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"This transcending is an inside job; it requires figuring out what is truly important in life and what truly brings peace to one's consciousness."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
He is an award-winning
His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
Many movies claim to illustrate the "triumph of the human spirit." Most of these films deliver on the promise to some degree, at least making viewers feel good that someone beat the odds -- "gone the distance," as Rocky would say.
That boxing allusion brings us to The Hurricane, the powerful story of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (Denzel Washington), who unjustly received three life sentences and served almost twenty years in prison. While director Norman Jewison's film fits within the genre of boxing movies, it is, first and foremost, a story of the "triumph of the human spirit."
Yet The Hurricane is not only a story of the human spirit -- fueled by divine Spirit -- triumphing. It is also a virtual guidebook showing how to triumph over adversities and injustice. As depicted in the movie, Carter is an inspiring survivor whose convictions show us how to achieve inner peace and be released from whatever prisons we find ourselves in.
Spiritual triumphing is transcending, the movie teaches. On several occasions, Carter refers to the great need to "transcend." Transcend what? "It is important to transcend the places that hold us," Carter says.
By that he means that in order to triumph and let Spirit work through us, we need to figure out what types of things are holding us back from achieving our greatest good. Carter recognizes that he must transcend thoughts of hatred and victimization based largely on a childhood and an adult life of racial discrimination and prejudice.
This transcending is an inside job; it requires figuring out what is truly important in life and what truly brings peace to one's consciousness. Often, as in Carter's case, the process of transcending involves wrestling with inner demons.
One of the most electrifying scenes in the movie is Carter doing just that; in solitary confinement, Carter carries on a dialogue between his two "selves" -- the so-called demon or "shadow" part of his will that urges him on to further hatred and anger, and the Spirit side of him that nudges him toward hope, forgiveness, and love.
Drawing upon his core spiritual strength, Carter finally is able to say to the "shadow," "You can't break me because you didn't make me." Later he says to those thoughts of hate and doubt within him, "It's time for you to go."
Coming through this internal dialogue, Carter announces, "I will live only in my mind and in my spirit."
He has come to realize who is truly in charge of his destiny: himself and his thoughts. He realizes that, despite outward appearances, he has the choice how to react to events in his life. As Will learned in Good Will Hunting, what others did or didn't do is not his fault, not his responsibility. He must choose for himself how to deal with what's going on in life.
With inner peace, Carter can affirm, "I am free in here (in his mind and spirit) because there's nothing I want out there."
A part of transcending is understanding what brings us the greatest peace. "You've got to find out what is true for you," Carter tells Lesra, the young black man who becomes his friend and catalyst to outward freedom, once Carter has freed himself from internal limitations.
Through his involvement with Lesra's activist white friends, Carter learns that all whites are not racist and self-serving (like Della Pesca, the New Jersey police detective largely responsible for Carter's imprisonment for crimes he didn't commit), and that the connection of Love brings one to a feeling of peace and unity.
"Hate put me in prison," he says. "Love's going to bust me out." Carter declares that it was "no accident" that he and Lesra were drawn together. He connects Lesra's name, derived from Lazarus, "he who is risen;" and his own name derived from Genesis, a male born "because the Lord has looked on my affliction."
Theirs is a union of Love, recognized and lived, triumphing over hate.