> Spirituality > Personal Growth

The Film is Rolling

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Brief moments can be excruciatingly slow when projected on a movie screen.

When the C Theatre at Industrial Light and Magic isn't being used to dazzle visiting journalists, it's used for dailies and nightlies… At dailies each morning, artists and supervisors watch work that has been digitally rendered overnight by ICMC's powerful server farm. At nightlies, they review the work that has been done during the course of the day.

It struck me that very few businesses bring colleagues together once a day -- forget twice -- to review what they've achieved. And what a great motivator (and sometimes scary prospect) it must be to know that your work will be projected in from of your peers, everyday, on a 19-foot-high screen. (Scott Kirsner, Fast Company, May 2004)

Everything in the physical world has a spiritual lesson for us. Imagine if you were to sit down with family and friends at the end of each day (we'll exercise compassion and limit ourselves to only one viewing per day) and watch a video (or DVD) of your day. What would they see? Would you be pleased with what they saw?

Hopefully there would be some wonderful moments --- instances of consideration and thoughtfulness and kindness. But possibly there would be some other times as well -- times that seemed but seconds in your day but are now rolling slowly and excruciatingly across the screen. Times when you lost your temper (is that my face all red and contorted?), gave in to your body (did I really eat that third piece of cake?), or forgot the needs of others.

Imagine the humiliation you will feel, the discordance between the public image you try to project and the private reality. This is a taste of the Jewish vision of hell, Gehenom.

Not as sensational as a devil with a pitchfork. Not as dramatic as raging fires and evil imps dressed in red. But a lot more powerful. Because the consequences are forever. The opportunities lost, the distance created from the Almighty can not be recaptured once we leave this world. This is going to be the only movie on the screen, playing over and over and over… How foolish, how destructive those momentary weaknesses now seem.

Always Watching

But the Torah doesn't promote a picture of unremitting doom, of unbridled pessimism. The point of this image, the power of this idea, is not its ability to discourage but the chance to uplift and motivate us. Perhaps if we remember that we are being filmed (fulfilling all our fantasies of being an actor!) it will affect how we behave. It will impact our choices. It will make taking the high road an easier path.

I use this tool in a simpler form. If I'm sitting in traffic and the driver in front of me seems incompetent (don't they all?) and I'm in a hurry and impatient (aren't we always?) and what I really want to do is slam my hand down long and hard on the horn and scream something unpleasant, I think, "What if the driver of that car is the revered and respected rabbi who lives down the street?" Wouldn't I be mortified when he turned around and saw me? Wouldn't I be extremely embarrassed to have reacted with such hostility? So I stay my hand.

Ideally we should remember that we're never alone because the Almighty is always watching us.

I've found this to be effective in many situations. (Yes there are times when even this image isn't enough to counteract my emotions. But it's improved my batting average.) There have been some studies that suggest that people who are very overweight do their real binging in private. If anyone saw them, they'd "die of embarrassment." Once again this tool can be implemented.

Ideally we should remember that we're never alone because the Almighty is always watching us. But for those of use that need a little human help, we'd probably eat less, scream less, and be "kinder and gentler" if we were being watched by our boss, our spouse, our children.

Maybe we wouldn't lose our temper at the bank if a close colleague was standing nearby. We probably don't yell at our spouse and children when the neighbors are visiting. And we probably eat with restraint at a banquet for charity.

We have tremendous self-control within our power. We just have to choose to exercise it.

Video Editing

Imagining a peer review of your day can lead to behavioral change. Recognizing that an ultimate review of your life will indeed take place can motivate re-evaluation and significant growth. Just think, after 120 years, that movie of your life will be run -- and if you don't like what you're going to see, then remember: There's a way to edit the video.

Imagine you've made a big blunder, but now realize your mistake, regret it, and commit never to do so again.

Now image that exact same situation comes along -- another opportunity to fall prey to your darker side. And what happens? This time you say "no." Your self-control wins out.

In this case, the video of your previous blunder gets deleted. Why? Because now you are not the same person who committed that blunder; that old video segment no longer reflects the reality of you. That is the power of teshuva, genuine change. And it's available to all of us, at every moment. Now if that driver in front of me would only step on the gas…

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