I watched Bonnie and Clyde today. You know it, right? The great 1967 film with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty (who never seems to age, by the way). The film is just terrific, and contains one of the greatest bank heist scenes I’ve ever seen.
When we first meet Bonnie, we see her tired and bored in her small-town bedroom. She doesn’t say a word, but we know how she feels. When she looks out her window and sees the handsome stranger Clyde trying to steal her mom’s car, well…you can watch it to find out.
The point is, when Bonnie hooks up with Clyde, he represents something to her…something more than witty and subtle conversation.
Maybe what he represents to her is freedom.
Bonnie ran off on a whim, swept away on a caper of crime, murder, and mayhem. After a long time in a small town, is that sexy? Is it alluring? Take a look at that word ‘freedom’ again. What does it really mean? Is it the ability to do anything you want whenever you want? Does it mean tearing across the country on a caper of craziness?
I don’t think so.
True liberation means having the discipline to refrain, as well as do. I can hear you asking, “How can that possibly be?” Well, I think it has to do with getting control of the inner life so that we are emotionally liberated, as well as physically free.
If you’ve read my blogs, then I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but I really enjoy pondering this idea of discipline. I’m not just talking about leaving the Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer. I’m also talking about disciplining the life of the mind. Have a little discipline to change your perspective on something in your life. Maybe appearance is only half the story. Maybe there is a higher purpose to something that you can’t really realize. Maybe, like Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie, you are clinging to anger, fear, depression, anxiety, or boredom without really knowing what life might be like if you just let go right where you are…or saw it all from another perspective. You don’t need to “change” everything, everyone, or every circumstance to suit you, and you sure as hell don’t have to “understand” every single thing in life.
I was moved to write this post (it’s actually an extension of an earlier post!) when I saw Bonnie and Clyde today. Why? Because it got me thinking about my life and the lives of so many on this planet. So many things look fun, exciting, and sexy when we are discontent. We think that amazing things or great changes await in the next town, in the next bottle, in the next argument, or in the next adventure. But in the end? Well, in the end, unfettered actions can cause us to lose everything.
I guess maybe the best thing to do is wake up in the morning not with a commitment to do whatever you want or to expect the local townsfolk to act how you desire, but to have the courage to do what you must. If making an honest, anonymous living in a small town is your calling, then make the most honest living you can. Dream big, yes, but dream in accord with your core values, and have the patience for revelation. You are somebody because you live…not by the excitement or infamy of how you live. If you stay true to you, then perhaps joy will come from the idea that you can’t always control the world by “making” things happen. Perhaps it is appropriate to refrain — to hold the tongue, stay the hand, or stop the thought. Sometimes the most unbelievable events and insights come from where we never expect (right where we are!), and not from the things we think we have to create. Right here, in the midst of our malaise, anger, boredom, extreme excitement, racing thoughts, or anxiety (that we so much want to escape!) can come the most precious gifts…gifts that don’t ask us to take a journey of reckless, unfettered actions.
Have the discipline to “allow” what is right here, right now — in your everyday, often-anonymous life. You just might find the greatest liberation of all comes from the greatest discipline.