I watched “Forrest Gump” for the umpteenth time last night. For me it is one of those movies that if I find it on I will watch to conclusion every time. I often wonder what draws me to that particular film and what it says about us as human beings. While most people chose to believe that Mr. Gump, due to his intellectual lacking was a lucky guy whom the fates watched out for, last night I began to wonder if something else wasn’t really going on in that film. Yes, I know that it is a movie and that the likelihood of something similar happening is slim to none. But, that is not really the point of any movie. For me the most profound lesson last night was that Forrest Gump was never anyone else but Forrest Gump. In a pivotal moment of the movie he says to Jenny, the abused and confused love of his life “I’m not a smarty man, Jenny, but I know what love is”.
That is the magic of Forrest Gump. He never stopped to think if he could or should be able to do anything he was asked to do or wanted to do, he just DID IT. He didn’t set out to be a football hero or a Vietnam War hero. He simply did what came natural to him: he ran and he protected and loved his friends and family. He was a man acutely aware of whom he was, but rarely lamented about who he was not. He took everyone at face value and their word. If they chose to make fun of him he did not or could not notice. He was too busy living his life. He was a man of his word. Whether taking care of his dead friend “Bubba’s” family or helping “Lieutenant Dan” to realize that the loss of his legs was not the loss of his life. And to be clear, he did not do all of what he did intentionally. Rather, the strength and honesty of his character helped others see the best in themselves.
He was steadfastly loyal to his mother, his friends and the love of his life Jenny. Despite her inability to see the beauty she carried, he was always there to remind her. In contrast to Forrest, Jenny, who was intellectually superior to him, was plagued by self doubt and PTSD caused by her father’s abuse and alcoholism. And that is what 98% of us would do as well. It is the normal human condition. We spend time in self doubt sewed by any source of trauma in our lives. We are unable or unwilling to forget the damage we have suffered.
But Forrest Gump was able to see life as a “box of chocolates”. In other words what you bit into was what you got. There is no judgment about that, just a clear message that things are what they are. There is no focus on getting the wrong piece. You simply move on and hope for the best in the next bite. There are no guarantees. We might get a strawberry cream or chocolate nougat.
I would like to think that the magic of Forrest Gump is that he never stopped to think about the past very much except to say “That’s all I have to say about that”. He was always present in the moment and hoped for a better future. He was always grateful for the experiences of his life. He ran when he wanted to run, slept when he wanted to sleep, loved who he loved, and took the time to recognize the beauty of life wherever he found it. I hope one day to do the same every day.