Back in high school, I was almost convinced I couldn’t develop a sophisticated personal philosophy. A few of my classes were conducted in a seminar style, which was something I thoroughly enjoyed, as it allowed for the rawness of a discussion to truly manifest but was also something I dreaded. Why the polarity of sentiments though?
The thought of coming to an instant conclusion after a lesson was both foreign and scary to me. I wanted to mull it over because I knew that there were many unexamined components of a topic, whether it was in Economics, Science or simply Life.
A simple, “Do you agree with this issue?” can certainly be answered with a “yes” or “no.” But what does that vote of confidence for either position really mean? It doesn’t mean much if there is no continued dialogue on the topic’s applicability to the present and future.
A personal philosophy is organically developed and is influenced by factors such as family, religion, education, and society. Developing a personal philosophy is wonderful; it represents an individual’s exposure to the different worlds that have defined her thinking. It demonstrates that she is exercising and refining her critical thinking skills.
I recognized that there was a world beyond my amazing but isolated enclave of Honolulu, Hawaii. I craved to be closer to the relentless exchange and debate of ideas. I wanted to feel the spark from young minds, the skepticism from the once-idealists, and the fury from the disgruntled. The flurry of emotion represented the pulse of our society and reminded me that we are still alive with thought and purpose.
The first thing I turned to were movies based on real stories. What an amazing opportunity to delve entirely into another person’s life- to feel their pain, frustration and moments at zenith. By watching countless movies about people who were pioneers in their respective fields, it helped me develop a personal philosophy on life. I noticed that the characters depicted in these works were so purposeful and so intentional with how they carried out their life mission. I, too, wanted to live my life with such gusto.
Take for instance the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, based on the real-life story of Chris Gardener. Chris is a salesman who invests his entire life savings into bone density scanners with the intention of selling them throughout San Francisco. The amount of money he was making from selling them was not enough to support the growing financial demands of his family, and Chris reaches a crossroad. Should he try to scrape by with his bone density scanner sales or begin a new career as a stockbroker, where he will need to start from the bottom?
One of the beautiful aspects of movies is that they set up a dilemma and then reveal the consequences of an action. They challenge opinions that can be easily uprooted just as they strengthen inclinations that can later be grounded as values.
On the surface, Chris sacrificed familiarity of a routine life, a nuclear family and a way of life. However, it goes beyond that. When starting from scratch and relinquishing the humdrum of a former life, he exchanges that familiarity for the unpredictability and occasional heartache of a new life. This new life isn’t guaranteed to be better; it is just guaranteed to be different.
Before watching and re-watching this movie, I hadn’t thought too much about “sacrifice” and what it really meant. I had seen it manifested before me in the sacrifices my parents have made for me, but if asked if I would be bold and follow suit in my own life, I would have probably responded with, “I’m 16, I don’t know. That sounds like something I would deal with later on in life.”
However, after witnessing Chris Gardner’s story through The Pursuit of Happyness, I can comfortably relay back to the scene in which Chris and his son are at the basketball court, and Chris says to his son,
“Hey, don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. You gotta dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do it themselves; they’ll tell you that you can’t do it. You want something? Go get it. Period.”
Movies can inspire you to adopt a personal life philosophy so fiercely that you may never know any other way to live. Sometimes I take a scene from a movie and pretend the actor or actress is directly speaking to me when giving a pep talk. It may sound silly, but at the end of the day, I know I feel comforted by the realness of the talk as it nudges me in the right direction. Although I’m not sure I will reach a crossroad in the way that Chris did, if I find myself in a situation similar to his, I will replay the basketball scene in my head and know exactly what to do next.
Do you have any recommendations on great movies that have inspired you to think about your personal life philosophy? If so, please share your ideas in the comments!