Cinema Wisdom

Over the holidays, I saw two movies…new releases, in the theater even, which is rare for me as the closest theater is over an hour away. I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill. I tell you, in some aspects, they were the same movie. Here’s what I mean; both movies had a central theme of the struggle to emerge from personal failure to accomplish meaningful triumph. Both Luke Skywalker and Winston Churchill were called upon to engage in important battles…battles to ensure freedom and hope…but both had to wrestle with significant past failures that threatened to define them. Both characters had to summon incredible courage to believe in themselves for a cause much bigger than themselves. To witness this on the big screen gave me goosebumps.

Most of us will never be called to be the last great hope for the Resistance or to rouse a nation to fight against evil no matter the cost, but we all have battles we are called to engage in, hard yet meaningful tasks before us. And most of us have experienced the feelings of shame from past failures that tell us we aren’t good enough. Have you ever felt like Skywalker, on a deserted island, choosing isolation and disengagement, thinking you were saving other people from getting hurt that way? Have you ever had others continually remind you of your personal Gallipoli (Churchill’s dismal failure of a battle) at a time when you desperately needed support? It takes so much courage to push through. If it was easy, they wouldn’t make movies about it that give us goosebumps.
Whenever I look at this picture of McCullough, I think of courage. This picture was taken at a seminar in which she was being asked to step onto this tarp. Obviously for a human, this is no big deal but for a fear based prey animal whose defense strategy (run away quickly!) is dependent on their feet, stepping on something that looks, feels and sounds strange is very scary. And those tires and pool noodles only make it worse. But, here McCullough summoned an inner courage and, after several tries, stood on the tarp and seemed quite proud of herself. She reminds us that we are braver than we think we are.

Spoiler alert: neither of these movies end with ultimate victory. In both, the struggle continues or in some ways is just beginning. But at the end we know that the world, and the universe, has changed because these two men stared down their failures and found courage they didn’t know they had.