Tuesday, May 25, 2010



Invictus, A Movie Review

By John Taylor; 2010 May 25

I recently watched "Invictus," a movie about how the newly elected head of state brought the races together by inspiring the national team to win the Rugby World Cup (http://en.wikipedia/Invictus_(film). In my opinion this is a great film, one of the best ever done. I have been inspired to go back and watch other products of Clint Eastwood's direction that I missed, such as "A Perfect World." Invictus is a better film than the recent blockbuster, Avatar, though not as important. Why? Not because the latter made more money but because of the unique role that Avatar is playing in uniting aboriginal peoples around the world in their own cause.

Normally, barriers of distance, language and culture block them from discerning their own common plight. Anyway, although I was in tears throughout most of Invictus, at times my tears were for the human race itself. What a terrible disadvantage a world government has against nations, who can unite in a sports event in rooting for their own against another nation's gladiators. How can a world government compete against that? Maybe it will someday, if another race or races of intelligent aliens are discovered. Maybe there will be a Galactic Rugby Cup that will unite humans in a common cause someday against a formidable alien rugby team. Whether that would be a good thing, I cannot say. My tears were for the fact that we have no hope to be inspired, it seems, by anything less. Our inspiration slams against borders like invisible force fields.

On the other hand, I am not from South Africa, nor am I Afrikaans or Black, yet I was inspired by the movie. Especially by Nelson Mandela's ability to include both former rivals in a common cause, rugby. This truly was a stroke of management genius. The movie is correct to focus on Mandela's long time in prison. It prepared him to see what none other saw, and it inspired the players to put out the ultimate effort in winning against a "dream team" from New Zealand. It also shows the power of the word, how that "captain of my soul" poem inspired Mandela, and then kept the players going through thick and thin.

In a word, I was inspired by the ability of the right leader at the right time to inspire in a right cause.

This is the sort of indirect inspirational leadership that the UHJ seems want us to be aiming at by applying the Ruhi program. We do not dazzle people with revival meetings or scripture thumping speakers, we take them in and involve them in our core activities, and thereby they enter orbit. As the House said in their latest message,

"Whether the first contact with such newly found friends elicits an invitation for them to enrol in the Baha'i community or to participate in one of its activities is not an overwhelming concern. More important is that every soul feel welcome to join the community in contributing to the betterment of society, commencing a path of service to humanity on which, at the outset or further along, formal enrolment can occur." (UHJ Ridvan Message, 2010, para 4)

The Ruhi program takes an end run around our normal ways of human learning, which are slow and clumsy, and exposes us to the Word Itself. It takes us down the primrose path of faith, and from faith we derive the universal patriotism that the world needs most right now. As Baha'u'llah wrote,

"The understanding of His words and the comprehension of the utterances of the Birds of Heaven are in no wise dependent upon human learning. They depend solely upon purity of heart, chastity of soul, and freedom of spirit. This is evidenced by those who, today, though without a single letter of the accepted standards of learning, are occupying the loftiest seats of knowledge; and the garden of their hearts is adorned, through the showers of divine grace, with the roses of wisdom and the tulips of understanding. Well is it with the sincere in heart for their share of the light of a mighty Day!" (Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 210-211)



Anonymous said...

Hi John!

I also saw the movie Invictus, and had a little different take on it, although yours was interesting. I really didn't think that it was about rallying support for the South African Rugby team and or even about inspiring them to win over all odds. I believe that the main point of the movie was to show that a leader, such as Nelson Mandala, can call his countrymen to a "wider loyalty" than what they previously had. He broke down the artificial barriers of race, and of a painful past, and expanded their vision, similar to president Obama, by being a living example, thus attracting the blessings of heaven. Mandala was willing, as he understated, to show that he could change his loyalties as circumstances required, for the good of all. I doubt that he really cared at all about the sport or the team, in reality, because he had a point to make. Of course, he was sincere in his love for the people involved, just because loving his former foes would have a great effect on the whole nation. If Mandala was in a position to support say a contintental African team against a continental Asian team, or even East against West, he would have changed his loyalties further to create further unity. At least that's what I got out of Invictus: To inspire a wider loyalty.

Don't worry, John. When it comes down to it, no-one can compete with wider loyalties, and they will get wider every day. You can count on it.


Anonymous said...


Here are a couple of quotes I like a lot:

"Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Bahá'u'lláh. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men's hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided. It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Its watchword is unity in diversity...

Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men."

The call of Bahá'u'lláh is primarily directed against all forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices. If long-cherished ideals and time-honored institutions, if certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer minister to the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines. Why should these, in a world subject to the immutable law of change and decay, be exempt from the deterioration that must needs overtake every human institution? For legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, and not humanity to be crucified for the preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine.

(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 41)

Anonymous said...

The Wider, Inclusive Loyalty

A word of warning should, however, be uttered in this connection. The love of one's country, instilled and stressed by the teaching of Islam, as "an element of the Faith of God," has not, through this declaration, this clarion-call of Bahá'u'lláh, been either condemned or disparaged. It should not, indeed it cannot, be construed as a repudiation, or regarded in the light of a censure, pronounced against a sane and intelligent patriotism, nor does it seek to undermine the allegiance and loyalty of any individual to his country, nor does it conflict with the legitimate aspirations, rights, and duties of any individual state or nation. All it does imply and proclaim is the insufficiency of patriotism, in view of the fundamental changes effected in the economic life of society and the interdependence of the nations, and as the consequence of the contraction of the world, through the revolution in the means of transportation and communication -- conditions that did not and could not exist either in the days of Jesus Christ or of Muhammad. It calls for a wider loyalty, which should not, and indeed does not, conflict with lesser loyalties. It instills a love which, in view of its scope, must include and not exclude the love of one's own country. It lays, through this loyalty which it inspires, and this love which it infuses, the only foundation on which the concept of world citizenship can thrive, and the structure of world unification can rest. It does insist, however, on the subordination of national considerations and particularistic interests to the imperative and paramount claims of humanity as a whole, inasmuch as in a world of interdependent nations and peoples the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole.

(Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 121)

Ned said...

Hi John, this like your others is a very thoughtful post and rings a chord with me, one of your many readers. I wanted to mention that Steve Biko, who was killed by the apartheid authorities in the mid 1970s and was an activist for positive change in South Africa (although taken by those authorities as a violent revolutionary), advocated sport as a means of uniting people across racial barriers. His story is well worth a look, given the theme of Invictus. Biko was particularly a fan of "football" and so it is tragically ironic that the World Cup is in SA this year. I've seen no mention of Steve Biko as the World Cup opens up but it would be nice to have some kind of tribute to him. On the other hand, the manner of his death was so horrific that it might be best not to bring back those painful memories.
Further, we might note that sport, like all things in life, is a coin with two faces. One face is the competitive, win-at-all-costs, gamble, utterly-defeat-your-opponent face of the coin; the one that we can see as most popular but (as you hint) so destructive to the process of unity and harmony. The other face of the coin is the one exemplified not too long ago by entrants in a race in the Special Olympics. I don't recall the exact context, but I believe the event was in the Pacific Northwest. One of the contestants fell, during the race. Rather than continue running towards the finish line, the other contestants stopped and helped their fallen "competitor" up and they all ran together to the finish. Give them each and all a medal, I say. That is the face of the coin we should want facing up, when the coin is tossed at the beginning of each event.