There’s more than one way to be inspiring

A while back, I was in the movie theatre.  Before the show started, we were treated to about half a dozen previews.  One of them was for a move called The Pursuit of Happyness, which, I gathered, is about a father with a (roughly) five year old son who loses his job and becomes homeless.  Then he gets into some kind of internship, works fanatically and turns out to be quite brilliant, and eventually gets a high-paying job as a stockbroker.  It looked like a pretty good movie, but I have no intention of ever seeing it.  Being a father and unable to provide as basic a thing for your child as shelter is a more horrible thing than I can imagine, and I have no desire to try.

The thing that perplexed me about the preview, though, is the voiceover going through most of it.  It kept coming back to a scene where the hero is explaining to his son that he can do anything he wants with his like, “follow your dream”, etc.  The standard hollywood inspirational speech.  Now, the funny thing was that it seemed like the writers (certainly of the preview, and probably of the movie) thought that this was the major message of the movie.  A guy had a “dream”, he “followed” it, and he succeeded.  But that’s obviously not what this movie is about, unless I’ve totally misunderstood it.  What makes the story compelling (too compelling for me, as I’ve said) is the theme of paternal love.  A man loves his son and is committed to providing for him, so he undertakes an extraordinary effort which succeeds in bringing him the means to support his family.  Now, isn’t that already inspirational enough?  Do we really need the bit about being whatever we want to be?

I notice the same thing in the classic musical The Sound of Music (which I have watched–many times).  It’s the end of the musical, and the von Trapps are making their escape over the mountains into Switzerland.  Rogers and Hammerstein (or whoever the movie producer was) need some inspirational music, so they play “Climb Every Mountain”, a song which was obviously written in anticipation of this scene.  Once again, this is a song about making all sorts of efforts “till you find your dream”.  But that’s not what’s going on here.  It was never Captain von Trapp’s “dream” to flee his homeland, leaving all his possessions and becoming an exile.  He did it because he thought the Nazis were evil and that it was his duty to God not to cooperate with them.  That’s certainly inspiring enough to me.  Why couldn’t there be a song about climbing every mountain when God and principle require it?

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