What X-Men taught me about life
I’ve watched a lot of TV movies lately, including X-Men First Class.
I’ve been a fan of X-Men since I was a kid. I used to watch the cartoon on Saturday mornings. My favorite character was Wolverine, followed second by Beast, who I thought was so sophisticated. (I also liked that he was a bookworm, like I’d end up becoming!)
There was a scene in First Class that particularly stood out to me this time around despite having seen the film on several occasions previously.
The scene (which you can watch here) happens between two friends named Charles and Erik.
Just to give you some background, Erik was a Jew who lived during the Holocaust and he suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s on several levels, including losing his family. As such, there’s a great deal of rage inside of him and it fuels his hunger for vengeance. He uses his special abilities (he’s able to manipulate metal objects) on the road there.
His friend Charles, on the other hand, is a telepath who can read and control minds. He believes in using their special abilities to be better men.
In this scene,Charles challenges Erik to test his abilities by moving a giant satellite that’s across the field from where they’re standing. Erik is unable to do so, however, to which Charles asserts that the ability to do so lies “somewhere between rage and serenity.”
After asking permission to scan Erik’s mind, Charles accesses the brightest corner of Erik’s memory system, where a beautiful memory exists featuring him and his mother lighting Jewish candles when he was just a boy.
“There’s so much more to you than you know,” Charles tells an emotional Erik. “Not just pain and anger. There’s good, too. I felt it. When you can access all of that, you’ll possess a power that no one can match.”
It’s such a beautiful and touching scene! And this time around, I realized something.
We’ve all been Erik at some point or another. Many of us are still holding on to pain from our past in the form of heartaches, failures, betrayals, losses, and more.
We live in a world that can seem broken more times than not and we often coil away from it out of fear that we’ll be stung again. As a result, like Eric, we can allow that anger/bitterness/resentment/etc to fuel our every waking day.
There’s an old Cherokee legend that says that inside of every person is a fight between two wolves. One wolf represents anger, envy, sorrow, regret, self-pity, guilt, and inferiority. The other wolf represents joy, peace, love, serenity, truth, faith, and kindness.
“Which wolf will win?” asks a boy of the grandfather telling him this story.
The grandfather tells him simply, “the one you feed.”
Which wolf are you feeding?
Are you dragging your past into your future? Are you letting how things turned out yesterday to dictate today or tomorrow?
Look, the truth is I’m not telling you all of this to minimize your pain. Some of us have been through awful things no doubt. But just like Charles told Erik, the key to having the life you want lies in finding a balance between “serenity and rage” and letting goodness fuel your actions (a.k.a. feeding the right wolf). The fact of the matter is that holding on to all that baggage is only doing you a disservice and keeping you from realizing your potential.
So your mission if you choose to accept it: for the next 24 hours, deeply examine your every thought, word, and deed. Ask yourself why you’re thinking/speaking/doing the way that you are. Is there underlying fear there? Uncertainty? Embarrassment? Anger? Then ask yourself if there’s any truth to your worries.
If this thought/word/deed feels more like a shackle that’s holding you back from your true self, guess what: you get to surrender it and let it go! Cast it to the wind and never deal with it again. As such, you’ll be one step closer to who you really are.