We are inspired by the people that rise to serve a cause. They etch their devotion on history and leave an indelible impression of their courage for those that follow.
We just watched two movies that captured the essence of The Enlightenment and the wave that transformed the world in the 18th century. It is still very possible that the 21st century will also be a new age of ‘enlightenment’. As we go forward in our time, it is instructive to appreciate the struggles of the 18th century – to be inspired by the spirit that moved these men.
The fascination for me in watching the events unfold in these two movies is studying the point of engagement – the anatomy of the moment of decision, the point at which destiny is set.
Thomas Jefferson, a Movie by Ken Burns follows the story of a Founding Father, the third President of the United States. And the principal author of the Declaration of Independence who etched into history the immortal words about the equality of men being a self evident truth and the unalienable Rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are endowed by the Creator, but he did not free his own slaves.
We see Jefferson negotiating one crossroads after another. He must endure the crossroads of serving the American Cause, being away from his family and bearing tremendous loss and grief. He is torn between the crossroads of the head and the heart, and the crossroad of the life of public service and then his retreat into the study of science. He embodies the spirit and struggle of America and of the age of Enlightenment.
The second movie, Amazing Grace recounts the story of William Wilberforce who led the movement to abolish slavery in the British Empire and its colonies.
Wilberforce stands at his own crossroads. He too is called in two directions, into a life of solitude and into the life of public service. At this ‘moment of truth’, a decision is made and a destiny is fashioned. The story of Amazing Grace is a story of being lost and then being found; of people being blind and then seeing.
These two men teach us about courage, about peering into the future and about seeing what must be done here and now. They encourage us to embrace these simple Jeffersonian words: “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past” and to find the cause of our own time.
© Aviv Shahar