Salvation lies within.
This popular passage carries myriad meanings, from the figurative to the literal. In rewatching an old favorite flick of mine, “The Shawshank Redemption,” we find heaping spoonfuls of both.
Andy DuFresne, the lead character played by Tim Robbins, realizes that despite being in prison for murders he didn’t commit, he can release himself. Again, both literally and figuratively.
For those of you unfamiliar with this film (spoiler alert!), he accomplishes the former by using a rock hammer — which he hides in his Bible — to chip a tunnel to freedom through the wall in his cell. He manages the latter by preserving in his mind such things as the beauty of music. Some things, Andy says, no one can confiscate.
The irony of “salvation lies within” is that so many people preaching it, like the prison warden in the movie, seem to be seeking external guidance. If they’d only search inside themselves, like Andy, they’d find an internal compass that will steer them straight as long as they follow its direction.
Hope remains at the root. The man Andy befriends at Shawshank, Red (Morgan Freeman), calls hope a dangerous thing that can make a person crazy. But DuFresne denies this charge, deciding that he can “get busy living … or get busy dying.”
“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are just too bright… and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice,” Red tells himself in the film.
Hope wrestles with reality on an intimate level when one is literally caged behind bars, but it also happens broadly, like when people perceive their jobs to be dead ends. We’re capable of achieving anything we set our minds to, so long as we maintain the right attitude.
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies,” DuFresne says in a letter to Red.
Our opportunity is as limited as our outlook. When walls are put up before us, there are ways around them — or over, under or through them, as Andy discovers.
Knowledge plays another key role in unlocking possibility. DuFresne, for instance, had studied a bit of geology, so he knew a thing or two about rocks. Realizing that his prison cell was made of a crumbly stone, he discovered that with persistence — literally chipping away at the wall, one night at a time, for years — he could set himself free.
As a quick aside, some kudos are due to Kukui Grove Cinema for bringing back “Midnight in Paris” for a special return one-week engagement that wrapped up Thursday. Instant classic.