As a meditation teacher who works a lot with cancer patients, many of whom are going through the toughest times of their lives, I’m often asked, “What can I do?”
We are carrying so much collective stress right now that it's easy to slip into overload and zone out. I remind people of the bare poignancy in Helen Keller’s words that often keep me going: “I am only one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” If we would all only just do the something we can do we would make of this old world a new world.
One of my favorite movies is a Chicago period piece called, “The Untouchables,” starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert DeNiro and Andy Garcia. Fair warning – it’s violent.
It’s 1920s prohibition Chicago, land of the corrupt. Everybody seems to be on the take, from judges to police officers. Young, inexperienced Federal treasury agent Elliot Ness (played by Costner) comes to Chicago to take down the notorious, larger-than-life, gangland kingpin and crime boss Al Capone (played by Robert DeNiro).
It’s not pretty. For most of the film, Ness is no match for Capone. The odds are overwhelmingly against “the good guys.” Their back and forth eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth terror only benefits the undertakers.
Ness realizes that in order to get his man he’s got to change things up. Realizing he can’t go it alone, he enlists the help of a sharp-shooting rookie police officer named George Stone (played by Andy Garcia) and a savvy veteran beat cop named Jimmy Malone (played by Sean Connery). To round out the team he invites the infectiously innocent IRS accountant Oscar Wallace to saddle up in some pretty fabulous Giorgio Armani finery as well. It’s Hollywood celluloid at its best.
The turning point in the film takes place in an old Catholic church where Sean Connery and Kevin Costner have convened a “come to Jesus meeting” between themselves. Their current game plan just isn’t working. If they’re going to turn the tide and win this war with Capone, they both know they’ve got to think the thought they haven’t been able to think so far.
It’s all hush hush in the back of the church when Sean Connery pierces the veil as he looks into Kevin Costner’s eyes and begs the question, “What are you prepared to do?” It’s as if Costner is hearing for the very first time. The two emerge from the church enlightened.
James Baldwin said a long time ago: “People pay for what they do. And still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it, very simply, by the lives they lead.”
If we want more peace, joy and equanimity in our lives - all of which are available to us 24/7 - we need to have our own come to Jesus meeting with ourselves in a sanctuary of silence. Sharon has pointed the way and provided the necessary guidebook. But it is up to each one of us to honestly and fully answer the question, “What am I prepared to do?” The simpler question is, “Are you willing to sit?”