13 November 2008

show and tell

kim and i host a church small group at our house. every once in awhile we have a show and tell night where one person shares something important to them or their development as a person. this week it's my turn, and we're going to watch "the motorcycle diaries". and since the old blog is named after the movie, and even exists because of a trip that was partly inspired by the movie, i thought i'd say a bit about it and its impact on my life here, as well.

after i graduated from college, i wasn't sure what i wanted to do with my life. i thought i might want to do medicine or some kind of scientific research, so i decided to spend a year trying both out. i started out doing research in lincoln, but my ultimate plan was to find a job researching somewhere in europe, and then to come back and work in a hospital the rest of my "extra" year. so a few months after graduating i was getting the research experience i'd need while exploring grants and options to work abroad. and then i saw the motorcycle diaries.

if you don't know, the movie focuses on a year or so in the life of che guevara, before he became a revolutionary, and sort of looks at the development of some of his ideals about equality, justice, and defending the downtrodden. if you just know him as the guy on t-shirts, or even if you know him as the guy who fought various revolutionary wars all over the world (and especially in cuba), you might be surprised to learn that he was just a few exams from completing his medical education and becoming a doctor in argentina when he began a journey that took him from the southern to the northern extremes of south america. and it's that trip that the movie is all about.

there's a lot about the movie that really resonated with me the first time i saw it--"restlessness, impassioned spirits, and a love for the open road," as che narrates in the introduction, for example, that i think helped to make the movie make such a big impression on me. but there were also bigger things about caring for people and about realizing lasting and meaningful change in people's lives, that served to articulate and identify for me the answers to some questions i'd been struggling with in terms of what i wanted to do with my life. i wouldn't say the movie made me feel or think a certain way, but i think seeing the movie and responding to it allowed me a glimpse into my own perspective on things.

but even more specifically, there's a scene that changed "being a doctor" from a potential career to something that i felt some part of me had been born to do. it's the scene pictured above, and in it che has been asked to visit this old sickly woman whose health has recently worsened, and as he examines and talks with her he treats her with such care and dignity and gentleness that i felt like i was watching some incredible, sacred work being done, and it seemed to me like the most amazing thing someone could do with their life. and in that moment i began changing my plans for the next year--as the movie played on, i wiped the research plan from my mind and first started planning ways to do medicine, and then to do medicine in the context of the sense of discovery and poverty i'd seen in the movie, and finally to try out medicine in south america. by the time the movie ended, i'd decided on a plan of action that ultimately led to my trip to ecuador, and has ultimately led to me studying medicine here in chicago.

the movie influenced me in other ways, too, but if i was going to make a map to retrace my life, this movie, and even that scene, would serve as a sort of signpost in the road, and even a direction on the compass. as the movie's tagline says:

"deja que el mundo te cambie, y tú podrás cambiar el mundo."


aaron wk said...

mmmhmmm love it. hay que tener un carácter maleable y cambiable para que algo te cambie como te ha cambiado esa escena. me considero afortunado de ser amigo de una persona tan perspicaz e iluminada. : )

nunface said...

great story. thanks for sharing.

Brian said...

very cool jeremy, but where can i get the t-shirt with your face plastered on it?

Dave said...

I had no idea you were a Motorcycle Diaries fan. It's been one of my favorites for some time. I'll be Alberto to your Ernesto any time.