Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I recently watched again a movie which is becoming one of my favorites of all time, 'The Last Samurai'. Now, immediately some of you will dismiss it because of Tom Cruise so let me just get this outta the way...I think Tom Cruise is a nut job and I in now way condone his version of life. However, the movie is fantastic and it really strikes me and moves me to consider myself. The movie, for those who don't know, is about a former U.S. Cavalry captain who travels to Japan to help train an army and quell a rebellion. What the movie is really about is one man's discovery of his salvation and the healing of his heart and soul.So much of Cruise's character, Captain Nathan Allgren, speaks to me on a deep, soul level. Allgren, you see, has bought into a lie about himself. He has bought into the lie that he is doomed, condemned on some soul-searing level because of actions in his past he views as despicable, henious, murderous, unworthy of redemption. But, rather than face those demons and, by facing them, kill their power over him, he chooses to drown his past and his pain. He drowns it in booze and self-loathing. What a chord this struck in me not so very long ago. I can look back at demons I battled, past trangressions if you will. I also drowned them for awhile in booze and self-loathing.Allgren is taken captive by a band of rebels, led by an astounding warrior named Katsumoto, who is a picture of a true warrior-king. During his captivity, Allgren finds what he has really been searching for all those years. He finds himself; he is ambushed by peace and surprised to find a life worth living. Here is what he found, what I found, what we all seek...We all seek something greater than ourselves, something to give meaning to a room gone dark, to a world we don't understand and rage against. Allgren found discipline, service, honor, something greater than his self-blindness. During a monolgue in the movie, he speaks of the samurai way of life as a life of discipline, a single-minded dedication to perfection, an inner stillness, an ideal. How we all desperately search for this very thing! Perhaps one of the most telling statements he makes is that he's surprised to find the meaning of the word samurai: servant.How I long to give myself to a life of service, discipline, a single-minded dedication to the perfection of an ideal within me. It is a deeply personal longing for all of us...and a deeply spiritual one. Think with me about the heroes, biblical in this case, of the past. Moses, Noah, David, Daniel, Elijah...and the list goes on to the twelve disciples...to Jesus himself. They were all passionately dedicated to a life of discipline, a single-minded dedication to the perfection of an ideal, a faith. Yet none, save Jesus, were perfect. They all had dreams and they all had demons they struggled with and, at times, they all tried to drown it out..except Jesus. In the end, they all had one thing in common; they were all willing to die for these ideals, this faith.Back to the movie. In the middle of his captivity, away from all his former distractions, Allgren faced his pain and found healing. He found a new meaning, a reason to live and a reason to die, if need be. There is a poignant scene where Allgren and Katsumoto are standing in an ancient garden, surrounded by blossoms, bright and beautiful. Katsumoto says that to know life in every breath, every blossom, every cup of tea, every life they took as warriors is 'bushido'. Honor as a way of life. That called to me!To know life in every breath He gives me, every sunrise, every cup of tea, every life I can save by showing them Jesus...that is honor! At the end of Katsumoto's life, the emperor asks Allgren, "Tell me how he died." Allgren's reply, "I will tell you how he lived." Ten thousand years from now, at the end of my life, your life, what stories will be told? In eternity, when we're all sitting around a campfire in heaven, telling stories and toasting the King, what stories will be told? Will it be how you/I died...or how we lived?