I finally saw the film, Tree of Life, on video.
I’m not sure I fully understand it. I could go online and look for reviews and clarification but I don’t want to. I understand enough, I think (after watching key scenes a second time which made a huge difference). Anything more would likely inform but also possibly disappoint.
If you haven’t seen it, be aware that it isn’t quite as opaque as say, “2001 – A Space Odyssey” but it is highly symbolic and hard to fathom at times. Yet it is stunningly beautiful and the acting of both adults and youth is spot on (or so it seems to me).
At its heart is this line:
“There are two ways in life, the way of nature and the way of grace.”
The former is exemplified by the father in the movie, played by Brad Pitt, who looks out for himself, seeks to get ahead and teaches his sons to be tough and to do whatever it takes to succeed.
The mother in the film chooses the way of grace, a life of sacrifice, care and love that does not seek its own but the best for others.
I will have to spoil the story here to get to my point, so if you haven’t seen the movie and want to, read no further.
Near the end of the movie, the father is brought to a point of crisis when he loses his job. With the loss comes the awareness that his whole approach to life – the way of nature – has failed him.
This is the voiceover at that point: “I wanted to be loved because I was brave. A big man. I’m nothing. Nothing. The glory around us. Trees. Birds. I left in shame (Note: I’m not actually sure about that line even after reviewing it a half dozen times). I dishonored it all and didn’t notice the glory. A foolish man.”
He comes to the way of grace by realizing that his own attempts at success, the way of nature, haven’t worked. But in his words I find something painfully familiar: “I dishonored it all and didn’t notice the glory.”
How often do we do the same in our own daily lives? We miss “the glory around us.” We simply don’t notice it.
I travel in part to see that glory, to refresh eyes that have become so accustomed to the glory all around me that I fail to appreciate or even be aware of it. In the unfamiliarity of a new place, I see the familiar anew. And when I do, I realize, at least in part, the glory around me.
So here’s my question for me and for you: If you can’t immediately travel, what can you do this day – wait no longer – to notice the glory? Trees. Birds. Loved ones. The very breath you take this moment. What will it be?
Notice the glory.