Archives For Good Will Hunting

The human race has never had access to more information at our fingertips than ever before. There is no practical reason to visit any of the places we learn about in life. But, I am reminded again of the conversation between Robin Williams’ and Matt Damon’s characters in Good Will Hunting.

“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.”

Williams’ character is pointing out how important it is to live and breathe places and experiences as opposed to being on the sideline to comment about it.

Since the earliest days of time, man embarked on pilgrimages.

A pilgrimage is defined as a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.

There are many types of pilgrimages.

  • Pilgrimages to see where we grew up
  • Pilgrimages to visit world history events
  • Pilgrimages to see the last live show the Beatles ever played
  • Pilgrimages to see old friends
  • Pilgrimages to remind you of your faith (and strengthen it)

History is a mere textbook without visiting in person because humans were meant for pilgrimages. 

My mother and father are about to embark on their own pilgrimage. My dad spends much of his time in St. Louis serving with a group of veterans whom are part of an organization called Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. Although my father served during the Vietnam era in the Army, he does this for those who served before him, especially his now deceased father, my grandfather Branch . It is a miracle that my grandfather even survived The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 since he was severely wounded from shrapnel during one of the early days of the battle. My father has realized that their story is worth telling and more importantly to him, it is necessary in order to more fully understand our family and human history, to visit these hallowed grounds.

In 1999 while I was in college I had embarked on a similar pilgrimage to visit Normandy with my friend Heath Hildebrandt. Normandy is only an hour train ride from Paris and an essential visit for any American. I remember the how beautiful it was there but learned how it wasn’t then and how dire the circumstance were for the Allies attempting a foothold in Europe to repel Nazi Germany. This invasion was so critical and risky that Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter in advance to acknowledge defeat if needed they failed to secure the beach. Thankfully the allies did secure the beach. You’d be surprised to learn that securing the beach was a first step of many and it took another month to actually push-off of the beach. I wrote about it in an earlier post called After D-Day.

By visiting these vast beaches of Normandy stretching dozens of miles, I learned more about D-Day and its importance than decades of history classes and World War II shows on HIstory channel.

It was a pilgrimage that I’ll never forget. 

Sadly, in 2001 I also visited Bastogne in Belgium and sites where The Battle of the Bulge occurred but my camera was stolen with the precious photographs. I am excited my dad can complete that pilgrimage with photographs to share. Perhaps the pilgrimage will be complete with him?

 

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In the middle of the Normandy National Cemetery and Memorial.

 

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Omaha Beach, Normandy

What has been your most meaningful pilgrimage? What did you learn about yourself and the place you visited/ 

What pilgrimage to yearn to go on and what do you hope to learn?

An Experienced Life

January 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

One of my favorite and most inspirational movies of the past twenty years is Good Will Hunting (1997). It has many memorable and important scenes is between Robin Williams’ character as teacher and Matt Damon’s character Will Hunting. Damon’s character had just insulted William’s character so they sat down to have a talk. Watch the movie clip but you can also read part of it that I provided.

“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 who could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you.”

This is the conversation that guides the story toward action and resolution for Damon’s character. This scene gives me chills every time I watch it. Damon’s character, although clearly brilliant, had not truly lived life in all of its pain and glory. He had been stuck in his neighborhood thinking he knew all there was to know about life. There was a bigger life to experience if he would open himself up. It is hard to  miss that I am like Damon’s character and fear the risk of going out into the world to really experience life.

Recently I visited one of the most infamous city settings in the world: Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. On November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated here. Dealey Plaza rests on the southwest side of downtown Dallas. I’ve read multiple books and watched countless documentaries and movies about the JFK Assassination. But none of his compared to actually being at the site of this tragic event. As Robin Williams mentioned above, there is nothing like visiting it to smell the air, feel the history, and to stand where history changed us forever. It was eerie and it brought a bit of  sadness to me that I didn’t expect to feel. Reading and watching stories about JFK always brought intrigue but rarely did it ever bring emotion like this. Silently, I walked all around the area with my brother-in-law and my wife and toured the JFK 6th Floor Museum. It is an experience I will not forget.

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View from the 7th Floor of the infamous Texas School Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza. One floor directly down from me was assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper nest.

