What We Can Learn About Fear From “The Revenant”

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I’m not a big movie guy — I can count the number of movies i’ve watched in the last few years on one hand. So it took being trapped on a ten hour transatlantic flight to watch the Leonardo Di Caprio thriller “The Revenant” from beginning to end.

The movie was nothing short of captivating and I found the cinematography to be absolutely beautiful. Not only was it abundant in a wealth of early American history but The Revenant also had a rich Native American spiritual essence. It’s safe to say I fell in love with this movie and fell in love once again with early American history (as brutal as much of it was). Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) has a spirit guide throughout his journeys (presumably the mother of his son) and there are many lessons to be learned from this movie aside from the scintillating storyline. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

To get to the point of why I mention this there was a key moment in the movie in which ‘Hugh Glass’ tells ‘Captain Andrew Henry’ that “I ain’t afraid to die anymore”. Further explaining that the evil character of the film ‘John Fitzgerald’ was “afraid to die.” And it was this fact that gave Glass the edge against the more physically imposing natural born killer Fitzgerald. Watch the movie to find out how it ends.

After having survived events which would result in the demise of 99.9% of human beings Glass (DiCaprio) was no longer afraid to die. During all the moments he stared death in the face he had surrendered to, and accepted, his fate. He had come to understand that to some extent his life was not his, there were higher forces at work. In that moment when he was no longer afraid to die, he became free and powerful beyond measure.

Fast forward to 2018 and we live in a world seemingly gripped by fear everywhere we look, from global trade protectionism to global military powers increasingly flexing their muscles. The world is once again focused on fear and what could go wrong, instead of what could go right.

I am not afraid to die, this is a distinction from wanting to die. I want to live, I love my life, but I will choose freedom over fear. I don’t need to carry a gun or even lock my doors, call me crazy, but I trust my context (who I am and the energy I am emitting to the world). And just like in The Revenant when a starving Glass must have trusted his context when he came upon ‘Hikuc’, the Native American warrior; the warrior raised his bow & arrow at first, but he quickly saw into the eyes of a man who meant him no harm and lowered his weapon and shared his food with another human being. These are the kinds of encounters our world needs more of right now, and less of shutting others out under an illusion of separation. After all, trade protectionism, nuclear weapons, and vast militaries are all born from similar illusions of separation, fear, and mistrust.

Fear is on the rise globally and there are many reasons for this. In many ways Islamic extremism has achieved many of its aims by increasing fear and protectionism in the West. Those who would like to create separation and divide us are achieving their aims through the proliferation of fear. This is not the way forward.

Let us make one step forward today and every day by being accepting, open, loving, and see our fellow human beings for what they are: Flesh, blood, love, hope, fear, and spirit. Just like Hikuc saw in Glass when he didn’t see a white man and an enemy, and instead saw a brother and gave him life just like he would have done to one of his tribe.

I believe fear, mistrust, and separation make us weaker. Acceptance, courage, freedom, and love make us stronger. Which do you choose?


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