Terrence Malick delivers yet another profound masterpiece with The Tree of Life that offers an inspiring look into human development, parenting, philosophy, religion, grief and death, karma, spirituality, and God. The movie stars Sean Penn (adult Jack), Brad Pitt (Mr. O’Brien), Jessica Chastain (Mrs. O’Brien), and Hunter McCracken (young Jack). The story is essentially about a family of three boys with a former Navy officer father (representing the way of nature) and a kind, loving mother (representing the way of grace). Furthermore, it clearly depicts a son’s fall from innocence into shame as disappointment and rejection are constantly projected onto him from his father figure. However, it is much more than that as the story also demonstrates bigger questions regarding God and why life is the way it is and offers us amazing insight into more existential philosophy. Let us begin,
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” – Job 38:4,7
After the scripture the film opens with, what I’m interpreting as, the unified eternally flowing energy of Divinity or Divine Consciousness while Jack narrates, “Brother… Mother… it was they who led me to Your door” The full meaning of this will be realized as the film progresses for now we can note that Jack is referring to his spiritual awakening.
The Way of Grace or the Way of Nature
We then see a young girl in her youth, presumably Mrs. O’Brien, as well as clips from the family’s life as Mrs. O’Brien narrates: “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try and please itself, accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself, get others to please it too, likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy while all the world is shining all around it and love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end…. I will be true to you, whatever comes.” We then see Mrs. O’Brien receive a letter that her son has died and how her and Mr. O’Brien are stunned and devastated by the news. This event goes on to set the stage for the entire film as we witness the evolution of the O’Brien’s deal with the grief of losing a child/brother.
The Mother’s Grief
At first we see the mother’s absolute distress over the event through lines such as, “I just want to die and be with him”. Clearly the grief is overwhelming and we get to see the power of attachment and its ability to create endless suffering in our lives, especially regarding death and losing a loved one. Seeking solace, Mrs. O’Brien visits her pastor who tells her, “He’s in God’s hands now…” to which she replies, “He was in God’s hands the entire time, wasn’t he.” This is a significant point she makes because in Reality we are always one with Divinity, there ultimately is never a separation to begin with. As her confusion continues she asks God, “What did You gain?” This questioning of God comes from not understanding our immortality and the truth of eternal life and thus there is no possible gains/losses regarding whether someone lives or dies within this lifetime. Within the perspective of eternity such notions are silly to be concerned about. Also without an understanding and awareness of karma/eternal consequences life seems tragic, harsh, cruel, and unfair, especially in situations like this. Yet, all things are in perfect alignment with perfect love in every moment and all attachments to belief systems otherwise are stemming from limited awareness. In Reality all is perfect and full of love, there are no accidents, mistakes, or coincidences in the universe. Everything is exactly as it should be for the greatest love and progress without exception.
The Father’s Grief
We see the father’s grief expressed through his realization that he projected his own shame onto his son, this is clearly demonstrated through the lines, “I never got a chance to tell him how sorry I was… he used to punch himself in the face for no reason, he would sit next to me at the piano and I’d criticize him for the way he turned the pages. I made him feel shame, my shame… [beginning to cry while softly stammering] poor boy, poor boy…” This is the most heartbreaking of experiences to have to be continuously exposed to ever since learning of The Continuum Concept, human development, and child psychology. Consciousness and the mind are naive and therefore accept whatever is imprinted onto them, thus everything is learned through modeling. Parents’ ignorance is always passed to their children and we don’t seem to understand the incredible power parents have in molding an innocent human being for better or worse. As we continue, this movie is the absolute perfect portrayal of this concept. Nevertheless, always remember there are no victims in the universe, all karma is inherited rightfully so according to what is necessary for the greatest good.
Jack’s Spiritual Journey
The film then shows the energy of Divinity again as Jack narrates, “How did You come to me, in what shape, what disguise?” We then see adult Jack confused and still lost even in older age along with a continued upset regarding the anniversary of his brother’s death. “I see the child I was, I see my brother, true, kind… he died when he was 19.” We then see Jack at work distracted and unable to be grounded. He’s become successful it seems in worldly terms yet his inner reality is still full of struggle as learned from childhood. He asks, “How did I lose You? Wandered, forgot You?” Jack’s character is spiritually confused and lost and this is beautifully depicted by showing him wandering through a desert landscape trying to find peace of mind, at which point we hear the narration from his brother…”Find me” It should be noted that the lost brother/son throughout the film is essentially a symbol for Truth, God, Peace, and Innocence. Thus the brother is beckoning his confused brother to come home.
