On Glass and the Meaning of the Battle

This is something I wrote at the beginning of 2019 after watching the movie “Glass”. Since the thoughts captured in this article resonate with the purpose of the new humanfactor blog and with my latest reflections, I have decided to post it here again. Something to ponder over while I am working on new content. Enjoy!

Some time ago I saw the movie “Glass” (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6823368/). I often go to the cinema and it is rare that a movie gets me thinking about its main message for more than one evening. This one did and I find it valuable just for that. Here I would like to summarize my thoughts that were inspired, perhaps even triggered by this movie.

The main message for me was the significance and permeating presence of the battle between two forces – belief in oneself and self-doubt. And these, I think, are indeed the true game-changers. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve more than by trying to walk the safe road and remain as realistic as possible. By believing in yourself you, in a way, unlock your inner, perhaps dormant, superpowers (also known as talents, natural abilities). On the reverse, as soon as self-doubt creeps in, you have unleashed your mightiest enemy that is most difficult to overcome, and it feeds off your superpowers gradually draining your energy and making you acquiescent.

The movie illustrates the story as an external event allocating characters to symbolize each of the forces. This is what movies do, they work with our perception and imagination using symbols for the messages their directors wish to convey. So, in a way, it is a language of symbolic images. What struck me in the movie was how clear this language was and at the same time how ambivalent the characters were. Almost all stories of mankind have a central battle and two sides – the “good” and the “bad”. In life, however, things are usually more mixed up. The good guys are not all that good and the bad ones – not all that horrible. It depends on perspective.

I think it is, therefore, more about the battle’s own meaning and about finding a way not to succumb to any of extremes. Perhaps a battle is needed to maintain balance, perhaps especially at the beginning to serve as an impetus for change, although I prefer to believe that in the long-run cooperation yields more constructive and more long-term results. In either case, there is a duality. Probably we should say – at least duality. The more you zoom in, the more sides and variations you find. If, on the other hand, you look at a bigger picture and on a more general level, some differences start looking more like commonalities. In “Glass”, for me, the battle is about both our individual internal struggle to find and keep the balance between self-doubt and belief in oneself, as well as our collective external environment’s influence with the goal to maintain power over steering the behavior of people.

Things like self-doubt and power to steer behavior may instinctively feel like something negative, while belief in oneself and living one’s full potential may feel very positive. I don’t mean to say they are not. However, after watching this movie, I am once again reminded of the general principle I agree with – in life, things are never just black or white, there are many colors and very often many of them combine in one whole in unpredictable ways. In other words, it is never simply straightforward. There are always unknown unknowns.

Self-doubt can be driven by various reasons. It can come from a place of manipulative sabotage, control or it can serve as a grounding mechanism to avoid losing touch with reality and hurting oneself or others. Similarly, self-belief can be driven by the goal to aggrandize oneself or by an inner urge to become who one truly is and follow one’s heart by being and doing things one believes can make the world a better place. I have always loved the question “why”, it is very revealing, and I am convinced that we can understand each other better by paying attention to the motivations, reasons for what we do, say, think and feel. This may help avoid many misunderstandings, conflicts, and premature conclusions. However, it is only too often that the real answers to many of such “why” questions are increasingly difficult to come by because too many people can too easily manipulate information. And so, when the outside world is withholding answers, the only place left to look is the inside world.

In the movie, there are a lot of twists and turns that sway the characters (and the viewer) from believing to doubting and back, like a pendulum with its never-ending swing. It becomes clear that relying on the outside world for those most crucial answers is naive at best. Surely, no one living in at least some kind of society can avoid that, but full “outsourcing” of your inner core determination to the external influences is detrimental to that very inner core. We are part of nature and nature loves diversity. However, history shows that we have a tendency to strive for uniformity. We may say that we like diversity, but if we look at our education systems, healthcare, work principles, still in the majority of cases we see uniformity and certain sameness holding their strong positions. Uniformity is easier to shape, mould, steer and – control. Herein again lies an inherent battle – between diverse individuality and homogeneous sameness. It is, therefore, our inner world, that inner core of our individual personality that we need to consult to find answers to most important questions. Especially when self-doubt comes visiting.

Each of us has their own inner hero’s journey. I think we are here to take that trip.

keep exploring!

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