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Standing next to the street where Kennedy was shot. Two “X’s” mark mark on the street where he was shot. To my left is the infamous grassy knoll where conspiracy theories point toward a second gunman.

Walking and visiting the places of history reminds us that we are part of a big story. It is full of beauty, adventure, victory, loss, and tragedy. It should provoke the feelings to make us want to make a lasting impact on this world because we are called to a great story. This trip reminded me that I can live life comfortably at home but if I don’t take a step out to truly explore what God is nudging me to do, I will miss the real life.

“To know there is a better story for your life and to choose something other is to choose to die.” – Donald Miller

Have you ever visited a place of history that gave you the chills?

Does it make you think about how your lasting impact will be on the world?

 

 

The bar/confrontation scene from Good Will Hunting (1998) is one of my favorite movie scenes because it reveals something uncomfortable about us; we are all posers. In the scene, Will Hunting played by Matt Damon and his friends, who are from a poor part of South Boston decide one night to visit a Harvard bar. After Will’s friend played by Ben Affleck attempts to pick up some girls, he is confronted by an arrogant MIchael Bolton look-a-like Harvard graduate student. The graduate student begins to taunt Affleck’s character in front of the ladies by showing off his supposed knowledge of early American History. The scene is full of class-tension but underneath there is something deeper; a man’s authenticity is being challenged.

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Watch the scene to understand.

“But at least I won’t be unoriginal”

Our education system creates unoriginal posers who are incentivized to memorize facts and other people’s ideas. This happens to people of all ages, not just in school. I work in an office that tempts to suck the creative spirit out of me. There are days when I feel the desire to go to graduate school but then I realize that another degree or a graduate degree will only serve as an entry point to feeding my pride. As I evaluate my heart, I catch myself yearning just to see extra initials after my name on a business card or a resume. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with a degree or a graduate degree.

My point is this.

You are only as good as what you do with your education. 

We are all posers unless we use our education for the better and for each person that will be something personal and hopefully unique. The viewer learns later in the film that Will Hunting was a poser for not using the gift that God had given him. We are left at the end of the movie not knowing what he does with his education but that is probably the beauty of the story to embrace.

I apply this scene to my life because God has given me many dreams that I can sit on or pursue. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words,

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

God gives us experience and the passions to act. By faith, he calls us to trust him in this journey. This is life’s great education. God gives us choice on what to do with this education and I am learning that I need to take seriously what he has given to me. I am awaken.

I am learning that it is not my degree or credentials that matter. He loves me no matter what and it is what I do with my education that matters. That is what makes the world stand up and clap.

I need to write.

I need to take the risks.

I need to engage fearlessly with my wife and my kids.

I need to leave the excuses behind and go forward with this education.

I may not have multiple PhDs. But my hope in life is that at least I won’t be unoriginal.

What are you learning about your education? What do you want to do with it?

I believe that each moment in life requires a unique and inspirational movie. Other things can be inspirational. I find inspiration in life’s story, in my wife and kids, the Bible, hiking, traveling, or a great book. But nothing quite beats the perfect movie for life’s important moments. Movie heroes overcome great odds, and their stories inspire us to get up on our feet and do something spectacular!

Below is a list of my top ten inspirational films. I drew it up by narrowing down all the ones I could think of by category and then asking myself, “When I feel like (fill in blank), which movie will help?” The result is my arsenal of cinematic emotional motivators.

I hope it will also be helpful to you in your journey.

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Top 10 Most Inspirational Movies

Big Fish (2003) (Living the dream, Pursuing the love of your life)

I first saw Big Fish when I was trying to compile a bucket list. It challenged me to keep thinking well beyond what is ordinary and to strive to always go deeper into the dreams I have inside of me. This life is a grand adventure, and God wants us to think big! And so, like Edward Bloom, I am learning to think bigger than my small pond.

Edward Bloom: There’s a time when a man needs to fight, and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny is lost… the ship has sailed and only a fool would continue. Truth is… I’ve always been a fool.

Roman Holiday (1953) (Becoming yourself/Adventure)

Roman Holiday is the perfect antidote for when I feel most constrained by everyday life. It is the story of a love affair between two strangers, a princess and a reporter. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are some of my favorite classic actors, and the film is an ode to beautiful Rome, one of my favorite cities in the world. Watching this movie makes me smile at the thought of how I can live a better adventure.

