Monday, March 12, 2007

Fearless and Finally Free

I just finished watching the movie Fearless (thanks for the recommendation, Tom B!). This was to be the renowned martial artist Jet Li's last film. And what a way to end...

I'm a sucker for a super-kick'em-up movie. Not one that glorifies violence, however, but one that confronts the reality of violence and deals with it in a way that shows discipline, courage, and self-sacrifice. Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers all portray characters who have learned great secrets, cosmic truths, and lessons about mercy and compassion through their discipline (be it Wu Dan or Wushu). The character Huo Yuanjia that Jet Li portrays learns these lessons well. So well that they lead him to a truly heroic end in the film, as he moves from an arrogant fighter who "will not be defeated" to a symbol of humble strength and endurance for all of China.

Huo learns his most valuable lesson after a self-inflicted exile leads him far from home. Ruined, broken and despairing after the death of his family, he is rescued by poor mountain villagers. An aging grandmother and a young, blind woman named Moon nurse him back to health. As his strength returns, however, so does his competitive and arrogant spirit. He is put to work in a rice field with two other men, and just as he begins to settle into the rhythm of planting the tiny green rice seedlings, he pushes himself past the other men as if it were a race. As Huo's back is bent and he scurries to plant more seedlings, he notices that the men have stopped in their tracks. They are standing upright with eyes closed, facing the bamboo forest as it is suddenly caught up in a gentle wind. He sees that the entire village in fact has suddenly stopped their work to drink in the soft movement of the wind in the trees. Ignorant of the grace of the moment, he shakes his head and buries it back in the "rice race." The next morning, it turns out, all of his seedlings had to be replanted. They were packed in so tightly that they would never have grown. "They need space to breathe, like people do," the young girl tells him. Later, we see Huo again.... this time a deep contentment in his face. The rhythm of the mountains and the discipline of the fields has taught him well. He stands upright and faces the forest, as a breeze catches the bamboo and moves them.

Priceless moments. We should drink them in, looking up from our "rat race" today to glimpse these higher motions, these cosmic seasons that hold the seeds of answers for us. Look up! Watch the skies. We know not when the Wind of the Holy Spirit will stir up something new.
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