Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Hard Lesson to Learn: You Can't Help Everyone

“Hitler! C'mon, I'll buy you a lemonade!” Max Rothman in the movie Max.

The film Max is quite an interesting study on many levels, but the one that stands out is the hardest one for some people—you can't help everyone.

John Cusack masterly plays the role of Max Rothman, an art dealer who had been a gifted painter before loosing his right arm in the Great War. He takes compassionate interest in a pathetic corporal, a fellow veteran and struggling painter. He takes pity on him, aids him, and tries to mentor him in developing his art. The pathetic corporal is named Adolf Hitler.

Although we know the destiny of one of the characters in broad terms, that simply gives it the character of a Greek Tragedy—fate will be fulfilled. What makes the movie worth watching is that the struggles of the characters with art, with compassion, and with their losses are so engaging.

That would be enough to recommend it to a thoughtful audience, yet it may also help to show in a more complex and real way (the real that only art can convey) that you can't help everyone. That is not to say that you should not try, or that groups should be written off for some reason. That, and anything akin to it, is utter nonsense. But many who find themselves in a helping role seem unable to comprehend that no matter what you may wish, hope for, or work towards, in the end the person you are trying to help is always another person. They may actively choose the very fate you are trying to help them avoid. They may want nothing more than to live out the tragedy you see unfolding before them. It is never an easy lesson to learn, and failure to learn it can mean the end of the career or even of the life of the one trying to help.

There will, no doubt, be Pollyanna types who will want to disagree on theoretical grounds. It doesn't fit in with their notions of how humans are; or more precisely, their wishes. Yet we can hold hope, real unwavering faith in the divine spark in someone else, and still be aware of that terrible force of which Gnostics have always sought to become free—fate or destiny. Like our ancient forebears we need to avoid being new age Pollyannas and be instead the ultimate realists, the true pragmatists. It is dangerous out there, and this can be a very hard lesson indeed.


Joe Daher said...

Yet we can hold hope, real unwavering faith in the divine spark in someone else, and still be aware of that terrible force of which Gnostics have always sought to become free—fate or destiny.

You have touched on my worst trait.

I want so much to help and assist those around me, whether it be for spiritual purposes or just social advice. I wish those in the circle around me to actually hear, but many times I find my words of little note in another person's path.

It can be quite painful to see someone fall, especially from beginning to end, and be able to offer something that will help...just to see that assistance ignored. It hurts my heart to be in such a circumstance.

This is, without a doubt, my greatest fear in humanity when entering into my priesthood. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I'll be able to offer some exactly what they need...but it's those that won't listen that I feel the most pain for. I just want to bring the one sheep back to the fold.

I wonder if I'll ever get over that emotional barrier.

Rev. Troy said...

I don't think it is anything one can "get over." In many ways it is the pain of love, love as agape. But it is a lesson that we must learn, and be transformed by, if we are to be of real service.

Rev. Illuminatus Maximus said...

There is an old hoodoo saying

If someone asks you for money once, give it to them

If someone asks you for money twice, pray for them

The money is not only literally money but also energy, attention...

As a spiritual person you can't keep helping someone with the same problem over and over as it will drain your energy and you might need that to help someone else or even yourself if it runs low enough

you have to pace yourself

some people accept help and hit the ground running and take care of the rest themselves. they just needed a push

others are stubborn, hard cases and there you have to make a judgement call

I am often surprised which turns out to be which. You can't judge a book by its cover!