Life Lessons from Forest Gump

I just watched Forest Gump…again. And again, I loved its simplicity. I realised exactly how emotionally far gone I am these days when I found myself choking up on the scene where Jenny shouts out his name and then wades through the water in front of the Washington Memorial, he discards decorum, as he always does, and runs out to meet her. That wasn’t the only scene that choked me up, but anyway, I digress.

I realised I was even worse off when I suddenly noticed that my thoughts are running through my head in Forest’s thick Alabama accent! But there’s a sincerity in his character that few can relate to, or hope to achieve in real life simply because he was never swayed by public opinion, or negative sentiment. But this was largely because he was never accepted by them either.  

What I’ve learnt is this. The more we fit in, the less likely we are to be individuals. We’re unique, just like everyone else. We’re all struggling to present our own ‘unique’ interpretation of how life should be lived but always within the bounds and expectations of society, because we need to fit in. Isolation is too painful. So we must conform. Even our creativity is expressed within the parameters of what is acceptable by the same groups that we aspire to belong to. 

Forest was a born reject, and had no choice in not fitting in. But it seems being mentally challenged, stigmatised or an outcast is a prerequisite to living an amazing life. Otherwise, chances are that we’ll only end up being mediocre. Even if we excel, it will be the upper percentile of mediocrity that we achieve, which will seem amazing to those in the average bands of mediocrity, but nonetheless it will still fall short of amazing. 

Nothing amazing was ever achieved through conformance, and non-conformance is by its very nature a painful experience. Human nature, through its inherent survival instinct will avoid pain if left to follow its instinct. But we’re a step above animals, because we have superior intellect, reason and choice. If we cower, we reduce ourselves to animals. But if we persevere, we’ll become masters of our state, rather than victims. When we’re in this state of mastery-consciousness, we’re automatically administering the cure for so many spiritual illnesses that plague our society independent of race, religion, culture, social standing or material worth. 

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