July 19, 2012 at 6:43 am, by Carl
Last week, we rented Emilo Estevez’s The Way. I thought this movie looked good when I first saw the previews and I was right. I enjoy Martin Sheen’s work and I suppose I’ve always found a connection with Emilo since The Breakfast Club…though I was probably more like Anthony Michael Hall’s character. The Way is an excellent look at community, something I study and write about constantly.
In the movie, Martin’s character is the father of Emilo’s character (who is only in the movie a tiny bit) and they have grown distant since the death of the wife/mother. We learn that Emilo’s character has gone on something of a vision quest to see the world, but then he dies while starting the El camino de Santiago de Compostela, “The Way of St. James.” As Wikipedia puts it, “It was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, together with Rome and Jerusalem, and a pilgrimage route on which a plenary indulgence could be earned….Legend holds that St. James‘s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.”
Martin’s character, the father, flies to France to pick up the remains of his son, but then decides someone impetuously to walk the pilgrimage in honor of his son, carrying his ashes to scatter along the way. Through the movie we see the father working to come to grips not only with the death, but with his own life. Along the way, he reluctantly picks up 3 traveling companions; the father really wants solace of the journey, alone and unhindered with the lives of others.
That is the part of the movie that really began to speak to me, and I hope to you. So often, I have worked with people, both students and my church members who, when pressed seem to really think life would be better alone. They are wrong, but they can’t seem to see it. For many, just like Martin’s character, they are dealing with some pain or perhaps have been burned before by others; the father in the movie was also starting to deal with how he had just become consumed with making it through life, but not really living.
Along the way, Martin finally comes to a breaking point with these strangers, trying to run them off. In the process, he gets arrested (it’s a funny and poignant scene…don’t miss it), and it is this small community who rallies to him, even after he tried to run them off. In the end, Martin’s character is brought to the point of realization that he can’t accomplish what he wants without others!
Life is like that. The Bible talks about this when we see what it really teaches about church—not some big edifices or modern equivalent to the Christian mall with lots of activities. Nope—just a group of fellow travelers on the way of life, needing one another to make it through. They aren’t all alike; they don’t have the same interests (beyond Jesus Christ); they aren’t all rich, beautiful or famous…in fact, as the Bible teaches, God uses the poor, unlovely and unknown to confound the world. In this gathered group of strangers-become-family, we see the snapshot of heaven; here we find that we are not alone.
Our country used to know this instinctively, back in a time when there were more small towns and more community involvement, whether in Little League, Kiwanis Clubs, Girl Scouts or, as Robert Putnam most famously wrote about, Bowling Leagues. We lost that community connection about the same time that we allowed some to lead us to lose our connection with Christianity…and probably this became a time when Christianity lost its way in the USA, moving to become this “Modern Mall” thing with coffee houses, book stores and 1000s of visitors who all love the service but who know only a few, if that many, at the “church.”
If you want to make it through life, you need others. I’ve been writing and speaking about this for years now. This fact is unassailable…proven through history, proven in the faith (not only of Christianity, but many of the other world religions). You read this blog, I assume, because you want to Live Well and figure out key steps towards a successful life. Start by investing in others, especially those who may not be quite exactly like yourself. Learn to lean on each other, and be willing to learn from the others. Martin Sheen’s character has to do that to accomplish his quest, and it changed his life.