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We can't skip to the life

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

If you start reading a book at the end, it won't make sense; The Victories won, the Loss, the Redemption, the subtle (or less subtle) alterations to a character's...character! We wouldn't appreciate the end for what it is. At all. Same with movies and TV shows. You have to watch the whole thing to understand and appreciate the end.

And you know what makes the BEST movie and book endings? The kind that happen after intense conflict to overcome, struggles to face, oppression to stand up to, evil to vanquish. It's those movies and books where you have to "suffer" through the hard-to-watch/read parts in order to earn the true appreciation of the ending. In order to...earn the ending! If you don't endure them, the ending is not quite as powerful. A good example of this, for me, is the movie The Color Purple (1986), directed by Stephen Spielberg, based on the novel by Alice Walker.

The Color Purple is a beautiful yet heart-wrenching story about a young African-American girl, Celie Harris, who has had to face trauma, abuse, sadness and difficulty her whole life.

(I think it's safe to say this will not be a SPOILER since this movie is over 3 decades old, and the book is even older).

She had two children by her step-father, who are then taken from her and she grieves for them her entire life. Then she is forced to marry a much older man, Albert, at a much too young age, who essentially treats her as a slave. Albert takes a liking to Celie's younger sister Nettie and allows her to stay with them, which provides the one joy in Celie's life, but when Nettie refuses his sexual advances, he banishes her from his house, forcing the two sisters apart (don't get me started on that heartbreaking scene). Over the years her sister wrote her, but Albert always hid the letters and Celie never knew her sister was even writing her. She continues to be overlooked and abused by her husband, and is made to feel like dirt for not being the woman he loves, Shug Avery, and always had to step aside whenever Shug came to town. The twist is that Celie falls in love with Shug, who returns her affection, and tells her she is beautiful just as she is, which is probably the first time she has heard that in her life. Celie not only looked forward to Shug's visits, but also tried to run away with her, until she was prevented by Albert. During one visit, Shug finds the letters from Nettie that Albert hid from her and she finally gets to see that her sister has never forgotten her, but rather had written more letters than could be counted! After more years of abuse, Celie finally learns to stand up for herself and leaves Albert (which is another powerful scene!) and it isn't until the very end of the movie, that she is at last reunited with her 2 children and her sister (I'm literally tearing up now).

Celie (left, played by Whoopi Golderg) and Nettie (right, played by Akosua Busia)

This is one of my favorite movies, and yet I have never wanted to watch it again. The hard scenes are too hard. I find myself only wanting to see the end, the wonderful ending full of redemption and triumph. But if I never endured the entire movie to get to the end, it wouldn't have meant anything to me. The powerful, emotional moments in this movie would just not have the impact if you didn't watch the suffering that led up to them. And you wouldn't feel that intense overflow of exaltation for Celie at the very end, knowing she deserved that peace and happiness so very, very much.

It's the same with music. There are amazing symphonies and choral pieces written that have beautiful themes at the end, but you have to endure some quieter, sadder, dissonant, uncomfortable musical parts before you get to the more pleasant, satisfactory parts that make you feel on top of the world. I have certain songs on my playlist that I'm tempted to skip to the end, and sometimes I do. I often don't feel "up to" hearing the darker parts, the uncomfortable parts, but somehow it feels like cheating when I skip them for the glorious endings. One example (of many) that I could think of is Benedictus by Karl Jenkins. While the entire piece is harmonious and positive, it is quiet, repetitive and dare I say "drags on" until you get to hear that iconic climax that leads to the grand finale. Jenkins makes you wait 5 minutes and 25 seconds to hear it. That's a long time, when you are expecting a glorious ending. You must listen for yourself to truly understand what I mean.

I guess I'm talking about delayed gratification, a concept we are all familiar with. We are taught that things are always better when you have to wait. With books and movies we have the power to skip to the end. But with life, we don't get to make that choice. Life is going to happen, at the pace it is going to happen, and the hard parts are simply going to happen alongside the easy parts. The difficult times bookend the happy times (or for a glass-is-half-full viewpoint, the happy times bookend the difficult times). We don't get to skip to the end of our lives, or certain chapters or scenes in our journeys. We must endure them, feel them deeply and get through them, and only then will we truly appreciate our happy endings. Only then will we have earned a true appreciation of it. We all deserve a happy ending, no matter what we have done in our lives, because in God's eyes we were all created for the sole purpose of achieving our happy ending that is Heaven. But there is much to accomplish on the journey to that ending, and we don't get to skip any of it!

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