Steven Spielberg and The Elephant in Our Lap
By Steve Roberts
Steven Spielberg's "Munich" has opened in theaters nationwide, and I was among the first in line, my interest kindled by discussions in the media about what many are calling a treatise on the implications of terrorism.
Many tears later, I don't feel that this gloriously painful film is about terrorism any more than I feel that Mr. Spielberg's earlier masterpiece "Schindler's List" is about the Holocaust.
Both are about something much bigger: How small our perception of life can be, and as a consequence how much harm we do to one another and ourselves. Terrorism and the Holocaust are merely extravagant manifestations of an immaturity among us, the human family, that includes blaming others for our feelings.
When I blame another, what I'm really doing is trying not to feel, or trying to avoid being responsible for my feelings. My fear of fear and my fear of pain prompts me to deny that feelings are never imposed on us. Ultimately, they are a choice, just as every act, every word, every response to every moment of life is a choice.
Part of us wishes this were not so. Who, after all, readily admits that we have created this life we consider a burden?
Part of us wishes we were puppets: If only our boss, or our illness, or the president, the pope, or the people who want to kill us would change, finally we would breathe free.
Try as I might, I've never had much luck with this wish, since our true self judges nothing, asking only that we grow our ability to love-no matter how many fruitcakes fail to realize that we know what's best for them.
Don't mistake this for the wet noodle approach to life. Love is managing fear. If there is a more courageous undertaking, I've not encountered it. Which is why I run from it more often than I care to admit, blaming others as I go.
"Munich" asks whether it is possible to get revenge. Under that question is another that I feel may be even more pertinent: Is it possible to create peace in our heart by changing another person?
Whether it's possible I can't say, but I do know that my own batting average is zero.
I find it helpful to remember that whenever someone is talking about people they hate, they're talking about me. Jews, Arabs, women, men, murderers, child molesters, or twitchy one-eyed brain surgeons-I have a sense that throughout my innumerable incarnations there are few categories of person I haven't been, few saints I haven't aspired to be, and few horrors I've neglected to perpetrate.
So in "Munich," when I hear an Israeli say that the only blood he cares about is Israeli blood, I feel the smallness of that remark, and the harm that reverberates throughout all of humankind whenever we consider someone else "the other."
I'm not against killing. It has its place. I'm against calling it intelligent, or mature, or wise. Whenever we think we're improving the world by diminishing another in any way, what I feel we're really doing is broadcasting to the universe just how young, ignorant and uncreative we are at this point in our spiritual evolution-how unwilling to love, to forgive. It's one thing to say, "I'm sorry, I just don't know how else to handle this situation except kill you." And quite another to say, "I know with absolute certainty that if God Himself were here, He'd be blowing your brains out, too."
To me, notions of good and evil are a distraction. The universe as I experience it is playful, loving and deep. Everything is a gift, showing us ourselves, calling us to love. Continually expanding our appreciation of this seemingly preposterous view is at the heart of our spiritual journey. And because we can be a little dense, and the universe is endlessly generous, sometimes those calls to love need to be the equivalent of an elephant dropped in our lap.
The gift of Mr. Spielberg's provocative film is the gift of terrorism itself: the opportunity for each of us to engage ever more deeply life's number one question-Who am I?
Steve Roberts is the author of Cool Mind Warm Heart, a collection of essays, stories, and photographs of stone sculptures he builds on his Vermont farm. He can be found on the web at CoolMindWarmHeart.com
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