I have been a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins since it first came out in 2005. In watching it again last night I was reminded of a number of important life lessons that apply to us all. Batman is the crime fighter but what Bruce Wayne learns on his journey there teaches us how to achieve everything we have ever hoped for… whatever that may be.
There have been several reincarnations of Batman. The thing that makes Christopher Nolan’s Batman a little different is the depth he gives his protagonist. I always struggled with the unrealistic fighting skill that Batman, the alter ego of a billionaire business man, displays against hardened criminals living every day in their violent street reality. Fittingly, this thought is voiced by the crime boss Falcone when Bruce Wayne confronts him in a restaurant. He tells Bruce that he could never understand their world or the way that power works within it because of his wholesome background,
This is where we begin to see Bruce choosing to understand. The moment he steps into the alley and swaps all his cash and his expensive coat for a homeless man’s beaten up jacket, he decides to learn what it is to live hard. Unbeknownst to him, he takes his first steps to learning the truth in his sweetheart Rachel’s words “There’s a difference between justice and revenge”.
This is where we stray from Batman’s path. Unless of course, you too desire to defend the weak, fight crime and bring justice to a lawless society. In which case, I suppose this movie is like a ‘how to’ manual. (You may also enjoy Super (2010) which offers a more down-to-earth version for the non-billionaires among us). For the rest of us, we turn to a ninjitsu master wielding a plethora of clichés and a rare blue flower.
Ra’s Al Ghul not only refines Bruce’s fighting skill, but takes Bruce on a journey through his psyche which we all must take if we are ever to meet our potential. In fact, I believe we must take this journey several times over. Me ol’ mate Raz challenges Bruce to face his fears. Too many of us let our fears dominate our decision-making. We may justify those decisions in a number of far more empowering ways, but if we are brave enough to really confront our truths, we know it to be so.
He tells Bruce that he fears his own potential for greatness. His own potential to be powerful. His sentiments echo those of the oft-quoted Marianne Williamson, who says in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Take or leave the bits about God and the message still stands firm. It is fear of failing that prevents us reaching for that which is really important (to us). You could argue that it is Bruce’s fear of what he may truly be capable of achieving with all his money, power and influence that leads him into the shadows to begin with. Equally, it is his “playing small” which finds him fighting petty criminals in prison before Raz gives him a path to liberation from his own fear and we see his presence automatically liberating others throughout the movie.
I’ve been living this reality this year and last. Last year, I chose to really confront my wishes for life. I chose to pursue freedom by acting. That choice brought about this blog and everything that has followed. This year has been a continuation of that choice, with many more choices that needed to be made and followed up on. The Longest Walk NZ is the culmination of many hard choices and the confrontation of many fears. I suspect there are many fears yet to come. I hope to have the courage to confront them and to act.
You may not have a hallucinogenic blue flower to reveal your deepest fears, but if you choose to confront uncomfortable truths, you unlock a power beyond measure. Your fears are there to guide you. They reveal that to which is most important to attend. The choice to understand fear is the choice to be free. In understanding what prevents action, we take the most important step in overcoming the obstacle. Define the barrier. It is the first step to learning how to bring down the wall. Where it cannot be brought down, it is the first step to scaling it.