Being Epic

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

I’ve been on kind of a movie bender for the last week. I’ve watched 7 movies the past 8 nights, and I just now notched the new Hunger Games movie on. I’m not sure what it is about Jennifer Lawrence movies, but I guess they put me in a reflective mood (see Silver Linings Playbook reflected upon below…) It’s not just the Hunger Games, though, but I suppose the lot of movies I’ve watched throughout my life. The movie watching experience forces you to center your attention on the progression of the protagonist, and it’s amazing that by the end you can’t really imagine how the protagonist started out. So much happens in that span of a couple hours that after it’s over you can never see the star the same. Even if you watch the movie again, you always see the protagonist differently based on the ending.

I can’t remember who said it, but I once heard someone say that they try to imagine themselves as the star at the beginning of a movie. While life might seem mundane now, you never know what will happen or what effect you will have on the world. Think about how many movies start with just a normal person who goes on to do extraordinary things. The Matrix, for example, starts out with Keanu Reeves just being Keanu Reeves and it’s only at the end that his character, Neo, becomes “the one.” The key is how we respond to life (minus maybe the fact that Neo gets offered a choice of pills from Laurence Fishburne…) Nonetheless, how we respond to those series of events gets us to the point at the end of our own movie where we look back and can’t imagine the way we were at the start. And maybe our movies cover the span of our whole lives, maybe they only cover months, weeks, days, 127 Hours. No matter whether we live one movie or multiple, it all has the same message. Every second that passes leads us somewhere, and though we don’t know where we’ll end up, we do control how we get there.

Have you ever imagined the actions you undertake being measured on life’s biggest scales? Sometimes I like to picture that when I do a simple deed of kindness, like throw away a piece of trash on the ground, I’ve become a soldier in the battle of good vs. evil. I let my imagination run wild for a second thinking of myself fighting off evil, littering demons- okay maybe I don’t go that far, but still I hope you get the point. Life becomes a lot more epic when you imagine the universal impact of the things you do. Sure, someone might have come along and thrown away that trash, but the trash being there isn’t as important as the response to what life presented. And before I take this analogy too far, that epic action could be anything – giving food to a homeless person, helping someone with their bags, stopping an act of violence, anything! How we respond dictates who we are and where we go, but in order for us all to live like a protagonist we have to recognize the importance of ALL of our actions. The sad thing, too, is that when you act like nothing you do matters, you stop caring at all.

How easy is it to feel like that dollar you gave to someone who needed it didn’t make a difference in their life? How easy is it to feel like the job you spend hours at means nothing? Or the subject you’re studying, or the project you’re working on. It happens every day. We feel like what we are doing doesn’t matter. But I’m here to say it does, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but how often does a movie end after a day? These actions, however small, shape who we are and how we respond in the future. And if you don’t believe me, just think about it. Do you think Malcolm X thought he would move the civil rights movement forward when he was out selling drugs? Every figure in history started with no one knowing their names. We all have the potential to change the world around us, but it starts with recognizing what we do and who we are as important.

And I’d like to end on something I heard from a beloved Imam in America, Zaid Shakir. He said (not an exact quote):

Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t change the world. That is something only YOU can surrender, but that no one can take from you.

Happy [epic] Reflecting,

Naj