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