Thursday, August 20, 2009

Atonement The Movie & the Practice Of (A Follow Up to Integrity Post)

Atonement: The Movie & the Practice Of

I don't consider myself a weepy type of girl. I'm more of a keep a stiff upper lip, stay strong, find the silver lining type of gal. Not because I'm insensitive, but perhaps because I'm a little guarded. As my husband would tell you, I'm like an egg - hard on the outside - but soft on the inside (it just requires a little cracking, and a lot of trust, to get past the barrier!)

That being said, every now and then a book or a movie catches me entirely off guard and hits an unexpected emotional cord - this thing can move me to tears, completely devastate me, and take over a chunk of my day or week compelling obsessive thoughts about it. This happened when I read the book The Lovely Bones (by Alice Sebold) and again last night when I saw the 2007 movie Atonement (adapted from the novel by Ian McEwan).

It was several years ago that I read The Lovely Bones, and I was extremely busy at the time running my own business. It didn't matter. Once I picked up the book, not having been told what it was really about, I could not - and did not - put it down until the next day when I finished it. I stayed up almost all night to get through it, completely captivated by the words on the page and the visual they created in my head. I was wrecked. Devastated. Immobile. Business could wait. I cried like an infant waiting for a bottle, I ached, I felt a strange sense of loss and mourning. It was unexpected and for someone like me - somewhat inexplicable.

Last night as I ran on the treadmill (the same treadmill from which my post "The Obnoxious Worker Outer" stems the gym was empty so I was free to watch what I pleased. Atonement was on.

Maybe I have been living under a rock (probably have) and I know this movie is a couple years old, but to be honest, I knew nothing about it and never had any interest in seeing it. But when you are looking to pass time on a treadmill, most anything will suffice.

I knew nothing about the movie (nor the book) other than it was a love story starring Keira Knightly. I watched it and I was sucked in, completely captivated, and then at once utterly devastated (not giving away details in the event you too were living under a rock and don't know of this movie and might watch it!)

The ending surprised me, and on came the tears. Crying like a baby on the couch (I had moved from the treadmill to our couch to watch the ending) while my husband was in the other room wondering - no doubt - what was causing this hormonal burst. (If you need a good cry, this movie might do the trick, I do feel lighter today...) Atonement is a heart wrenching love story of two people kept apart by a terrible set of misdeeds and circumstance, and the lifelong effort to atone for the damage caused.

I thought about the ending of Atonement all night. It also made me think about my post yesterday on Living With Integrity (click here:, because inevitably when someone falls short of acting with integrity - as all humans do at some point or another - they are left to face the act of atonement themselves.

I do not want it to come across that I am on some moral high ground so rich with integrity that I can scold or judge anyone. That is simply not the case. I write this stuff because I'm aware of my human failings and instead want to relate to people who go through the same human experiences. I want to live a life filled with integrity, but I, like everyone else in the world, sometimes disappoint myself. We are all human and shortcomings go inevitably with the territory.

This leads me to the concept of Atonement. (defined in part in Merriam's Webster as reparation for an offense or injury). When you make a decision in life with the absence of integrity, inevitably you will cause an "offense" or "injury" so the question is (if you are one who strives to live with integrity) what do you do to rectify it. How do you atone? Whether it's for telling a lie that was relatively innocent but hurt someones feelings, or cheating on your spouse, or cheating on something at work, or having unjustified bad thoughts or wishes on another. How long must you atone for your offense and how deeply, or do you just let it go, move on, let the past be the past? (we are not delving into the religious discussion here, that is for a different place.)

Since we all have moments of failed integrity, or errs of judgment, or flaws of the heart or mind, what should we do to make up for - atone for them? I'd say my goal is to try and learn from whatever the failing was, try to do it the "right" way the next time. I think ultimately, for the daily misgivings any of us has (not delving into truly sinister crimes), the best we can do is to recognize it, take responsibility for it both with ourselves and anyone that we impacted, and make a conscious decision to do things differently the next time. Like your grandparents probably taught you - to learn from your mistakes.

I would love to hear what your thoughts are on Atonement, either the movie, OR the concept in general. When you hurt or offend someone, what is your duty to atone for your acts?



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1 comment:

Courtney said...

Very thought provoking... you have me thinking more and more about integrity and how much it really does matter. Everything you say and do has an impact on someone. I will have to see this movie! I knew of it at the time, but never got around to seeing it. There is some light coming into my cave.