“I wanted to gouge his eyes out with my own bare hands and fingers!”
This past Saturday evening my wife and I watched the movie Unbroken, based on the New York Times bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand. Without getting into too many details about the story, I can say that I found myself celebrating young Louis Zamperini’s will to choose running over rebellion. This choice, ignited by his older brother’s belief in him, led him all the way to the Olympics hosted in Berlin in 1936.
However a few years after the Olympics, WWII began and sometime after that Louis joined the air force as a bombardier. During this time he was captured and spent two years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp; and it was precisely at this point in the movie, when I found it difficult to watch. To be very honest, I had a hard time watching someone beat, mistreat and abuse someone else for what seemed like an eternity. And this was just a movie!
During one scene, when Louis’ body is frail and thin as a bone, he is forced to lift a heavy piece of lumber over his head and keep it there; if he drops it, he will be shot. At this point I just wanted to stop what was happening and inflict physical pain on the man who was causing so much suffering and anguish on someone else.
The restless emotions of anger and doubt stayed with me after the movie was over and left me feeling very quiet and uncertain within; not sure what to make of all my thoughts and feelings.
In the morning I got up early to make Chicken Noodle soup for a family get together later that day. (It is a very tasty soup – one of our kids’ favorite!) While I was cooking, I was listening to singer/songwriter Steve Bell and reflecting on my feelings from the night before.
I was wondering where such anger and hatred came from. I was wondering about the damage we do to ourselves and to one another when we view others, whoever those “others” may be, as an enemy. I was wondering about my own anger and hostility; and whether it was truly directed at the antagonist in the story Unbroken, or whether it was directed at someone else. And if it was directed at someone else, who was that person?
While dicing onions, celery ribs, and carrots, the lyrics from the song, Good Friend, by Steve Bell caught my attention.
“Be but your own good friend
And be good to the other
Cherish those sisters and brothers
Along the road
And to the earth extend
Every reverence and wonder
Tend to the wounds of your blunders
And honour God who formed our home…”
A Jewish Rabbi:
It was during the heat of the day in a small town in Israel when a scholarly gentlemen asked a young rabbi what the most important law was to obey. Maybe he was well intended in his question, or maybe not, but the question was asked none-the-less, and therefore, beckoned an answer.
The young rabbi smiled at the man asking the question, and without hesitation gave him his response. “Love God,” the rabbi stated, “love God with all your body and with all soul. This is the greatest truth to heed and to follow.”
The scholarly gentlemen was pleased with the young rabbi’s answer and was just about to congratulate him for words well said when the rabbi began to speak again. “Love your neighbour,” the young rabbi gently spoke while looking into the man’s eyes, “love your neighbour as you love yourself because this truth is rooted in the first.”
The young rabbi then looked at the other men, women and children gathered around him and said, “Loving God, loving your neighour and loving yourself are one.”
And then for a brief moment, all was perfectly still.
Under the weight and growing fatigue from lifting the heavy beam over his head, Louis finally cries out in a loud voice: “Ahhhhhhh.” His cry of agony is stating loud and clear that this is enough, “It is finished!” And it is precisely in this scene where we witness Louis’ antagonist break as he falls to his knees in anguish while beating Louis with his bamboo pole.
For a brief moment in time a window to the soul of the antagonist is revealed: The pain he was inflicting on another human being was a projection of his own inner pain and turmoil.
What if you loved, you?
While dicing celery and listening to Steve Bell, I discovered that the person I was directing my anger towards was me. The anger I witnessed welling up within me during the movie is the same anger that is hiding everyday behind the shadows. It is the same voice that daily desires to tell me that I am not enough. It is the same feeling that stirs the muddy waters of anxiety and stress within my gut. It is the same belief that can cause me to lash out or stonewall.
What if you and I truly loved ourselves? What impact could that have on our quality of life, on our health? How might this effect the way we relate to others – both our friends and our perceived enemies?
Imagine for a moment fully and completely loving and accepting yourself. If you believe that you cannot do so, feel the love you have for your dog, your cat, your child, something or someone close to you, and now direct this feeling toward yourself.
Now amplify this positive feeling by 10.
Now amplify it by 100!
Breathe deeply and rest in this moment.
A Great Secret Revealed:
The root of all our pain and suffering is directly connected to a belief that we are not whole – not enough. And it is precisely this belief that causes us to be cruel, and mistreat ourselves and project hatred upon our neighbour.
Perhaps it’s time to heed the radical words spoken by the young rabbi:
“Loving God, neighbour and self are one.”
Today’s Unitas Project:
- Allow your mind to ease into a time when you felt loved – unconditionally loved and accepted. Give yourself permission to gently walk over to this memory and collapse into the hammock of this peaceful experience.
- And when you are fully resting in this memory, see what you see, hear what you hear and feel what you feel. Stay here for awhile.
- What do you notice is different now?
Until next time…
Be You. Be Unitas.
Photo taken by Alina Joy Photography