I remember hearing one film critic said a movie can’t save someone’s life but it sure can help to make the world a better place to live.
And I agree.
I’m a frustrated filmmaker and having seen tons of movies in different genre, I can say that some of these movies made me a better person.
It shows me a limitless world, a place where dreams are possible, where life offers an exciting take and from time to time, an escape from reality.
I did not plan to write this article, instead, I was meaning to edit some of the articles and interviews I have written from the last few weeks that I didn’t have time to polish due to my work schedule and some commitments for my new business. But for some reason, I remember a line from one of my favorite movies – Good Will Hunting – who helped me become the person I am today. The movie is recommended by a good friend who studied in MIT in which the movie took place.
The story revolves around a young man who is exceptionally brilliant but is afraid to love, to be involved emotionally with people, to show the world his talent and maybe to even live life to the fullest as a result of a painful past.
In a scene where the professor (played by Robin Williams) tried to convince the brilliant young man (played by Matt Damon) to study Math with him, he said something that struck me to the core.
“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You’re an orphan right? … You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally… I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some fuckin’ book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.“
When I was still studying, I was topping exams after exams. I had my moments when I was in high school that I intentionally did not study in some of my subjects because I didn’t like the teachers but no one could say I have nothing inside my cranium but useless neurons. I usually finished coding and mathematical problems in less than 30 minutes that otherwise majority of my classmates could finished in more than 3 hours in college. My professors often squeezed me for hours during case studies presentations as they couldn’t get enough of my provocative papers and forgot the rest of my classmates. One time, I made the most terror professor I know cry (or as she claimed) the whole night because of a piece I wrote for my creative writing class. When I started working, my employers trusted me, and I never had to apply for a job after my first employment as people believe in my skills and jobs literally just landed on my door. I also had to take down my LinkedIn account to avoid headhunters and limit my Facebook accounts with people I meet at work.
I’m not saying all of these to brag my grades at school or what I have achieved so far in my career. I’m saying all of these because we might be the most intelligent and talented person on earth but unless we go out there and experience life, we can’t really claim we’re smart or that we know enough.
How many of us really know something about life?
Before I watched the movie, I was already contemplating about quitting my job of 5 years. I used to love it but it came to a point that I didn’t like the environment anymore. Then I started questioning what I was doing in my life.
Am I happy? I don’t know.
Am I satisfied where I’m going? I don’t know.
Am I still growing? I don’t know.
With all those doubts in my heart, I know it wasn’t a good thing. Then I remembered my childhood.
Growing up, I had a pretty ordinary life in my sleepy hometown. Everything was simple. No i-Touch, no Facebook or Clash of Clans back then. What my playmates, cousins, brother and I were doing were very basic. We played in the street, we hiked and explored forest, we swam in the rivers and beaches, we climbed trees, and got chased by dogs, pythons and even shark. And just to remember those times that I was out there – exploring without limits- makes me smile.
Then back to my adult life, it was full of responsibilities and expectations: to be good at school and then later on, be exceptional at work. I sure did have a life when I was still working in my previous jobs. I went out with family and friends from time to time, I shopped a LOT, watched travel shows a lot and dreamed of traveling the world in my spare time. Sure, I had fun and it was nice.
But it lack the real joy that I had when I was a kid – when I was still not afraid of anything and not bounded by social expectations and acceptance.
And this why Robin Williams’ words resonate.
I could probably describe Angkor Wat in great detail if people would ask me during that time. But it was nothing compare of being there. Being able to touch the intricate designs of each temple in the complex and heard the history directly from Cambodians. And learned from their strength.
I could probably tell how hard it is for people to live in extreme poverty but it’s nothing compare if you witnessed it first hand. That some people couldn’t even afford to have a single meal in a day. And how it breaks my heart.
I could probably tell you a thing or two about the beauty of humanity but it would be an understatement compare to what I have witnessed many times in a remote village or big cities in far-away countries, where I knew no one and yet I’ve been a recipient of the kindness of these people. And how I am humbled by the experience and how it touched my heart.
I could probably tell you how it is to fall in love recklessly but it isn’t as painful and exciting once you entered a relationship where you don’t know where it would lead you. And how I cried, learned and grew from that.
I could probably tell you how happy I was, beating my bosses’ and clients’ expectations, driving my team on top and finding solutions to my problems at school and work. But I felt more satisfaction when I survived the policemen who detained me for 4 hours in Macau, the crazy trip I had in remote Northern Sumatran’s island at the mouth of volcano, learning blowpipe hunting from the chief of the headhunting tribes in Borneo and living in Thailand and Central America. And how I evolved and become stronger because of those experiences.
Many of us are like Will – we are so afraid of getting out of our comfort zone, to love and be loved, to discover the world and pursue our dreams because of our fear to fail, to get hurt, to get lost and to face consequences of our mistakes. But you know what? Those are exactly what is mean to live.
Unless we take the courage of being out there, do what we want and pursue things that makes us happy and explore the unthinkable then being well-read and smart are not enough. No great things come from comfort zone, remember that. And yes, great adventure is not only in the movies.
“Life is like a game – we should be curious to play it – you explore and learn and grow – that is what it is for – that and having fun. It all expands consciousness- your own, the collective, and the cosmic.”
― Jay Woodman