Penance and Peace

I watched a movie recently about a man who had completely blown up his life and then through a self imposed penance – found self forgiveness and turned his life back around.

“Adam” was a 2 star Michelin chef in Paris (equivalent of Jedhi knight in Star Wars or the Rolling Stones in music)


Drugs, alcohol and down down down he went – lost it all


Then – knowing he had screwed everything up he set himself a penance

He shucked oysters in a kitchen – every night and each evening as he finished work he wrote the score (if oysters shucked) in a little brown book

When he got to a million he was done

Done being ashamed

Done being regretful

Done being a loser

He had done his penance

So he moved to New York and began the hard road back to the top

And he had so many mountains to overcome, people’s cynicism and doubt, that he had changed, fear of failure, his own isolating tendencies and so on.

It was a good movie but what struck me and hooked me and got me and kept me watching was this idea of self inflicted penance and how he behaved after it was done

He regained his self esteem and then no matter who tried to put him down or remind him of his past – he kept moving forward

As he totally should

Human beings stuff up – sometimes we stuff up a lot – sometimes with disastrous results that hurt people – people we love

The shame and regret and remorse can be crippling

It can prevent people from moving on and instead they wallow in this self inflicted pergatory – hell on earth – hell in their own minds, hell of their own making

Sometimes it’s not so dramatic of course but even a little shame is toxic

Imagine if we could instead have a period of penance and then peace

I guess the Catholic Church have a version of this with confession and the penance decided by a priest, carried out by the sinner and then supposedly peace and forgiveness is forthcoming

But I’m not Catholic nor particularly religious and I don’t think my heart would believe some made up penance by a priest would absolve me of things that I regret

I tend to be extremely tough on myself

But if I had a self imposed penance – a small brown book, a humbling task, a repeated act of attrition – a marker of time done – now that – well, I think it would be incredibly healing

Shame is one of the most damaging emotions a person can feel. I wrote about it a long time ago in a blog post here .

Punishment meted out by other people is not really working. Our prisons are full of people doing a penance that someone else imposed on them yet when they get out they are supposed to feel absolved

Do they? Do they feel at peace?

Could we exist in a world where people set their own penance – could we trust them to set it to societies standards, what we feel they should suffer?

And that is the problem – other people and how they think we should feel and whether or not we are strong enough to know when our time is done and not worry about their opinion

Other people may shame us but we need not feel that shame – its our own business whether and when we should feel absolved

And you can’t fake it

All of which the chef in the movie conveyed

People tried to drag him back to his past but no – he had done his penance – shucked his damn million oysters – it took him 3 years. He – this brilliant renowned chef had taken himself off and humbled himself to a nothing – a mere mortal shucking oysters

But when he was done he knew it and then he moved forward

I apologise for the repetition but it fascinates me and I love it

When I was drinking (I’ve been sober for over two years now) I had times when I had had too much wine and I did and said things that embarrassed the hell out of me later – hell still embarrass me if I think too much about it

That doesn’t happen now as I am a completely different person or rather I am completely my own person and can’t be dragged off course by chemicals.

And that is a huge relief.

The movie was “Burnt” it’s on Stan and stars Bradley Cooper and Emma Thompson.

Aside from the penance factor it contains other great concepts like the fact that we can’t do great things alone – we need other people and how perhaps our greatest rivals are sometimes our biggest fans.

It’s a subtly powerful movie that has so many messages. This isn’t a movie review but …see if you like it or maybe the messages were just for me – that sometimes happens when one person loves a movie or book and another person just doesn’t get it.

Header photo of street art take Bunbury WA during a trip in 2018.

Chosen because: Regret is an internal parrot which makes the eyes blind to the potential of the present moment and your future best self – seemed appropriate to the content today – have a beautiful day x

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