Significance of the Bird Scene
It can also be pointed out the beautiful depiction of attractor fields within consciousness as a huge flock of birds move and dance as one flowing energy. This is also readily noticeable in schools of fish in which it is quite apparent they are moving as one. This is stunningly obvious in proving that it is essentially all the same bird/fish rather than a group of separate individuals. All them are equally representing the same expression of consciousness and hence move completely synchronistically/simultaneously. Thus in the short clip of the huge flock of birds flying together as a flowing energy and unified whole it is clear they represent one field of consciousness.
Seeking to Understand Divinity
Mrs. O’Brien’s grief and confusion over why God would do such a thing to her continues to be revealed to us as she wanders in the woods and asks God, “Was I false to You?” We then see the Energy of God again as her narration continues, “Lord…why?…. where were You?”
Next we see glorious depictions of creation and cosmic beauty within the universe. Galaxies and stars being born through the radiance of energy exploding and expanding and forming spectacular gravitational shapes of alignment. Essentially the infinite glory of the universe is unimaginable and Terrence Malick’s artful depictions at this point in the film are absolutely awe-inspiring. While these beautiful scenes are taking place the narration continues with, “Did You know?” “Who are we to You?” “Answer me” Mrs. O’Brien is pleading to understand why such things would happen if God is all loving along with seeking to understand Divinity in general and what humanity’s relationship is to that Divinity. Again, without an understanding of karma and the realization of unity with Divinity (formally known as Enlightenment/Nonduality) such things are misunderstood and the Christian God starts to seem like a contradictory, unloving God, hence her confusion.
Creation of the Earth and Emergence of Life
As the galactic creation continues we then see the formation of the earth. As a side note, let us recall the humbling fact that this magnificent earth is estimated at 4.54 billion years old. Mind you homo sapiens have only been around 130,000- 200,000 years… which is an absolutely tiny fraction of the totality of earth’s existence and yet the ridiculously destructive impact humanity has had on our beautiful Mother is very pitiful. The cosmic arrogance is absolutely astounding and is a direct result of the limited selfish ego/primitive consciousness of humanity and it is imperative that we evolve into the higher conscious beings we are capable of becoming through forgiveness, compassion, and grander awareness of love, gratitude, and humility. Nevertheless, the narration continues,
“We cry to You…my soul, my son, hear us”
We then see the evolution of life on the planet starting with the most basic of building blocks of cells beginning in the ocean, spreading to land, and the eventual emergence of dinosaurs. We then see a scene depicting nature expressing a moment of grace as a raptor allows a dying dinosaur its peace as it passes, at which point we hear, “Life by Life, I search for You, my hope, my child”
An asteroid then comes and the film progresses with the earth being ‘reborn’.
Beginning of Life, Learning What to Expect
Jack’s spiritual inquiry then continues as he realizes “You spoke to me through her (his mother), You spoke with me from the sky, the trees, before I knew I loved You, believed in You… When did You first touch my heart?” We then see the metaphor of his conception, being with angels before inheriting the body, and then being born. With the birth of baby Jack we get to see his beginning of life experience as he explores and learns what life is supposed to be like. When the new baby arrives, because of not being completely fulfilled in his infancy, young Jack is now upset that he doesn’t have full access to the mother’s attention and love. Thus he acts out periodically to try and regain attention and priority. He also expresses ego ownership of things with the expression of “it’s mine!” This is all typical of the primitive ego emerging and establishing itself. Due to ‘non continuum’ parenting, the child’s lack of trust is quickly formed from realizing that the mother’s love is not unconditional. This is essentially first learned by ever being out of the guardian’s/mother’s arms for a long period of time or having to sleep in a crib. (In nature, which our ancestors evolved in, we would never have thought of putting a helpless newborn into a stroller, crib, or anything separate from a guardian’s constant warmth and protection because doing so would have been extremely unsafe.) The vital importance of constant loving human contact, especially from birth to eight months, has been readily documented in the medical communities finally, even after being quite obvious to many cultures for centuries.
