According to Google, "What does it mean to leave the EU?" and "What is the EU?" are the top two questions UKers are asking the Internet after voting to exit the EU. I wish I could say I was shocked, but I'm not even surprised.
When Donald Trump trademarked Ronald Reagan's "Make America Great Again" slogan in 2012, his marketing strategy was intentional and insightful. For older conservatives who had lived through the Reagan years, the slogan hearkens back to an era of supply-side economic policies and the restoration of national morale after the Vietnam War. For younger voters and those unfamiliar with Reagan's speeches, the slogan is less historical than it is rhetorical. In the interest of understanding where this rhetorical power comes from, let's break the slogan down one word at a time, starting with "Again."
Again: The dictionary definition is fairly obvious: “once more; relating to a previous position or condition.” Again is nondescript, unspecific, and precisely because of that, inspiring. It rallies supporters to charge bravely towards something once held, like King Henry V rallied the troops into battle:
Once more [again] unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
Human beings need purpose to survive. Sometimes survival is our purpose, but this is becoming rarer in the technology age. Once survival needs are met, we look for purpose in other places. This manifests itself in countless ways: the parent who finds purpose in raising a child, the student aiming at high grades and graduation day, the business man or woman seeking success, the politician working for re-election, the artist grappling with expression.
Purpose changes throughout our lives. You won't always be in school, your kids will move out, you'll retire or lose your job. These changes may cause you to lose your sense of purpose. Your world will be spinning. You'll feel anxious, you might even panic for a while until you find a new direction for your energy. This is normal.
What would you do if you only had three weeks to live? Everyone has toyed with answers to this question, but few wrestle with their answers as seriously as writer/director Lorene Scafaria in the 2012 film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Don’t let the casting fool you. Comedian Steve Carrell (Michael Scott in the Office) plays the lead, across from Keira Knightley, but if this is a comedy, it still leaves you sober. I don't remember laughing, but I definitely cried.
With just weeks to live, some people would be checking off their bucket list, traveling to exotic locations and chasing final adventures. Others might opt out of the whole experience with a simple suicide note. Surely at least a few would pull out sandwich boards and megaphones to proclaim "The end is near!" All of these responses appear in this movie, but Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is about something more, something timeless. The haunting hollowness that so many feel, but few admit except in the face of death: Loneliness.
Fairy tales always occur in dark and evil times. No story ever begins with the phrase: “While living happily ever after.” The point of a fairy tale is to express hope in a fantastical world that reveals the hope in the real world. So, they begin in darkness and end in light. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) is a fairy tale—but not the Disney kind. This film draws on a much older tradition; the European stories of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, who were not afraid of the darkness, but used it to paint beautiful, tragic stories that are still with us today. It's hard to believe that Pan's Labyrinth is already almost ten years old, but maybe that is a testimony to its greatness.
[Note: This review assumes you have already seen the film and are familiar with basic plot details]
Set in the spring of 1944, Pan's Labyrinth takes place in the aftermath of Spain's civil war between the fascist and communist parties. Ofelia is a young girl with a strong imagination struggling to make sense of family trauma and societal violence. The movie begins as Ofelia and her pregnant mother Carmen travel to a remote wooded town to meet her new stepfather, Captain Vidal. There, in a decrepit labyrinth, she encounters a faun who believes she is the lost princess to a forgotten kingdom. Giving her three tasks, the faun promises her immortality if she completes them successfully. The remainder of the film follows Ofelia as she tries to accomplish this herculean mission.
Grieving happens on a spectrum between two poles. At one extreme, painful memories and raw emotions are stuffed deep inside and buried under layer after layer of thick callous. Any twinge of sadness that manages to work its way through is quickly strangled, along with whatever part of our humanity it attached itself to. On this end of the spectrum, people lead quiet, detached lives, abiding by the unspoken rules of their community, playing it safe so as to avoid the tiresome work of suppressing new trauma.
At the other extreme, emotions are like raw nerve endings. People over here may appear dangerous to those at the subdued end of the spectrum. Aware of their emotions, they have learned to let them out. Sometimes appropriately... sometimes not. There's a wildness about them as they come to terms with the wounds and scars that made them who they are. But sometimes the journey to healing requires an amount of savagery.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." -John Muir
Russ is a business and personal coach who helps people lead meaningful lives at the intersection of faith, psychology, movies and business.