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The Wisdom ofHarold and Maude

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:29pm
One of my most beloved movies of all times is Harold and Maude. I've seen it probably a dozen or more times over the last fifteen years, and each time I see something different, or feel another resonance that mirrors a change that's happened in my life since the last viewing. But the quote below, from Maude, has always stayed with me, from one of my favorite scenes in the film. It strikes me as a beautifully concise description of the development of deep empathy, of viewing life not as an enemy to be overcome, but as a friend and fellow to embrace. This applies to anything seen as an enemy, including chronic depression and anxiety.



The great successes I've seen and had in working with these states is when this fundamental shift happens. You realize that the fight for your life perhaps needed to happen, but can now be let go of, and since anxiety and depression thrive on aversion and struggle, they start transforming into something entirely different. Demons, as it were, don't much know what to do with love, and in their confusion, the light that's trapped inside them starts coming through.



So, to set up the scene, in case you haven't seen the film: Maude and Harold are hanging out in her railroad car home, and she tells the story of using her big umbrella to fend off thugs and bosses' lackies on various picket lines. Then she become uncharacteristically quiet and teary when describing some old losses in her life:







[Harold] "So you don't use the umbrella any more?" he said, breaking the silence.

She looked at him. "No," she said softly. "Not any more."

"No more revolts?"

"Oh, indeed!" said Maude, sparking back to her old self.

"Every day. But I don't need a defense any more. I embrace! Still fighting for the Big Issues, but now in my small, individual way."



If you haven't seen it, it does has some hippie trappings, but don't let that scare you off. It's a very beautiful and wise film.



(Resources: Harold and Maude, on IMDB ; Everything H&M-- site ; Cat Stevens' soundtrack )

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