The film then shows us many examples of the children demonstrating their innocence and sponge like open-mindedness. Again, consciousness is naive and accepts whatever is imprinted onto it. Thus a child comes into life inheriting a certain karma (overall theme of conscious awareness) that then is manifested through one’s particular birth circumstances, the parents and their karmic awareness, one’s culture, place in the world, level of affluence, ethnicity, gender, interests and value systems, religion, belief systems, and endless other qualities that contribute to the attractor patterns formed within consciousness that make up the human body and psyche. In this particular example, we see the father’s inability to be nurturing and calming to the child as he is representing the embodiment of ‘the way of nature’ and therefore is less inclined to be affectionate, soothing, and loving. Meanwhile the mother is affectionate, kind, playful, and loving representing the way of grace.
Jack’s Fall Into Shame
Jack’s fall into shame quickly takes place as his father continuously projects his own disappointment onto Jack trying to make him into what he believes he should be, essentially a stronger embodiment of himself. In the process the father ultimately is just projecting his own misery onto his son by not extending unconditional love and acceptance of his son’s own path. Instead he seeks to control his son and teach him how he should be, which he does through sternness and domination of authority rather than through proper modeling (which goes on to cause endless contradicting torment for Jack).
At the dinner table scene we get to see the first example of the father’s disgruntled attitude projected onto Jack. He most obviously demonstrates this through his avoidance of praising Jack and as the mother tries to draw attention to Jack’s positive attention at school Mr. O’Brien immediately talks about something else and turns up the music. He then expresses what he believes as love and affection by strongly putting his hands on little Jack while kissing him on the head. The father’s love is clearly shown through sternness and even has to ask, “Do you love your father?” to which Jack replies with “Yes sir.” This interaction demonstrates Mr. O’Brien’s belief systems and his military background that makes him a great symbol of the way of nature. He is unaffectionate, angry, contradicting, shameful, and ultimately has no idea what true love is. It can be noted that the father loves his children as best he knows how and like most parents, simply doesn’t know any better and is truly doing what he thinks is best and most loving.
Jack sensing confusion regarding love and his parents expressions of it asks his graceful mother, “Who do you love the most?” to which she responds, “I love you all three the same.” This is a perfect example of the equality of grace while the father’s ways have been strictly projected onto only Jack (at least from what we see) which makes him feel ostracized, targeted, and resentful.
Consciousness’ Naiveté and Curiosity
Another great example of the development of consciousness and the human psyche comes from the scene of the boys making fun of an old drunk stumbling and then they see a man with a physical disability who walks in a similar fashion and are in shock and confusion. Suddenly they’re exposed to the notion of something ‘unfortunate’ happening to another and are confused and saddened by the event as well as feeling bad for unknowingly making fun of it. Next comes exposure to criminals and their desperation and extreme anger which again triggers confusion as to why things are the way they are and a lack of understanding of why others have the lives they do. The boys are continuously confused about God, life, innocence/love, fear, and karma and are seeking truth as demonstrated by the question, “Can it happen to anyone? Nobody talks about it…” Consciousness is curious and wants to understand life and naturally responds with compassion and tenderness towards others and is always seeking evolution so long as the proper teachings are provided.
In this case, they are not, and thus confusion continues as Jack prays to God, “Where do You live? Are You watching me? I want to know what You are. I want to see what You see.” Jack is asking the basic questions of God and wanting to further understand this Higher Power that he is being taught exists through religion and his parents. Yet there isn’t a fullness of understanding provided and thus his fall continues through repeated exposure to limited perspectives of fear and shame. His father teaches, “Your mother’s naive, it takes fierce will to get ahead in this world, if you’re good people take advantage of you. Every one of these top executives, you know how they got there? Floated right down the middle. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything you can’t do. Don’t do like I did, promise me that.” As this conversation concludes we see Jack put down a stick he was carrying and starts walking like his father. This is an incredible significant example of modeling and how true learning comes through modeling and one’s words are more or less irrelevant. The true teacher is an embodiment of the teaching itself.
Teachings of Victimization, Fear, and Unfairness
The quest to understand life and God continue as we see the scene of the family at church as the pastor teaches of the miseries of Job and the belief that ‘good’ people cannot escape misfortune. This is then further added upon by the father teaching “Wrong people go hungry, die. Wrong people get loved. The world lives by trickery. You want to succeed you can’t be too good.” Mr. O’Brien’s teachings are obviously based in fear, shame, and victimization which completely stunts Jack’s ability to understand love, trust, and innocence as his fall from innocence progresses.
