I just got finished watching Cinderella Man, which is a movie I really enjoy even though I think it represents everything that is wrong with our culture (that’s a topic for another post).
I had a little chuckle midway through the flick when Jim Braddock was training during his remarkable return to the boxing world. The director couldn’t resist.
Boxing movie? Cue the obligatory training montage!
It’s a little silly, of course. But I know it gets me fired up.
Had my wife not been in the room, I would have hopped to and done some clap pushups and shadowboxing right along with the Bulldog of Bergen. But she thinks I’m weird enough, so I didn’t.
Anyway, it got me to thinking about the phenomenon of the montage. Why do they get the juices flowing for me?
Essentially, it’s just a dirty lie. It turns the mundane into the exciting, the boring into the scintillating, the tiresome toil into a one-minute mashup. It makes it seem like that’s all the stuff you just need to get out of the way so something really important can happen.
The montage shouldn’t motivate me. It should terrify me.
I will never have a title bout. I will never have a shot at a World Championship. I will never have millions of people glued to radios or T.Vs waiting to see how I will perform.
I will never have that “important” moment.
Instead, what I have is…today. And probably tomorrow. And most likely, a whole mess of Mondays and Thursdays and birthdays and workdays, one after another, till my time has come.
Absolutely none of those days will be “important” in the sense Jimmy Braddock’s fight was. No one will cheer. No one will fight for the movie rights.
All I have is the training. All I have is the montage.
I think this is the cause of the modern malaise many live with. What is there to build up to? How will I be remembered if I’m not…important?
So we build up to the weekend or our wedding day or our retirement. And we try to be remembered by being smart or hip or rich or drunk.
Certainly there’s another answer?
Well, what the Church and saints would say is that perseverance in the very tasks being edited and spliced together is the only thing that’s important. When we realize that it’s not about what we do, but about who we become while we do it, then it’s not about the “big moment”. It’s about all the little ones. It’s about all the stuff the montage wants to gloss over.
This is the hope of sanctity. God wants to make us into someone; He doesn’t want to sit back and see if we can do something remarkable. He makes us who we were made to be when we receive His grace in prayer and the sacraments, and then He simply asks us to live excellently in whatever life we already have. That’s it.
I recently heard Dr. Ted Sri use this phrase to describe virtue (although I’m pretty sure he stole it from a Greek or something): virtue is the art of living excellently. It’s living a life of prayer and mortification so that you can have the self-control and freedom needed to be great as a husband or wife or teacher or lawyer or child or old person.
And that same life of prayer and mortification is also the only thing that allows you to truly enjoy art and music and movies and jokes and laughter and dancing and sex and food and wine and coffee and campfires and playing catch and staring at stars.
It’s the life that would let you be filled by midnight pillow-talk and then psalms before breakfast and then a day at a job you love with a lunch of delicious leftovers from that supper you made the night before and then coming home to laughing kids and then going on a walk while the sun is setting over the house you’ve filled with years of fights and naps and kisses and Christmas trees and parties and dreams.
That’s the point. That’s the important stuff.
And it only comes in the aggregate. Turning it into a collage robs that life of its true significance.
It’s easy to forget the beauty of the daily. Just last night I was feeling weighed down by the pressure the day-to-day can sometimes build up inside us.
Then I sat down at the end of the day for my prayer, opened up my Bible to where I had left off in Matthew’s Gospel. A few verses into chapter 24, it says this.
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
I smiled, sat there for a minute, and then stood up. I thanked God and went to bed.
He had told me what He wanted me to hear.
I don’t have to be “important”. I have to endure.
I have to endure a life of daily joy and beauty. I have to endure my wonderful life.
The burden is easy, and the yoke is light.