Have no fear in your heart
Though you feel you've been broken and lost
There's a world where we will meet up again
There's a place that mends your hurt and takes you in
There are times faced alone
When you find all the holes in yourself
You don't have to walk the night on your own
I will send a prayer with you to lead you on
I will say a prayer for you when you have gone..."
- Bird York "Have No Fear*"
My mom was visiting this past weekend...glorious!!! Saturday night, while the girls were at the first game of the newly formed St. Louis Athletica Women's professional soccer team, mom and I watched "Seven Pounds" with Will Smith..well, not actually with Will Smith, but starring Will Smith.
Mom thought it was very dark at first. I was perplexed and fascinated. Neither of us could figure out where it was going for the longest time...just my kind of movie. I loved it. The story does seem dark on the surface. Dark and extreme. And for me, full of redemption, light, and hopefully, self-forgiveness.
And mom was right, the story was extreme in many ways. Everything about this man's response to "his story" was over-the-top, beyond reason, off-the-charts. But aren't many of the stories, or spiritual myths that we have passed down through the ages been extreme. They are larger-than-life symbols of something we long to find and know in ourselves.
Joseph Campbell, in his 1972 bestseller, Myths to Live By, suggests:
"...the first and most important effect of a living mythological symbol is to waken and give guidance to the energies of life. It is an energy-releasing-and-directing sign, which not only "turns you on," but turns you on in a certain direction...making you function in a certain way...one which will be conducive to your participation in the life and purposes of a functioning social group."
In "Seven Pounds" Will Smith's character seeks redemption. Seven lives have been tragically lost because of his carelessness. His path towards redemption includes sacrificing...quite literally...his body, piece-by-piece through organ donation.
At first my mom was appalled by the premise. And perhaps she never quite got past the drama of it all. But for me it was just a larger-than-life myth. It represents the hunger for forgiveness and, I think in more profound ways, an even deeper longing to bring one's view of oneself back into alignment with innocence, purity, and grace...to feel worthy of a relationship with our own divinity.
The funny thing is, the part of this story that was so untenable for my mom...the sacrifice of one's life, piece-by-piece, in order to afford others the opportunity to live fully realized and purpose-filled lives...is the very thing that she has done everyday of my life.
My mom has sacrificed her own dreams, career opportunities, fiscal security, relationships, and her right to "put down roots," to forward the hopes and dreams of each of her eight children...and a bakers' dozen of her grandchildren.
As each of us has grown stronger, tested our wings, and then "preened them for a skyward flight," she has lived a prayer of surrender, encouragement, support, and celebration. She has lived, in a less graphically illustrated way, the very myth she was shocked by.
But then, I wonder, does this dovetail with what Mary Baker Eddy says in Science and Health,
"The artist is not in his painting."
Could it be that when we are living lives of spiritual stewardship and service, we are so focused on "the painting" that we can't, and don't, see ourselves as artists...we are just so thrilled with the beauty of the work before us.
I liked "Seven Pounds"...it wasn't a film I would recommend for children...but I loved its mythic symbols of sacrifice, humanity, and redemption. I loved that I could see it with my mom...the woman who most objectifies those mythic lessons in my life.
It was so wonderful to have her here, to share her with my children and our friends, to see her laugh, and hear her even begin to consider her own hopes and dreams. In doing so, I believe she rewrites the ending of this myth. In her version, we all have the opportunity to live full and satisfying lives, love without reason or limit, and glorify God with the fruits of our sacrifices...through the lives of those we live to bless.
A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
- Joseph Campbell
thank you momma...you live love in mythic ways...
Kate Robertson, C.S.
[photo credit: Lila June Jones 2009]
*please don't miss Bird York's beautiful video performance of the above song...click on the song title next to her name below the lyrics.