In the beginning of the film we also heard another one of Mr. O’Brien’s teachings to Jack, “The world’s gone to the dogs, people are greedy, keep getting worse, they try to get you into their hands” Again, this is all reinforcement of the limited belief that there are endless victims and perpetrators in the world, and thus fear needs to be constant. One can never be too careful in a sense because as soon as you show happiness someone will seek to take it from you. This is actually demonstrated perfectly as Mr. O’Brien is trying to teach his sons how to fight (which it can be noted, is totally unnatural to them). In his instruction he even says, “you act like you’re scared, like you don’t want to fight… the minute you see him blink… Crack him!” This is just another example of his ultimately cowardly, shameful ways, especially regarding the fact that he’s teaching children how to fight to begin with. Those who enjoy/promote violence represent primitive, carnal themes of consciousness.
The Disgruntled, Ignorant Father
Mr. O’Brien continues to show his anger, harshness of fierce discipline, and inability to enjoy innocence as his young boys smile and chuckle at the dinner table. One son is told to leave and then Jack is particularly humiliated in front of the family. Jack also feels torn because his graceful mother doesn’t seem to ever stand up for him due to Mr. O’Brien’s domineering presence and thus Jack continues to learn he can’t even trust her to protect him. Because Jack is the oldest he receives the harshest of discipline and projections from the father. This sense of being targeted and seemingly hated by the father is then added upon by the discovery that his younger brother has a musical gift and Jack has to watch as his brother is favored over him while Jack continues to get only negative attention.
The father’s ignorance is in thinking that by constantly being correcting of his son that he’s being loving and guiding yet in reality he’s doing the complete opposite. Jack quickly develops a feeling of rejection along with a deep hatred for his father. This begins to be revealed through Jack’s narration regarding his father, “Makes up stories. What’s in the words? He says don’t put your elbows on the table, he does. Insults people, doesn’t care.” This is yet again proving the point that it is only one’s modeling and example that are relevant otherwise the guardian is realized to be a hypocrite and thus despised for their contradictions. Jack is then further psychologically rejected and devastated by his father when Mr. O’Brien tells Jack as he’s going to bed [in my own words], “I remember your birth…. I wasn’t there.” Jack is quickly falling from innocence as Mr. O’Brien continues to teach him he is unworthy of love.
The Death of a Child
Another profound experience that triggers the boys confusion regarding God, His methods/love, and karma are perfectly demonstrated through witnessing the death of one of their friends. The death of a child is always intriguing and seems so out of place if there is a God of perfect love watching over us. Jack demonstrates his curiosity of God by asking, “Was he bad?” “Where were You? You let a boy die. You’ll let anything happen (as Jack comes into contact with a boy with a burnt scalp, as well as a scene showing a group of boys running and playing in toxic fumes) Why should I be good, if You aren’t?” Jack is realizing that the depictions of God that he has been taught are extremely contradicting and thus cause him to be resentful of God. Likewise, the father is the subconscious model for God and hence we see the perfect correlation between Jack realizing his father is a hypocrite as well as feeling like God is too. Therefore jack turns to shame in order to seek security since it is something he can at least control.
The levels of shame, disappointment, apathy, and fear are addicting because embracing fear and self-loathing becomes more comforting then to try and seek transcendence. For example, it is easier for Jack to learn to accept his father’s shame of him then to keep resisting it, even if it is just a projection and not actually real. Jack is perfectly innocence and lovable yet he keeps being demonstrated otherwise and thus he is living up perfectly to what is being projected onto him. As a result Jack starts scaring his brothers and fighting with them in order to feed his subconscious desire to be hated, feared, disliked, and further reinforce his own shame of himself.
