still best known as the voice of Hal, and even now I can still hear him voicing those lines.
But what I want us to think about today is this: What lines will we be remembered for?
If you have listened to the same preacher for several years, you have probably picked up on a few mannerisms he may not even know he has. When I was growing up, we had a preacher who ended sentences with the word "that." Or he would start them with, "This is that…" If things like this happen more than once or twice a sermon, it becomes distracting. You find yourself counting the repetitive phrase instead of listening to the point, a very good reason to tape yourself and listen once in a while. But not even That (pardon me) is what I am talking about.
How do you greet people? Pleasantly, with a smile and a welcome in your voice, or something that, though you may not actually say it, still sounds like, "What do YOU want?"
How do you answer questions? With irritation? With snide sarcasm? With boredom in your voice?
When you teach, do your students have a habit of writing down some of your statements because they want to remember them, or, given the choice, do they simply never show up again?
Do you say more helpful things or more hurtful things?
Do you talk about people with disrespectful name-calling? Or do you remember that they are made in the image of God?
In all of these things, "Just what do you think you're doing?"
It's been 51 years since I first heard Hal's eerie voice say that and I still remember some of the other things he said, too. What words of yours will people remember?
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (Jas 3:7-12)