[For] the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. - George Eliot
This quote is an epigraph for Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life. The movie is about a real life historical figure called Franz Jagerstatter. He was an Austrian Catholic farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis in WW2.
The title of the movie, “A Hidden Life”, comes from the fact that none of us knows who Franz Jagerstatter is. His act of bravery (until now) has been forgotten. His life is a hidden life.
At the time of his refusal, his town decried him. His sacrifice had no bearing on real-life events. He stopped nothing. The Nazis still marched. He didn’t affect real-life events at all.
Typically, in movies and history books, we read about great figures who change the world through their courage.
What about the courageous people who don’t?
There are many hidden lives in history whose courageous acts changed nothing. Malick suggests we should also celebrate this hidden type of courage. He suggests that it’s not in vain.
Last newsletter, I talked about aliveness. I’ve talked a lot, in previous newsletters, about how to live a life of Great Beauty and a life full of love. It’s what I think of as the Lover energy (a concept adapted from Jung). Lover energy is about compassion, romance, awe, presence, empathy, etc.
The greatest human beings are Lovers in this sense. But they also have another seemingly opposing energy. I have dubbed this Warrior energy (also from Jung). What’s warrior energy? It’s a single-minded pursuit of what you value. I define them above all by their courage.
The greatest human beings have an insane amount of lover energy and an insane of amount of warrior energy.
Unfortunately, in today’s world we are all lacking in both. At least, lover energy is coming back in the form of added spirituality, yoga, meditative practices. However, warrior energy is seen as bad. We see bad people doing violent, aggressive things and assume it’s because of the “warrior energy”. But they aren’t true warriors.
True warriors are like Franz Jagerstatter. They have strong moral compasses, values they stand by, and they fight for what they believe in.
Good conflict is necessary. Justified anger can create a revolution. Creative destruction is necessary to birth a better world.
We must define our values and fight against evil whenever we can. We can and must be courageous. A hidden life of courage is a noble one, even if nobody knows about it.
As you read this newsletter think about warrior energy. Think about courage. Think about how you can you develop yours.
Here it is:
This Week's Embrace Your Lazy
My Move Review of the Week: A Hidden Life
I wrote a review about A Hidden Life. Here's a lightly edited version:
He raises a bunch of interesting questions here, ones a pretentious philosophical person like me has toyed with to no ends.
If a good person unconsciously does some great evil what does that make them? What if an evil person unconsciously does some great good? If in your heart you are trying to evil and end up doing great good, what is true: your results or your intentions?
And if in a world where we can somehow do good, how will we know what good looks like? We may know it in our hearts, but evil people often know things in their hearts which turn out to be bad. If good and bad are relative, what then?
Evil people are good, and good people are evil. We are seduced by both, and the things we know in our hearts may not be right. We cannot know if our intentions will lead to anything in results. And sometimes maybe ends justify the means.
If philosophy has any consolations, they are not enough. There are many more questions than consolations. You may say that you shouldn’t think of these things. That these problems are too hard. But choosing not to think is also a choice.
As usual, Malick makes me reflective, philosophical and brings up many questions. But others (and even he) have done this cinema much better elsewhere.
And yet I cannot fault him too much. In a post-truth world, a post good world, a post-God world, we need this cinema.
I am agnostic Hindu philosopher type person and Malick is a Christian filmmaker. I see a lot of truth in every religion, so this doesn’t bother me. I am especially glad that he is making the Christian cinema that Christians deserve.
I think in the film; he asks another question more pointed than the others I listed. It’s a question that is important in our times. One that’s specifically for the Christians in the audience. It’s a simpler question, but maybe just as beguiling. He asks Christians this question:
If Christ were alive today, would you recognize him?
I fear that for many; the answer is no.
My Podcast of the Week:
I am still working out some kinks with my podcast (RSS feeds, duplicate entries, etc etc). But this podcast episode is too fun to sit on for much longer. Here's my episode with Paul LeCrone from Penguin Latte about what we can learn from old philosophers...
Here's the episode.
🧫This Week's Petri Dish
- I saw this in Patricia Mou's Amor Fati Newsletter. This gingko tree is 1,400 years old. Imagine that.
My friend Nate Kadlac wrote a great article about Kon Mari-ing your creative life. He talks about how to Keep what sparks creative joy and how to find a place for those creative sparks. A very useful read for creatives.
Check it out here:
Here's the start of a review I found about the aforementioned A Hidden Life:
IN TREE OF SMOKE (2007), Denis Johnson writes of a private who throws his helmet on top of a grenade, and lowers himself, “not rapidly, but with some reluctance.” Falling on a grenade is, of course, a brave thing to do, the bravest sacrifice that the private could make.
But does he fall on the grenade out of a desire to be brave or to do good?
Of course not.
The thought doesn’t enter his mind; it doesn’t have time to. The suddenness of a grenade falling in front of the private dials in his attention on the object, and unthinking habit carries his tired body toward the explosive.
It’s an interesting way to describe an example of courage, and it’s interesting because the private’s motives appear so courage-less. No doubt it can be immobilizing to stare sacrifice in the face. But, still, the private does. He’s thrown forward, making a choice few would ever make, falling on a grenade with the end of his life before his eyes — but without the speed and charge expected of such a sacrifice. Which only deepens the question: what kind of beliefs and feelings could lead one to put their life on the line, the most serious of moral commitments, and do so reluctantly?
Here's the full review:
As you can tell from how long this week’s newsletter is, I’m very passionate about this idea of courage.
My goal in life is to help people become who they are. And to do that, we all need ample amounts of courage.
To figure out who you are uniquely qualified to be or what your gift is to the world is really hard. And we’ve made it even harder for kids today.
We are creating children who are products shepherded from one extracurricular activity into the next. We are creating children who have to prize achievement in the form of grades, SAT scores, and college acceptances. Instead of figuring out who they are and want to be.
This is true for many reasons part of them nefarious (parents want to feel good about themselves through their children’s achievements), but most of them out of compassion.
It’s difficult to watch your children fail. But when a baby learns to walk, they have to fall. A baby learns to walk through falling. In the same way, we all learn through struggle, pain, and failure.
Courage requires failure. Courage requires pain. Courage requires responsibility. Courage requires groping our own way to aliveness.
We create the world. We are not bystanders; we are actively shaping the world through our choices.
And we MUST contribute.
For now, my contribution is my writing. It’s reminding you of the same important cliches over and over and over again. To hypnotize you with the rhythmic repetition of cliche.
Because as the great Novelist Umberto Eco says.
Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion. -Umberto Eco
Here’s to the reunion,
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