Mr. O’Brien’s Projections of Disappointment and Shame
Mr. O’Brien continues to represent the disgruntled father who projects his own unhappiness onto his son by being upset with Jack’s yard work. In reality the father is upset with his own life situation and instead of accepting that, projects his disappointment with himself onto his son, an innocent child, which is incredibly cowardly and shameful. Yet he is naive and innocent himself and doesn’t realize that he’s doing so, as is the case with all ignorant parents. The themes of consciousness before self-honesty and courage are unable to truly think about others and are ignorant, arrogant, destructive, and ultimately selfish as is perfectly demonstrated by Mr. O’Brien. Ultimately Jack only wants to be loved and out of desperation hugs his father who responds with confusion and eventually steps back, finishes criticizing Jack’s work and then walks away. Yet again, Jack is left feeling unlovable, hopeless, and rejected. His father continues to embed this into Jack’s psyche by telling him, “Toscanini, once recorded a piece 65 times, you know what he said when he finished? It could be better. Think about it…” What Mr. O’Brien is clearly teaching Jack in this scene is that whatever you do in life will never be good enough. Hence Jack’s shame, self-rejection, and self-hatred.
Evolution of Parenting
Jack narrates, “Why’s he hurt us, our father?”… “He lies” Jack is confused as to why one of the people in our lives that is supposed to love us the most doesn’t seem to and instead actually hurts them and lies to them. The ignorance of parents, especially fathers, through humanity’s history has been astounding and it is absolutely crucial that fathers in particular, evolve and learn to be more loving, affectionate, kind, gentle, controlled, and demonstrate wisdom through modeling. Children respond to love and affection not sternness and anger. The thought has rarely crossed many parents mind’s that perhaps children are acting out because they don’t feel loved and therefore don’t respect their parents and not that the child is just ‘being a child’. What society has accepted as ‘normal’ of parenting and child raising is actually incredibly backwards and far from what nature intended. Children naturally want to go along with what is socially acceptable and love to be of service to their parents and others. All behavior otherwise such as tantrums and selfishness are completely taught and unnatural. Western society and the ‘me’ culture seems to have forgotten our natural inclinations of love and tenderness towards our children and each other.
Father’s Anger and Ignorant Behavior
The next scene demonstrates this perfectly as one of the boys tells the father to be quiet at which point the arrogant father lashes out at his child for being disrespectful, throws Jack, who rises to try and defend his brother, into the closet and then the other son outside like a dog. It is intriguing to note while Jack is in the closet he turns off the light when he hears someone coming. This is his attempt to make sure and be suffering in case the father opens the door. Nevertheless, this outburst of anger at the dinner table is unfortunately very familiar to many families, including my own growing up, and is representative of primitive, infantile parenting.
Mr. O’Brien continues his narcissism as he projects his anger to his wife as, “You turned my own kids against me, you undermine everything I do” at which point we finally see her stand up for her children by saying to Mr. O’Brien, “how do you like it” as she puts her hand into his face as he did to his son. Mr. O’Brien then grabs her forcefully and asserts his control over her until she finally surrenders and accepts her powerless situation. The way of nature is domineering, arrogant, selfish, controlling, and ultimately primitive. It has no real power, which comes through love, and therefore has to rely on force to assert itself. This behavior is essentially pathetic and childish, we must evolve…especially the men of this world who think aggression, force, and violence are reasonable or perhaps even enjoyable options of resolution.
Grace Restored, Temptations Arise
Suddenly the father leaves on a business trip at which point we get to see grace restored to its rightful place as the guiding light within the family. The children immediately respond with joy, happiness, freedom, and love. The mother is now free to teach her boys the way of grace as demonstrated through the narration: “Help each other. Love everyone, every leaf, every ray of light. Forgive.” The way of grace represents a more evolved theme of consciousness that is loving, kind, forgiving, compassionate, and grateful. Recall, the evolution of consciousness is essentially the evolution of love.
Jack witnesses the neighbors fighting, which continues to model to him that anger and inability to love is to be expected of men. Furthermore, temptations arise within the group of neighborhood boys and Jack is unable to remain strong against the coaxing of the the other boys, one in particular. They go on to put fire crackers into a bird’s nest with eggs in it, bang and kick things to be loud and intrusive, break windows, tape a frog to a toy rocket, and torture a dog. As all this unfolds the tempting boy tells Jack, “They’re just trying to scare you, keep you ignorant” in reference to parents teaching him not to indulge in destructive behavior. The temptations confronting Jack are to explore selfish shameful behavior rather than accept his opportunity to explore grace and innocence. So even though the father is gone the temptation now arises for Jack to decide between continued shame or accept forgiveness and grace.
