Last night I went to see the ‘The Revenant,’ and unlike a couple of women I heard leaving the theater behind me, it is not a movie I am in a hurry to watch again. It was bloody, violent, and unflinching, like the lives it portrayed, one definitely not for the faint of heart.
But it was also a story saturated by the amazing power of the surrounding landscape, and left me with a bone-deep reminder of both the terrible cruelty and beauty of nature.
As I watched the film’s story unfold, it’s characters living and dying in the overwhelming and harsh 19th-century wilderness, I understood again I have little to complain about in my modern existence. I felt every moment of terror, loss, and damp, freezing cold as well as the film could possibly make me.
Life was once much harder, and consequently, a lot shorter. It made me very thankful I got to get up and go home to a hot shower and a warm bed at the end.
But in spite of the unrelenting story, I couldn’t stop marveling at the mountains, the rivers, the sky.
It reminded me of the trip I took to Colorado a few years back when I saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time. They dwarfed the Adirondacks, of course, the only real mountains I had seen up until then. They dwarfed everything, really. And I had the same sensation standing at their feet as do when I visit the ocean, that feeling of being nothing but a speck of dust on the face of the Earth.
The movie made me feel that way, too.
It’s an idea I find both terrifying and strangely thrilling. Knowing that nothing I do or that anyone does really matters in the long history of our world. It will survive, grow on, with no memory at all. I find that, in fact, rather liberating.
What it means for me is that maybe all the stuff I worry about, stress over, every day in my own life and in in the world at large needs to be re-evaluated. Maybe I need to take a lesson from the mountains, the sky, the sea, and step way back, look at the bigger picture, and instead of always trying to do something, at times simply wait, be, watch.
Like the film seems to emphasize, I need to embrace destruction and divinity, understanding that it’s all part of the whole, and make peace with it. Otherwise it may destroy me.
Whatever unfolds in my life, the time will come again when it all changes. And I will get another chance to make my way through the wilderness, living or dying under it’s clear and distant gaze.