Does anyone go to the movies anymore? For some reason, Sally and I have been experiencing a bit of a movie renaissance, or at least a rebirth of our interest in attending them. When we were younger, we went weekly as it was one of our primary entertainments. Judging by the number and age of those we see in the theaters with us, it would seem that we are pretty old-fashioned in this regard. Why go to a theater when you can watch in the comfort, and safety, of your own living room? Perhaps our experience is more a reflection of the movies we choose to see rather than broader social trends. We’ll save that for another post.
A Terrible Purpose
We went to see The Northman last night, and though I suggested immediately after it that I would not be writing about it, the movie did spark a few thoughts that may be worth sharing. The movie is visually interesting, with great landscapes, lots of action, and moody cinematography. However, much of the dialogue is difficult to understand, the story is dark and violent, and the movie itself kind of plods along trying to elevate itself with purpose while the viewer struggles to connect with the bizarre rituals and motivations of it’s characters.
One thematic element that did strike me, was the main character’s sense of destiny. From the beginning of the movie, he felt born into a terrible purpose, and, driven by his sense of that purpose, made choices to fulfill it, knowingly and unknowingly. Even at the point when he was given the opportunity to veer from that destiny, he chose to fulfill it, even at great cost.
In our modern era, we don’t talk much about destiny. The quaint notion of fate flies in the face of our sense of self-determination. We are far too busy being the gods of our own lives to believe we are pieces in some greater drama. However, we do still hold tightly to the notion of luck, or fortune. Random things seem to happen in our chaotic universe. We lament our own lack of luck as we watch people win the lotteries of life: money, power, success, fame, love. “He sure got lucky” we think, as we watch from the sidelines, hoping for our turn of good fortune to come.
Even with our sense of luck or fortune, some of us remain mixed, as we think that “fortune favors the bold” or find that “the harder we work, the luckier we get.” Then again, so many things seem too intentional to be random, even when we make our choices. We wonder, was Forrest Gump right when he said maybe life is both? We live with a bit of destiny and a bit of floating around like a feather on the wind?
Man of Destiny
Years ago, I read Ron Chernow’s wonderful biography Washington: A Life. One of the many things that struck me about George Washington was that he seemed to have an incredible sense of destiny about him. As he progressed toward his role in the founding of the United States, he lived both as a man in control of his passions, actions, and being, and as a man being moved toward a much greater purpose. During the Revolutionary War, he carted his “papers” with him from battle to battle and camp to camp, carefully documenting everything and keeping letters, plans, and diaries. He believed it would be important in the future.
Much has been written about living in the present moment and being mindful about the moment we are in. After all, “The past is history, the future a mystery, the present a gift,” right? Actually, we’ve gotten pretty good about being mindful of our moments, haven’t we? After all, we’ve got iWatches and apps to tell us how we’re wasting time on our screens, how poorly we’re sleeping, how many steps we’re missing, and that it is time to stand up from the deadly sitting position we’ve been locked-in for the last four hours.
Tongue-in-cheek aside, collectively, we have been working on the time we spend with those we love, how we listen, and what constitutes “being present” for our lives. But what about the MOMENT we’re in?
River of Time
As I get older, I find myself becoming more aware of time. Time passing. Time remaining. Time to get things done. Time flying. Over time, my sense of time has shifted. Things that I thought I just did, actually happened years ago. The way I think I look seems also to be stuck in the past. Those hip, current songs I like are no longer hip or current. What’s wrong with my shirt? Didn’t I just buy it? Nope, that bad-boy is five, or, gasp, 10 years old! Even as I become more aware of time, my perception of it seems warped as it stretches further and further behind, and as opaquely as ever ahead.
However, if I pause long enough to look at the expanse behind me, I can see the moments emerge. I’m not talking about the instances, the single moments of memory, as precious and important as they are. No, the emerging MOMENTS I see are those periods of my life that mattered in my ongoing growth and experience. Moments of development. Moments of transition. Moments of grief. Moments of desolation. Moments of joy. Not single moments but the moment I was in as I moved from one place to another. Moments that can only be seen with some distance, some perspective, some wisdom, and much Grace.
Think about your moments. The windows of growth through elementary and then high school. Your early adulthood in college or that first real job. Moments of marriage or divorce. The child-bearing or rearing Moment. Your empty-nester, grandparent, or retirement Moment. What Moment are you in now?
The Broad Sweep
It’s easy to watch a movie or read a book and track the big moments. The Northman had a clear sense of the moment he was in and where it fit in his destiny, at least his sense of his destiny. George Washington seemed acutely aware of the momentousness of his revolutionary and post-revolutionary moments. He seemed to see what moment he was in, though he found himself struggling with those moments as much as any of us. And he was caught up in his moments, much like thee rest of us, and swept along, sometimes paddling with direction, and sometimes barreling ahead, out of control.
Looking back with a broad enough view of the sweeps of time, we can trace the moments and see where they fit in our broader destiny. At least to the present moment. The place we stand right now starts to make a lot more sense from that broader vantage point.
Looking back on those Moments in time, what do they tell you about your destiny? Put another way, what do they tell you about your purpose? That’s the thing about destiny, we get a hand in it. Even if we see greater purpose in the things we do, or the moments of our life, we’re still part of the drama. The story is not yet complete. What Moment are you in right now? Is it a moment of growth? A moment of retreat? Are you sustaining or are you pressing forward with intention? What are you transitioning from and moving to? Not sure? Just know that we’re always in a from-to part of life – even if we can’t see it.
Something I continue to notice is that the great stories are always unlikely. Something else I’ve noticed is that we’re all part of a great story. Take some time today or this week, and think about the Moment you are in and see it for what it is: passing. Consider the options open to you within it and see those choices as chances to tell the story in your own voice and in your own way. Your story. After-all, your destiny is, at its root, your destination. Broad, sweeping, momentous. Make it a great story.