He unfortunately falls to temptation and suffers a complete fall into shame and loss of innocence. When she leaves, Jack goes into the neighbor woman’s home and steals from her and quickly is overcome by the defiling feeling from doing so and does everything he can to forget it such as trying to hide the silk slip he stole before eventually letting it float down the river. We see clearly how distraught he is from the experience as his innocence is symbolically completely lost. Jack officially cannot seem to control himself and knows it. He has fallen from grace and feels he can’t possibly accept it within himself anymore. Hence he says to his mother, “I can’t talk to you, don’t look at me.” This perfectly represents his self-abhorrence and inability to accept love for himself.
Jack says, “What have I started? What have I done?” His soul is crying out as it knows it has fallen into the dark recesses of shame. He then continues to want to wrestle and fight with his brothers. All he really wants is love but doesn’t know how to find it anymore. He therefore acts out in order to try and get some sort of attention even if it’s negative (he’s just feeding his subconscious desire to be reviling). When consciousness falls into the themes of shame, regret, self-denial, fear, and apathy like this it’s as if the soul truly forgets that they used to be kind and loving. Consciousness goes into a state of ‘love amnesia’ in the sense that it totally forgets and rejects the idea that it was ever lovable. Thus, it falls into the seductive temptation of being addicted to suffering in order to at least maintain control in order to not be hurt anymore. Since one learns that others’ love cannot be trusted the psyche then forms the belief of ‘I’ll just go ahead and reject and hate myself far more than anyone else could so that others’ rejection and hatred doesn’t hurt anymore and instead only reinforces my own hatred which gives me more control.’ Thus we see that all suffering is self-created and therefore is ultimately just narcissism. All ‘evil’ is just primitive, impulsive, infantile narcissism in which a soul becomes addicted to its own misery and thus creating misery in others. Misery loves company and therefore the lost soul’s goal is to make everyone else as miserable as itself.
Expressing this narcissism, Jack now says to his mother “I want to do what I want, you know, you let him run all over you.” Jack is referring to Mr. O’Brien’s ability to control and oppress her and how Jack’s had enough. He wants to be able to fully indulge in his self-hatred and act on his impulses to ultimately destroy himself. This is representative of the ego’s most primitive levels of existence as its self-destructive beliefs lead one into addiction to one’s own misery and suffering. These themes of consciousness and their transcendence are thoroughly explained in the book A Path Traveled.
Sensing his own fall, Jack asks “How do I get back, where they are?” referring to restoring his innocence like his brothers. Again, consciousness once fallen into the darker recesses of the ego’s narcissistic control, seems to forget that love and innocence are always present within one is simply denying and rejecting them from oneself. Hence, all suffering is narcissism since it is technically completely self-created and not based in truth. To believe that one is a reject of love/God/life is a lie that one comes to accept as truth and as a result only causes endless suffering. However, it is only an illusion as such. We are always perfect, innocent, divine, and full of love, it is only a matter of remembering it.
The Father’s Return and Jack’s Inner Torment
The father returns from the trip and seems to continue to confront Jack and add to his already intense degree of shame and self-hatred. The father then contradicts his own teaching that he gave Jack earlier in the film by saying “There are things you can’t do, but there are things I can’t do either.” The contradiction is that earlier Mr. O’Brien told Jack to not let anyone ever tell him he can’t do something… Nevertheless, Jack reflects his self-hatred by saying “It’s your house you can kick me out whenever you want to… you’d like to kill me.” At which point Mr. O’Brien clasps his hand on the back of Jack’s neck and just stares at him sternly with no reply. Thus not really correcting Jack for his self-loathing statement but instead responding with more sternness and inability to love and console his tormented son. Jack realizes he truly hates his father at this point.
Jack asks his mother, “Dad…how was he born?” because he can’t comprehend why his father is the way he is. He feels cheated by life and is the epitome of self-rejection. The next scene shows Jack being tempted to kill his father while he’s working under the car. Jack would absolutely love to indulge in this temptation but by grace doesn’t succumb to it. Instead he asks God, “Please God kill ’em. Let him die. Get him out of here.” He then continues to express his inner torment by randomly yelling at his father, “She only loves me!!” leaving Mr. O’Brien taken aback and confused as to his son’s anger. Jack’s expression of inner torment continues as he shoots his trusting, innocent brother in the finger with a bb-gun and then comes the most perfect line describing these states of consciousness,
“What I want to do I can’t do, I do what I hate.”