Dr. Bonnachoven: The best thing I know is to do exactly what you wish for a while.

Braveheart (1995) (Freedom/Adventure)

Although Braveheart is far from being historically accurate, it was spot on for inspiration. To watch it is to understand what it means to fight for someone or something you believe in. Braveheart had a big effect on me. I went on to learn more about Scotland and eventually moved there six years later.

William Wallace: Every man dies, not every man really lives.

We Bought a Zoo (2011) (Risk/Adventure)

I have shown some parts of the movie to my daughters so they could get a beautiful glimpse of what courage looks like. This quote captures the essence of not only the movie for most of Cameron Crowe’s films.

Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

Dead Poet’s Society (1989) (Risk-taking and the value of teaching)

I wrote about Dead Poet’s Society in an earlier post called Raising the Dead Poet’s Society. This movie reminds me that I should be a student of life. The students it portrays are young and eager for life. They are reminders that though I am now in my thirties, I should not lose their spirit. Similarly, the young men of Welton Academy fear failure in the face of their parents sometimes overwhelming expectations. And though today I do not fear the rejection of my parents, I still have fears of failure and often find myself timid and needing a talk from Professor Keating.

Professor John Keating to his students looking at alums from decades ago: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

October Sky (1999) (Belief in yourself/Friendship/Father-son relationship)

I wrote about this movie in an earlier post called Being There as a Father in the October Sky. It is one of the best American stories set in the 1950s, and it reminds me that I should never stop dreaming and setting goals.ver stop dreaming and setting goals.

Homer (to his dad): Dad, I may not be the best, but I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world. And it’s not because I’m so different from you either, it’s because I’m the same. I mean, I can be just as hard-headed, and just as tough. I only hope I can be as good a man as you. Sure, Wernher von Braun is a great scientist? but he isn’t my hero.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Sacrifice)

I have a deep appreciation for our military and the sacrifice they make for ordinary Americans like you and me. Saving Private Ryan captures the service of our American military during World War II. It is an inspiration and a reminder to thank any soldier who has served or is currently serving in our military.

Sergeant Horvath: I don’t know. Part of me thinks the kid’s right. He asks what he’s done to deserve this. He wants to stay here, fine. Let’s leave him and go home. But then another part of me thinks, what if by some miracle we stay, then actually make it out of here. Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess. Like you said, Captain, maybe we do that, we all earn the right to go home.

Chariots of Fire (1981) (Strengthening Faith)

This is another movie that captures the beauty of Scotland. I was a young Christian when I first saw Chariots of Fire, and it helped me understand what deep conviction looks like. It is a beautiful portrait of a man Eric Liddel loving his God first; thanking him for the ability to run; and rejoicing in the service of his country, Great Britain, and of his true and eternal King.

Eric Liddel: You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you’re dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.” If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.

Moneyball (2011) (Overcoming “the way it’s always been done”/business as usual)

As a businessman, I am in a daily battle analyzing what should and should not be done to achieve results. In an ever-changing business world, it is easy to sit in a corner and rely on a comfortable strategy. Anytime I feel stuck in what I am doing in business, I use this movie as a lesson to reject business as usual and take time to strategically think what really needs to happen. On top of that, I am a huge baseball fan, which makes the movie even more enjoyable.

Scout to Billy: We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) (Fatherhood/Honor)

Atticus Finch is a man of action eager to do what is just in the eyes of God. What man doesn’t want to be like Atticus Finch? As a father of two daughters, I think often about what it means to stand up for what is right. My children pay close attention to not only my words but, more important, my actions. Therefore, I am thankful to Harper Lee for creating such a wonderful character and to Gregory Peck for bringing that on-screen character to life.

Rev. Sykes: Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.

Honorable mention: 

Rudy, Good Will Hunting, The Pursuit of Happyness, Invictus, Finding Forrester, Rocky, Jerry Maguire, The Way, and Say Anything. I am sure there are many more but these are the ones that stand out.

What are your top 10 most inspirational movies and why? 

Which ones stir your soul and make you want to act?