Updated: Feb 25
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." – Helen Keller
"My past has not defined me, destroyed me, deterred me, or defeated me; it has only strengthened me." – Steve Maraboli
"We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin." – Andre Berthiaume
In the movie The Natural starring Robert Redford, Major League prospect and pitcher Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) is shot and injured by a mysterious woman, ending his career, his dreams, and his life as he knows it. Following a 16 year layoff, Hobbs makes a return to the Majors but his past begins to haunt him, as he is once again sidelined due to complications from the old wound. Doctors advise that he end his career due to the seriousness of his condition and Hobbs is left in sorry contemplation and reflection.
During a decisive scene in the movie, while Hobbs is laid up in a hospital bed, he describes to his girlfriend his previous motivations and purpose in becoming the greatest baseball player who ever lived. Hobbs then comes to terms with the fact that his dream and what he had lived for has finally come to an end. His girlfriend then intervenes and validates all that has happened to him in the times past when she utters in two grand sentences, “we have two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us toward happiness”. She explains that regardless of what has happened to him that he will still be remembered, and she highlights the significance attributed with him helping others along the course of his path.
Forced to face the world with what we have had and what we have lost can be a scary reality but it is never an ultimatum and it is never a reason to cash in your chips and wave the white flag of surrender. The film involving the fictional character of Roy Hobbs forces the main character and the viewer to question the meaning and purpose of life and of what is truly important in the end. Hobbs ends up playing one last game, blasting a game winning home run into the lights, winning the pennant for his team, for his down and out manager (pops fisher) and for his legacy. The film ends with Hobbs playing catch with his son in a cornfield as his expected future wife watches from a distance.
It is an ending of quiet victory and satisfaction. One of realization and understanding. Silent sighs can be heard from imaginary viewers who watch the film from beginning to end as they witness and feel the tumultuous hardship that is defeated by the main character in the form of bribes, corruption, and exploitation. Questions and revelations appear in the immediate present for the main character who once believed that all he had ever wanted and all that was worth his attention was fame, the breaking of records, greatness, beautiful women, and luxury. In a silent and mystical way, the film forces us to ask ourselves if fate may have a different plan than that of the life we have dreamed of living. While pondering that question one must ask themselves that soul shaking question of how he or she will choose to react in spite of the hand that life has dealt them.
Could it be that your story is destined to be one of the hero who comes back against the odds and makes it all worthwhile? What better way to inspire than to stand as the tale of the one who lost it all and then came back to win in the end? The best of the best in any field can rarely testify to have never fallen or been beaten but rather their legacy remains as individuals who have been down in the deepest, darkest depths of the bottom and found a way to come back better and stronger.
One of the reasons the great boxing champion Muhammad Ali is so revered is because of his ability to comeback after great loss and disappointment only to eventually conquer his victors and claim the crown of the greatest. During a long career with only a handful of losses, Ali found a way to comeback and conquer all who had once beaten him save the likes of two opponents at the very end of his career. In the dramatic end of one of his greatest comeback victories against Joe Frazier, Ali dropped to his knees in relief, later claiming “it was like death, closest thing to dyin that I know of”. By the look of his physical appearance at the end of the fight and with the recollection of just a few words from this remarkable champion, one can feel the importance and the obligation immersed in comeback after defeat. Before death, this great warrior refused to go down without his hand raised!
In the second round of another one of his bouts against Ken Norton, Ali admitted to having his jaw broken from his victor’s right hand early in the fight, only to carry on, finishing and losing a 15 round split decision. Less than seven months later he returned to beat the man who he had previously lost to, avenging his broken jaw and continuing his legacy. Regardless of their acknowledgement in how their actions would live on to influence others, Ali, and the writer of The Natural both acted in ways that would inspire the lives of many. In the cover of a choice or a story, both Hobbs and Ali acted in matters that spell out the notion that what we do in life effects more than just ourselves.
As The Natural proceeds closer to its ending, the significance rooted in the unselfish pursuit of a goal for another person is evident as Hobbs shrugs off immeasurable pain to carry on and help his team win a pennant. The protection of integrity over financial reward becomes paramount when he turns down bribes and payoffs, insisting on morality as he advances in his own way. It was Nietzsche that once said, “to live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering” and one begins to sense, in the unraveling of the film, the necessity associated with encountering and dealing with suffering on the path to a genuine appreciation for life.
It is presented in theme that only through suffering one can recognize happiness for what it truly is. A lesson that may or may not have been intended by the writer of the film holds fast that in the face of all that occurred and despite seemed unfortunate catastrophe, the main character Hobbs did all he could to amount to the best that he was capable of becoming. He risked his health on the line to prove it! His example shows that fate may be indestructible but it doesn’t have to decide for us, it is not our end all – be all and it does not have the last word. To be at peace with one’s own efforts, their life and with what has happened to them, each individual is obliged to comeback in the face of doubt in order to win their big game! Yet one’s big game does not have to come in the guise of a pennant. It may merely consist in the likes of a simple step forward in the right direction.
Could it be that the life that you once dreamed of living can actually turn out to be hollow and disappointing? Is it possible that records, glory, fame, money and sex are not all that quenches the thirst of the human soul? Perhaps you will find out as Roy Hobbs did that what the soul sincerely values, and desires is self-respect and the courage to abide by values. Discovering satisfaction in not selling out or becoming untrue to oneself brings forth pride and maintaining the ability to count on yourself requires strength.
What makes life beautiful and unique is not what happens but how we choose to handle what happens. Its essence lies in is how we respond to adversity and how we paint the picture of our future after loss. Still the answer to the question of our fate may reside not in how we choose to respond when life seems to cave in around us, but how we reply when it falls apart once again thereafter. Will you align yourself with Muhammad Ali and Roy Hobbs by choosing to fire back with action, proving your adversaries wrong and defining your own unique personal legacy?