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What Do You See?

0 Comments 14 November 2010

I told you that I wanted to write about The Mission.  While I am not writing so much about the movie itself, but the ideas that it represents, the movie itself is magnificent.  The musical score, the physical beauty, the raw emotion and even the silence is done well.

But the ideas, the simple ideas that under gird this film have enough depth to pull us under and keep us wondering about human nature, the institutionalized church and politics for some time. I have actually downloaded the screenplay and find myself reading and re-reading different lines.  It is not a verbose film, but instead it is full of imagery, expressions and scenes that communicate far more than words.

Watching the fall and the redemption of Rodrigo Mendoza is remarkable.  There is much to be seen in who he is that is me…that is you.

The initial thing that strikes me is how Mendoza is living his life as he sees fit.  He fully believes what he is doing is right.  He sees the Indians as savages and his actions in enslaving them as good, even righteous. It is not until Mendoza himself recognizes his own savagery that he begins to see the Indians in a different light.  His fall, his killing his brother, whom he loved dearly, brings him crashing into a new reality.

I am doing a great deal of sorting in my own mind these days of my early years and the lens through which I saw other people, and even now, the lens that shapes my decision making process.  It is a great learning experience.  We are all given a lens through which to view life.  It comes from our family, our culture, faith or political persuasion and a multitude of other places.

Every lens is marred.  Every lens is skewed.  Especially the one through which we view ourselves.

James Hollis in his book Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up, talks about our inability to see things with clarity.

“Our tendency toward wrong choice, or unintended consequences, is fueled by these two liabilities.  The first is our temptation to believe what we wish to believe, the assumption that we know all we need to know about ourselves and the situation to make wise choices.  (In fact, seldom do we know enough even to know we do not know enough.  Any person at forty or fifty years of age who is not appalled by some of his or her choices in the earlier decades is either dumb, lucky or remains unconscious.)

Moreover, there is a second element here, namely the biasing of our vision by the profound influence of our personal and cultural histories.  Our experience subtly alters, even distorts, the lens through which we see the world, and the choices we make are based on that altered vision.  At birth, each of us is handed a lens by our family of origin, our culture, our Zeitgeist, through which to see the world.  As it is the only lens we have ever known, we will presume we see reality directly even as we are seeing it colored and distorted.”

Since our view of others originates from our view of ourselves, if we have an askew view of our own righteousness then we will inevitably view others with condescension.  That was Rodrigo Mendoza, and that was and still can be…me.  After killing his brother he was stricken with grief and believed there was no way to redemption.  Yet he still clung to his idea of who he was.  This was the interaction between the priest (Jeremy Irons) and Rodrigo in his prison cell.

You’re a mercenary, you’re a slave trader…and you killed your brother, I know.  And you loved him.  Although you chose a strange way to show it.”

“Are you laughing at me?  Are you laughing at me?”

“I am laughing at you, because all I see is laughable.  I see a man running away, a man hiding fro the world.  I see a coward.”

Mendoza had been hiding from what ‘he truly was’ and now he was being forced to see himself.  As Hollis says, “Only the corrections of others, or the corrections from our violated psyche, may oblige us to consider that our fundamental way of seeing and understanding is suspect.” The Jesuit preist offers Rodrigo that correction.

That is what is so compelling for me about watching his transformation.  It gives me hope for my own.  Suffering brings us to a clearer view of ourselves and gives us an opportunity for correction.  When things fall apart and the mirror that we have been looking in to discern who we are is shattered, we are free to see ourselves afresh and others alike.

What do you think?  Is your lens skewed?  What has brought you to a clearer view of yourself?

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things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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