Tuesday, April 27, 2021

When the fall is all there is...

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from "The Lion in Winter" (1968) (and 2003 for that matter...) when Geoffrey, Richard, and John are in the dungeon waiting on the king to come for them. They have a little back and forth and Richard is going on about how he is going to meet his death. There is an interchange between them that I really like a lot. It goes like this:

Richard: He'll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn't going to see me beg.
Geoffrey: Why you chivalric fool—as if the way one fell down mattered.
Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.

When the fall is all there is, it matters. I think there is something to that. It's about how to be a person, how to be civilized. There is, or there should be, a code people strive to live by. I know this is just a movie, of course, but perhaps Richard really would have behaved like that. (Or not, who knows for sure.) I would like to think that I would face a similar situation with the same determination. (Yes, I know that it should have been Philip and not Geoffrey since Geoffrey was already dead at this point (if such an exchange actually happened at all) but since I am talking about Richard and not Geoffrey (or John for that matter) I don't believe it makes a difference.) Not to mention artistic license and all that.

I am not saying I think everyone should behave the same, no, but I think there is a way to be a person. A broad moral and ethical path that everyone should be able to follow regardless of religion, creed, color, etc. I believe that most philosophies and religions nudge you in the correct direction through most religions try to force you onto too narrow of a path that really only benefits the religion itself and not humankind in general. 

When the fall is all there is, it matters.

To quote one of my favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin, who seems to have a way to cut right to the point. In the West Wing episode "Hartsfield's Landing" (Season 3 Episode 14) President Bartlet has this to say:

"If a guy is a good neighbor, if he puts in a day, if every once in a while he laughs, if every once in a while he thinks about somebody else and above all else if he can find his way to compassion and tolerance then he's my brother and I don't give a damn if he didn't get past finger painting."

He was talking specifically about the difference between educated and not, and it goes on a little further in that vein, but I think the line applies here as well. This is a good measure of how we should decide, individually, if someone we are interacting with is being a person or not. Obviously, you can't know all of this the instant you meet someone but that is my point. You shouldn't be deciding what kinda person someone is, and therefore how you will react to them, in a few seconds the first time you meet them. 

You should get to know a person first, at least a little bit, before making that kind of judgment. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, what if the first few seconds of your meeting are during one of that person's mistakes?  I believe a person deserves the benefit of the doubt until they prove they are not worthy of it. I accomplish this by assuming that I am the worse and stupider person in any interaction. Often I am right 😉, other times I am not. Either way, it gets me started on the right foot. There are bad people in the world, maybe even a plurality of them, but there are also good people in the world. Unless you are actually being robbed or beaten, it's usually safe to assume the person in front of you is one of the good people. 

Another quote that seems to fit here, from the true hero of "The Lord of the Rings" Samwise Gamgee, as written by J.R.R. Tolkien:

"There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for."

There is good in this world, I find some of it every day.

When the fall is all there is, it matters.

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