Friday, May 9, 2014

Gladiator and Braveheart, Movies with Meaning

Gladiator and Braveheart are two of the best movies of all time.  If you haven't seen them, stop everything, subscribe to Netflix and watch them now.  Spoilers ahead.
My Halloween costume the last three years.

Striking similarities exist between the Gladiator and Braveheart.  The hero's journey begins with a great injustice that provides both a noble purpose and an intensely hateable villain.  Next follows a series of intensely graphic and gratifying successes on the battlefield.  And just when justice seems at hand.... circumstances force our hero to sacrifice themselves for their cause.
Face paint is a fundamental human right! 
So much of these films appeal at the surface level.  Historical parallels (Rome and medieval Scotland).  Cool settings.  Awesome battle scenes.  Manly men.  Beautiful women.  Evil villains.

On a deeper level, these films tug at a string very deep inside my heart.  For 2-3 hours minutes I live vicariously through these men and find a purpose in life much bigger than myself.  I find a noble cause so great, it is worth dying for.  Their lives have a very tangible meaning.

I want that.  I think we all do.  Somewhere in the scary edges of my conscience lurks a fear of Oblivion.  Of not mattering.   Of living a life without consequence or meaning.  So I do things to fight back.  I blog.  I strive to make a difference in the lives of my students.  I work to be the best teacher I can possibly be.  I try to savor the little enjoyable moments that happen every day that I increasingly believe are the fundamental matter of a happy life.

But still, part of me yearns to be a part of something grand and good and noble.  Give me a ring to throw in Mount Doom to save Middle Earth.  Or magical powers like Neo to fight the Matrix.  Give me Russel Crowe's skill with a sword to oppose an evilly insecure emperor.  Or Mel Gibson's ability to yell gibberish and rouse Scots to battle.

I don't have that.  I'm just a fairly average guy.  A middle school teacher who drives an old Ford Escape and lives in a nice little neighborhood.  My life is very average.  I do realize that this is very much a first world commentary, I don't want for food shelter, or anything.  And I have a standard of living higher than 99.9% of all humans who ever lived.  But is the point of living just to live?

I don't know the answer.  I don't know why I have that small little voice in me crying out for meaning and purpose.  But I think we all do.  Earlier this week I sat down with a student who has been acting up lately, and I asked him to write down a list of all his fears and insecurities.  This is not an easy, or common task for a middle school boy, but this child did.  First on his list?

"I don't want to be forgotten."

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