Saturday, July 19, 2008

Everything I really need to know I learned from Michael Corleone

I've had a lot of time this past several weeks because the really smart, looks 25 years younger than she is, hard working and gracious wife has been at work everyday while I have summer break. Not wanting to spend more than 4 hours a day playing Medieval Total War 2 I've been keeping myself busy with other task. I rearranged the furniture in our bedroom. I bought the parts and upgraded our computer to the latest HAL9500 version. I went for long walks. I re-read Karl Popper's books “The Free Society and its Enemies” I read a series sword and sorcery books by George R.R. Martin and I watched some of my favorite old movies; including some really old favorites. Perhaps the most thought provoking of these was the entire “Godfather” trilogy which is the subject of this post.

Robert Fulgrum made a lot of money several years ago by publishing a book called “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten” Kind of an interesting topic because it shows how we as adults sometimes teach our kids to do things that we are not very good at doing ourselves. Well, when I was 5 the city I lived in didn't offer a kindergarten so I just had to figure it out in the first grade. (Maybe that explains more about me than I'd like to admit.) Be that as it may, I believe that almost everything I need to know about life can be found in the Godfather movies and I've spent several days thinking about them.

  1. It is very difficult to escape family ties. Almost every culture likes to think that they “Value their family. But I think if you look at them all cultures value their families about equally; we just like to think we are somehow special. We all, or at least the vast majority of us, pay homage to the traditions and values we were raised with. Indeed, the very act of rebelling against such traditions by some individuals reinforces those traditions. This is not to say that what we do as a family does not change over the years because traditions evolve and change or are adopted or dropped by family groups all the time. But what doesn't seem to change is that almost biological psychological connection that children have for their parents. When in the first few minutes of the movie Michael tells Kaye “That's my father, but that's not me.” she should have asked “Are you sure?” Often times we become our parents. Even when we do not like our parents. Even when we deny it. I was reminded of Genesis 2:24 last week when watching this movie “And for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.” Michael could have saved himself so much grief and trouble if he had joined Kaye's family business and left his family behind.

  2. The only way to be honest, righteous or good is to be honest, righteous or good. One of the great conflicts in the Godfather movies is the one inside Michael Corleone. He tells Kaye that his family business will be “Legitimate within five years” and yet at the end of seven years he has only moved deeper into the world of organized crime. Michael is constantly trying to get out of the business and constantly finding that he needs to do just one more dirty deed. In the end he is left with no wife, no children, no family and hope. He is old, alone and miserable because he did not take the decisive step to do his business in a legal manner. We sometimes need to simply do the right thing, come what may.

  3. Family ties may be close but they are often over shadowed by money and power. While proclaiming how much they loved each other Michael had his brother in law and his older brother Freddy killed. He turned his adopted brother into a murderer. He did this for money and power. It does us good to see what we really respect.

  4. Charity does not make our sins easier to bear. The third movie opens with Michael receiving an award from the Catholic Church. Yet we find that he is an incredibly tortured man. His good deeds can never pay for his crimes. Even if he gave everything away he would still ache for forgiveness. It is only through repentance not good deeds that we overcome our sin. This was a lesson that Michael learned to late.

  5. Even bad people can do good things. Look at the open scenes of the movie, the wedding. These are people simply having a good time. It is good. They love, they laugh and the sing songs. They don't see themselves as the evil gangsters they are. Michael gives millions to charity in the later movies. His father took in an orphan and raised him as a son. This tells me that evil can never completely overtake us. No matter how low we sink we are capable of good. That means that we can always change for the better. That is a good thought indeed.

Until Next Time

Fai MaoThe
Blogger who watches movies

No comments: