No human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption. – Gandhi
“I have been a scoundrel my whole life,” actor Joaquin Phoenix declares in front of the prestigious Oscars audience, and later to the world via TV and social media. “I have been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with. I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance.”
These words reverberate through the audience, each person reflecting on their own thoughts and deeds, as Joaquin continues a speech that is sure to go down in history. I think of my own life; I see myself as a ‘good’ person with strong values, yet I have hurt people I care deeply about and those who never did me any wrong. I have, without any thought, gossiped and derided and judged. In my relatively short lifetime, my choices have placed my selfish desires over the greater good, and I have chosen to be blind to what I do not want to see. It hurts to admit these things to myself – to you. My ego doesn’t want to see that shameful part of myself.
And I know I am not alone. We all have erred, gone against our higher judgement in some way. Perhaps we are all relative scoundrels. Yet, we have also forgiven those who have made misjudgements, we have gifted second chances to ourselves and others and we offer the benefit of the doubt more often than we may realise.
Our ability to draw upon our compassion, to forgive, is what can make us shine. That’s what gives us hope. And that’s when we are at our very best. Joaquin continues, “When we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other towards redemption, that is the best of humanity.”
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen.
Instead of seeing our differences and our failings, instead of comparing each other, instead of placing one cause over another, what if we focused on our commonality? We are all longing for the same thing; a more loving, inclusive and peaceful world. A chance to upgrade to the very best version of ourselves. A chance to remember that we are all interconnected. That we are one.
If love and hate are opposite sides of the same coin, and indifference is the true enemy, then we are more ahead than we may realise. The fact that we care so deeply, even though we sometimes disagree, even though we sometimes act based on pure emotion, even though we are misguided at times, is truly beautiful. Together, our humanity is moulding a world more exquisite than the finest of all the Arts. We are living, breathing masterpieces. We are something to behold when the light shines upon us and we are a force of magnificent benevolence when the light shines out of us.
And as Joaquin suggests, the goal we are all working towards is within reach: “When we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.”
The wise words of the man who played a joker most of his life, and then got to portray The Joker to the world, and win an Oscar for Best Actor, strangely echoes closely the contemplations of Lao Tzu:
“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Joaquin elegantly finishes his speech with a lyric his late brother wrote at just seventeen years old. As is often the case with the innocent-wisdom of youth, it is profoundly memorable, pure and true.
Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow. – River Phoenix
What did you think of Joaquin’s speech? What part resonated most with you? Do you feel inspired to forgive others and/or yourself? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
With Love and Compassion,