There’s a wonderful moment in one of my favorite movies, An Officer and a Gentleman, when Richard Gere, who plays a troubled, arrogant, and selfish young man named Zack Mayo, is being pressured and tormented by his Drill Sergeant, Sergeant Foley (played brilliantly by Louis Gossett, Jr.), who understandably wants him to quit the Officer Candidate program and go home to his former petty life.
But Zack is obstinate, and despite all sorts of harsh, cruel treatment, he refuses to quit. Finally, Foley has had enough, and says that even though Zack won’t quit the program voluntarily, he, the Drill Sergeant, is going to have him dismissed.
“Don’t you do that!” Zach begins to scream in a frenzy, lying in the mud, exhausted. “Don’t you do that!”
“Why not?” Foley angrily demands.
And then the point is made. “I got nowhere else to go,” Zack cries out, trembling, tears and desperation in his eyes. “I got nowhere else to go!”
Foley lets him stay, and in that moment Zach’s transformation begins – from a greedy, selfish, egotistical brat, to an Officer and a Gentleman.
It’s an old story. Before we are willing to really change, before we are willing to make the decision to enter the path of spiritual renewal, we have to experience everything life has to offer and finally get to a place where nothing is left. We have to experience for ourselves the terrible reality of what the Hindus call Maya, what the Buddha called Suffering. We have to hit bottom and acknowledge that we have “nowhere else to go.”
Refusing the full experience of this world of sense, pain, and pleasure, is to reject the plan of God. Spiritual evolution can’t take place until involution is complete and every bit of life has been experienced. Only then can a real choice be made, and we have to make that choice from our own selves.
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