"Name a movie you like. What about it appeals to you?" is the topic for today. My all-time favorite movie is "Defending Your Life" that came out in 1991. The film was written, directed by, and stars Albert Brooks. It also stars Meryl Streep, a favorite actress of mine.
"Defending Your Life" is a romantic comedy-fantasy film about a
Los Angeles advertising executive named Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) who dies in a car accident on his birthday and arrives in the afterlife.
He arrives in Judgment City, a purgatory-like waiting area populated by the recently-deceased of the western half of the United States, where he is to undergo the process of having his fear-based life on earth judged. He must stand trial and justify his lifelong fears in order to advance to the next phase of life; or be sent back to earth to do it again.
If the Judgment court determines that Daniel conquered his fears during his lifetime, he would be sent to the next higher phase of existence, where he will be able to use more of his brain and be able to experience more of what the universe has to offer. Otherwise, his soul will be reincarnated on Earth to live another life in another attempt at moving past his fears.
Judgment City offers many Earth-like amenities and activities in the city while the residents undergo their judgment processes - from all-you-can-eat restaurants (which cause no weight gain and has the best food that is made-to-order and served immediately), to bowling alleys and comedy clubs.
As his defense attorney, Bob Diamond (Rip Torn), explains to Daniel that people from Earth use so little of their brains (3-5%) that they spend most of their lives functioning on the basis of their fears. "When you use more than 5% of your brain, you don't want to be on Earth, believe me," says Diamond.
During the procedure, Daniel meets and falls in love with Julia (Meryl Streep), a woman who lived a seemingly perfect life of generosity and courage, compared to his.
The proceedings do not go well for Daniel, and it is ruled that Daniel will return to Earth. Meanwhile, Julia is judged worthy to move on. Julia and Daniel are headed on separate trams - one to take Julia to the next life and one to take Daniel back to Earth. The movie doesn't end there...and I won't give away the ending.
Some of the quotes from the movie that I think are interesting to reflect on are:
=> Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything - real feelings, true happiness, real joy. They can't get through that fog. But you lift it, and buddy, you're in for the ride of your life. (Bob Diamond, the attorney)
=> I've been defending myself so hard these last few days, I just don't want to be judged anymore. I have this wonderful feeling inside of me, but I'm just tired of being judged. (Daniel Miller)
=> Bob Diamond: There was one person you were really cheap with. Over and over again. I wish you'd been more generous with him.
Daniel Miller: Who?
Bob Diamond: You.
=> Bob Diamond: They can make a mistake. You shouldn't let others get to you like this. Just follow what's in here. [points to his heart]
Daniel Miller: [Daniel nods in agreement]
Bob Diamond: Don't worry, and don't kick yourself forever. Just take the opportunities when they come.
Why I Like the Movie
If people are honest with themselves, they can look back on their lives and see that some of the decisions they made in their life were fear-based. I'm included in that group.
The challenge is to move beyond that fear and make healthier decisions that aren't motivated by fear. On Tao Practice, there was a question that was posed:
Have I opted for real growth and challenge, or have I always taken the path of least resistance and succumbed to fear?
Tao Practice continued, "Remaining attached to other’s expectations and to our self-imposed limitations serves our fear rather than our greater purpose .... If we truly believe that we want and need to do something because it coincides with our greater purpose, then that is all that matters."
How can we do this? In "Defending Your Life" they refer to being a “good citizen of the universe.” It doesn't mean being self-serving as way to achieve greatness. That doesn't lead to self-actualization - or realizing the full potential of oneself.
Tao Practice states and asks:
When we leave this earth, all that will remain is the energy we contributed to our relationships and to the universe.
We must always be aware of our relationship with others, and our relationship with the universe as a whole.
What is our role?
Does it need to shift?
Are we willing to change it?
"Defending Your Life" is one of those movies that makes me think about issues like this...and has an effect on the way I lead my life.
(As a side note...there are two other movies I could watch repeatedly for the thought-provoking messages in them: "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "The Truman Show.")