Those Sunday Afternoon Movies

“The rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow.”

Yikes!  I can listen to that phrase all day long and the meaning still eludes me. Once again, this past weekend, I watched Finding Forrester, a simple little movie – great to watch on a cold, cloudy, rainy Sunday afternoon. The concept of the movie is fairly straightforward – an intergenerational plot, a growing friendship, a coming of age for both main characters, with classic good versus evil activity.  I’ve watched these types of movies before (Searching for Bobby Fischer, About a Boy, Mona Lisa Smile, Dead Poets Society), but I haven’t ever plucked out that one line that seems to be speaking to me in a bigger way.

“The rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow.”

This weekend, a gentleman, age 89, died in my home town.  I did not know him all that well; however, he was a neighbor many, many years ago and we were members of the same church.  I know his children and grandchildren.  My children know his children and grandchildren. I know his friends and acquaintances.  In fact, it is fair to say that he knew quite a percentage of the folks in my small town, and people knew him. He made the world a better place working, spending a lifetime, at a local university as a faculty member.  He used his mind to make my life better.

And today, I learned that a gentleman, age 81, – a friend of mine – died while living and working in Rome.  He was devoted to working with those in need and did so throughout his career as a Catholic priest.  Most recently, he was working at the Vatican’s North American College. Retirement was not in his vocabulary as I am quite sure that he didn’t think of himself as employed.  More likely he thought of himself as busy on a day to day basis.  And if I were asked to explain his work, my best description would be working to smooth out the path for me and those who follow.

“The rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow.”

The list of folks who are ‘at rest’, who have gone before me, and who have added to the ease at which I live is endless.  . . . Mother Teresa . . . Abraham Lincoln . . . Sacagawea . . . Mohandas Gandhi . . . Martin Luther King, Jr. . . . Susan B. Anthony . . . Pope John Paul II . . . the 89 year old . . . the 81 year old . . . all of my relatives and friends . . .  Each person on my list has managed to make a difference, to leave an imprint, right a wrong, change the world.  Each person on my list probably knew that they were changing the world, but humility in all things entered their pictures first.  Their focus was on others, not on themselves.

And I suppose the big guess that all of them have left me with is whether or not I am capable of doing for others what they have done for me.  Can I help bring world attention to poverty and suffering like Mother Teresa?  Can I walk the footsteps of Lincoln and right the injustices of slavery by effectively leading a new and emerging nation?  Or, like Sacagawea, can I change the nation’s view on the rights and status of women in a native culture?  Or like the 89 and 81 year olds on my list, affect enough change that upon death, the world trembles? With each person on my list, the size of the shoes to fill increases exponentially beyond my comprehension.

“The rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow.”

I guess in my piece of the world, I have to give up the expectation that the rest of those who have gone before me will steady me.  It was not and should not be their intention to provide a worry-free atmosphere here on earth.  It was not and should not be their plan to not only make the world a better place but to eliminate the need for my continued effort in the future.  It was not and should not be their legacy to create worldly perfection.

Rather all is unsteady and I suppose that is the beauty of it all.  It is natural for tomorrow to bring unrest.   It is natural for tomorrow to bring uncertainty.  And in my experience it is natural for tomorrow to bring more questions than yesterday had answers.

“The rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow.”

Originally, I thought spending a Sunday afternoon watching a little known film while everyone around me was scrambling to complete a laundry list of chores was a bit brazen on my part.  My body was telling me to jump up and dust something, but my mind was – as usual with this film – otherwise engaged.

I am not sure that I learned anything new; rather, I was once again pulled through a refresher on what I have always known.  Changing the world isn’t easy, but it is doable.  To top is off, changing the world is an expectation that I should have of myself; and, throughout my change the world journey, I best hold on tight as the ride – no matter how much fun it contains, how exciting it can truly be, and what I may or may not learn along the way – is going to be quite a rocky one.

The July Moon

A July moon resting in the summer sky.

6 thoughts on “Those Sunday Afternoon Movies

  1. I like it! I like it a whole lot. You know precisely what youre talking about, specifically where other folks are coming from on this problem. Im glad that I had the fortune to stumble across your weblog. Its definitely an critical issue that not enough folks are talking about and Im glad that I got the chance to see all the angles.

  2. I just watched the movie last night – having watched several times before. And the quote you call out stuck with me enough that I emailed it to myself.

    “The rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow.”

    The clear message that I get from that quote…and from the movie…is that the unrest it refers to deals with the person (in this case William Forrester, Connery’s character) who is struggling with losing someone (who is now at rest, his brother in the movie perhaps, who he speaks about going off to war, surviving, and coming back to die at home, drunk, in a car accident. An accident that Connery’s character probably could have prevented.

    “The rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow.”

    To me it speaks to those of us who have lost someone that we still had unfinished business with. A pain we have to live with because maybe we could have done more, said more, opened up more or actually prevented a tragic thing from happening.


    • Thanks for the comments. I can certainly connect with what you have said. That particular line from that movie is one of my favorite. It always makes me think and it always brings new meaning to me, just as you have done. Your thoughts are much appreciated. More to ponder.

  3. I recently started a story when there is tragic death and although I love the line of dialogue from FF i could not steal it. This is how I paraphrased it. (Keep in mind, the character that says it is not a gifted writer)

    The passed have found their peace while those that mourn the passing, not.

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