For a time such as this

Watched ‘The Hours’ for the 7th time last weekend and saw new things in the movie that I never saw before. I think certain things jump out at me at different times because of the different prevailing circumstances of my life at any time. For me, the one life that stood out this time round was that scene at the railway station where Virginia and Leonard Woolf were arguing. There are many gems in that exchange between husband and wife, but the one thing that caught me was when Virginia finally ‘gave in’ to Leonard’s request to return home for dinner, and she told Leonard quietly: “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

How true. Sometimes we skirt around the edges of life instead of embracing it because plunging headlong into life seems scary, risky, dangerous, or simply just too much work. So like the child who is called upon by his teacher in class when he is daydreaming, we look around, look to other classmates, and then finally look back at the teacher and ask: “Were you calling me?” It was John Donne, that incredible metaphysical poet who penned this immortal words: “Send not to know / for whom the bell tolls, / It tolls for thee.” There are many contexts in which these words can be understood, interpreted and applied (I have even seen it asked as part of a S-Paper History question in the exam!), however for me this weekend, these words serve as a clarion call to take life by its horns and sit on the rodeo even if it eventually flings me to the ground.

Talking about ground, another advocate of facing life head-on was the American President Theodore Roosevelt at the turn of the 20th century. Just read these marvellous words that he said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

We have no other time to live life except now. I often wonder how it is like to be living in 16th century Europe, or to have been born in the 10th century, or to have walked on earth at the time when Jesus Christ was a carpenter at earth. But God has made us to be alive at a specific moment in history and at a specific place so that we are able to fulfill our destinies as what God intends for each of our lives. In the sermon on Sunday, the preacher told a story of how an undergraduate handed up an assignment, and got it back with remarks by the tutor on how wonderful a piece of writing it was, with well-selected references and coherent arguments. But the student got a F grade. Why? Because he did the wrong assignment. We could be doing all the ‘right’ things according to what we or society deem are the hallmarks of a successful life, but are we faithful to answering God’s call for our lives? Are we doing the assignment that we have been placed here to do? And it could well mean rolling back our sleeves and entering the arena, with our faces marred with dust, sweat and blood. Are we ready? Reminds me of when Mordecai in the Bible speaks to Queen Esther about saving her people by asking her: “And who knows whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” A time such as this is the only time we have to make all the choices we want to make for our lives. In the next minute lies all our next minutes.

Hmm, I have rambled on quite a bit huh? But I think it is remarkable how watching (and re-watching) ‘The Hours’ can lead to so many other thoughts sprouting along the way, connected or not. Haha, I think it must have something to do with watching Virginia Woolf and the effect of her stream-of-consciousness style!

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~ by irwin on October 13, 2008.

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