Gladiator is my favorite Russell Crowe film next to
A Good Year.
A Good Year is a comedy and Crowe carries off the humor and romance in true Cary Grant fashion. From the first scene Gladiator launches into a brilliant action film and character sketch. Crowe’s Maximus character is revving up his Roman troops to do battle and announces, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”
That line is absolutely profound.
Each small thing we do in life echoes out into the world on a larger scale.
Anyone who spends time on introspection can get overwhelmed by thinking whether or not we’re affecting anything going on around us in this big old world. When relationships, politics, or social matters aggravate us, we can choose how to react. We can complain and argue, solving nothing. Or we can realize that each of us makes a difference by having our ripples be positive instead of negative ones.
Harnessing our ripples
Starting the work to eliminate negatives is onerous. We begin with ourselves, learning not to take ourselves too seriously and to adjust our attitudes toward others. But what about those others?
I purge negative people from my life and work to avoid adding others of a detrimental nature.
You may be forced to interact with a family member or two whose views turn toward the woe-is-me and pessimistic approach to life. You can’t always write relatives out of your script, can you? But you can turn away when they talk negatively, steering the conversation to a new and brighter topic.
At work, it can be equally difficult to avoid interactions with a defeatist personality. Once, I had a co-worker who insisted on telling me every critical statement another co-worker said about me. Including boldfaced lies. I thought, “Wow, I’ve never done anything to this person, what the heck.” Looking at the situation from a different point of view, I finally told the teller, “Stop repeating every lie she says about me. For whatever reason she hates me. There is nothing I can do to change her.”
Did the person stop saying bad things about me? Nope, she sure didn’t. But I no longer had to waste my time hearing it or have my psyche damaged wondering why she disliked me so much. I could focus my time on positive energy colleagues instead.
One of my mundane negatives is getting ticked off at bad motorists. Every city has its fair share of weird driving habits. Pittsburgh does, too. I’m a road-rule obeyer—whatever the sign or situation dictates, I do. Yielding entering a highway, flicking the turn signal at an interaction—such easy steps to take and yet make a positive impact on other drivers. When I get upset at poor drivers and want to react aggressively, I stop and think: uh oh, what if that’s someone from my neighborhood? I’ve trained myself to react nicely.
If you see a crazy (still a little left) redhead driving around Pittsburgh in her Rogue, smile and wave … you’ll help me stay on target with my goal to share positive echoes around our city—especially when behind the wheel!
Setting incoming boundaries
Even in a harmonious family, boundaries are tough to contend with. If a parent is defeatist, you have to find a way to deal with them respectfully and yet set your limits of interaction. One friend has a mother who calls if Mother Nature does something wild within five hundred miles of her to make sure she isn’t hurt. My friend can predict that if there is a storm in her vicinity, her mother will call. She simply doesn’t answer the phone. Another friend has a mother who always checks up on her. The friend is over fifty and quite responsible. She decided to set conversation parameters: Mom, if you’re going to quiz me on every detail of my day, I’m not talking to you.
It’s hard, but setting your boundaries can be done.
When to emulate others
Dad and I walked into one of the small town cafés he frequented. Dad was in his early seventies, looking and acting sixty something. I trailed in behind him, and heard a resounding array of names called out in greeting: Grif, Gil, Montana … and saw smiles everywhere. One old gent shook Dad’s hand and said, “I’ve known your dad since he was this big,” indicating about five years old. “He’s always been a good fellow.” I smiled saying I knew that.
Gilbert’s ripples were broad and far reaching even though he grew up and lived in the same small town almost his entire life. What did Dad reshape in the world around him? Everyone, I think, who came in contact with him was changed as a result of his positive outlook. In facing ALS, the medical, Veteran’s, and hospice people who met Dad at the worst time of his life were swept up in the joy he shared simply by being.
When I think about the ripples I want to cause in my world and the eternity I hope for in heaven, I think about what Dad did with his time on earth. I want to mirror that sort of positive, giving energy to everyone around me.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Maybe. Changing our attitudes and ways of approaching other people … is difficult and profound and takes deep soul-searching. If we care about our endeavors echoing into the eternity around us, channeling the responsibility for the repercussions of our actions is a challenge more of us might want to shoulder.
Back to Russell
In A Good Year, the crusty Albert Finney plays Crowe’s character’s Uncle Henry. This is a favorite quote from him, “Once you find something good Max, you need to take care of it.You need to let it grow.” From deep inside ourselves, we need to pull out goodwill and graciousness and unloose it on the world.