Of Gods and Men

by Frank Muller

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When do we experience true freedom? Is it when our most carnal desires are satisfied? Is it when our bank and investments accounts guarantee financial security? Is it when we find our “soul mate” or “best friend”? I submit that nothing frees a person more than death, that is, dying to oneself.

Linked above is a trailer to a movie titled “Of Gods and Men” which tries to provide a narrative arc of the lives of eight Trappist monks in Algeria who make a free choice to stay at their monastery even though they are given stark assessments of what will happen to them if they stay.

This film walks the interplay between our carnal desires to live and be happy (at least temporarily) versus a Faith that says our lives are transitory and the purpose is to do the good. All of us in my view feel this constant tug of war between comfort and sacrifice.

Yet ironically, we become truly free when stop trying to live. Rather, we start too just “be”. Hamlet captures this sublime moment with his infamous soliloquy:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;

To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause—there’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Translated into Texan, sometimes we just think too much. When we accept that death is inevitable, and we choose the right and good even if it means that death is more imminent, then we are free to live.

Truly free to live. It is ok to think, that I will not argue; but once we ponder the Truth it must lead to virtuous action, or it is not the Truth. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. Should we know the Truth but not accept it then by definition we do not know the Truth.

Truth demands work. Truth demands sacrifice. Truth demands our obedience to it. Once we choose our lesser good, we lose our eternal Truth.

This film captures a modern true tale of men who choose action, the moral action of the good. Their decision to sacrifice fully knowing the potential consequences brings about a joy that cannot be purchased any other way.

The punch line for this is we do not have to sacrifice ourselves to militants to arrive there. We can begin that sacrifice of choosing the good and denying our impulses and enjoy the fruits of freedom which will last an eternity today. Be kind, be cheerful, always be learning, always curious, always open to more Truth and then act in accordance with it.

May Peace be with us all.

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