Jack continues to demonstrate his acting out for attention and being annoying to his brother. However, finally we see Jack’s deliverance provided through his brother’s grace and forgiveness. Through his brother’s ability to forgive him and see him with compassion and empathy Jack sees that he is lovable and able to let go of his suffering and that he doesn’t need to keep feeding it. The transformation and climb out of the darkness begins for Jack by accepting his pitiful state for the true self-created misery that it really is. “What was it You showed me? I didn’t know how to name You then. But I see it was You. Always You were calling me.” As his brother forgives him, Jack learns to be more kind to others as demonstrated through playing with the burn victim boy and placing his hand lovingly on his shoulder as Jack’s brother had previously done unto him.
The Father’s Humble Realization
The father’s shame suddenly dawns on him as he loses his job and realizes, “I wanted to be loved because I was great, a big man. I’m nothin’. Look, the glory around us. Trees, birds. I lived in shame. I dishonored it all and didn’t notice the glory… I’m a foolish man.” The father sees that this whole time he was chasing after the ego’s illusions of external fulfillment in the forms of respect, wealth, and power. These things are all hollow as a source of fulfillment in and of themselves however and only lead to more frustration and problems. The only way to find peace is to go within and as he states, see the glory all around and stop dishonoring life by not being grateful, happy, and loving towards all. Although he may not have fully learned this he at least demonstrates humility in this moment and embraces his foolishness. He then apologizes to Jack and gives love to his son as best he knows how and yet we still see his awkwardness with affection and gentleness. At the conclusion of expressing his feelings regarding his son he shakes his hand and slowly walks away. This is just demonstrating his own inner struggle and ability to love himself. Everything is a projection and nothing is ever personal. If someone is unloving, such as angry, it is simply because they are unloving/angry with themselves.
Jack’s Spiritual Quest for Peace
We then see the family preparing to move as Jack narrates, “Father… Mother. Always you wrestle inside me, always you will.” Jack is ultimately torn between grace and nature (narcissism) and therefore is finding it difficult to accept which path he wants to embrace due to their contradicting ways, hence Jack grows into a conflicted adult who is still searching for peace.
The Way of Grace and Love
The mother then extends her wisdom and blessing as they leave their home, “The only way to be happy is to love, unless you love, your life will flash by. Do good to them, wonder, hope.” At which point the film comes back to the beginning as the mother is walking through the forest and dealing with the grief of losing her son. We then see adult Jack seeking solace along his spiritual journey as he walks through the desert while narrating, “Brother. Keep us. Guide us. Till the end of time.” While in the desert he comes to a doorway and hesitantly walks through it which is metaphorical of his transformation and spiritual acceptance and rebirth. We then see the Earth’s inevitable demise as the Sun explodes and transforms into a white dwarf. This is depicting the fact that all form shall pass and thus it is our spiritual reality that is eternal and infinitely fulfilling rather than any indulgences/attachments to the world. Hence Christ’s teaching of it is better to store up one’s treasures in Heaven rather than on Earth where moth and dust can corrupt.
Heaven and Letting Go of Suffering
The younger brother then narrates “Follow me” as Jack’s spiritual journey takes him to the last bit of the film depicting angelic and heavenly realms. We see someone rising from the grave. An aged and withered hand turned to youth. Jack walking amongst fellow souls and falling to his knees and bowing at an angel’s feet. Families are reunited in love for one another, angels holding and kissing children and so forth. All are walking with a peace, happiness, and child like wonder about them. The mother and her child self are depicted and doted upon by an angel as she says, “I give him to You, I give You my son” symbolizing her release of suffering and attachment to his loss, restored peace of mind, and return to love and grace within the knowledge of eternal life and perfection in all things.
The film then concludes with the Energy of Divinity eternally flowing as the representation that all life is within the Grace of the Divine.
This film was an absolutely inspiring depiction of the innocence within all and that all ignorance is only taught/learned, which for me brought forth immense compassion and forgiveness for self and others. I hope that this review was helpful, especially in regards to making the evolution of consciousness more apparent as well as the power of projection and parenting influences. I am extremely grateful to all who participated in making this film and providing it to us all to learn from. May we walk on a blissful path and awaken the eternal happiness and innocence within us that is waiting to be discovered. I love you forever and always, we are perfect divine beings of light. Namaste’
Peace and Love always-