A Word or Two Before You View This Film
You design your life. We all design our lives.
So says Rilene, one of the figures in the documentary that I hope you are about to watch. Rilene’s insight is profound: The choices that we make change us – they don’t merely change the world around us, they change us. Her insight is as humble and courageous as it is profound, because while it acknowledges freedom—a gift we all treasure—it also acknowledges responsibility.
We can’t design our lives in every respect. For instance, most of us will not make careers as professional musicians or athletes, no matter how appealing we might find such prospects, and no matter how strong our desires. Talent, timing, relationships – all these things limit our power. Some things lie beyond our control, and it takes humility and courage to accept this fact.
It also takes humility and courage to face certain questions about our lives. One such question is, “How do I know if I am designing my life well? By what standard can I come to a conclusion?” This question is closely linked with another, “What is the purpose of my life? What does it mean to be fulfilled and at peace?” And these are the central questions around which the film Desire of the Everlasting Hills turns. The film does not claim to answer these questions completely. They have been mulled over, talked over, even fought over, for as long as humanity has found its home in this world. Anyone who has ever thought about whether he or she has “done the right thing,” has started to think about these questions.
One way we might approach the subject of whether or not we are designing our lives well is to think about the people we admire and why we admire them. If “to admire” means something other than “to envy,” if it means that we value someone’s self-forgetfulness, someone’s generosity of heart, someone’s sacrifice, then we may have the beginnings of a way to resolve the question of a well-lived and well-designed life.
I admire the three people whom you will see in this movie—Rilene, Dan and Paul. I admire them because of their humility and courage. I realize—and more important, they realize—that some viewers may be troubled, offended, or even angered by their stories. No one involved in making this film wishes to cause anyone distress. On the contrary. But if we are free to design our lives, then each of us will have a story, and whether or not this story is welcome, it deserves respect. It deserves respect not only for the unique mind and heart the story reveals, but also for what it may contain for others.
Rilene, Dan and Paul do not claim that their stories are just like the stories of all other people – or even of any other people. Yet do their stories share unifying themes? Yes, they do. So has this film been made for a purpose? Yes, it has. Indeed, it has been made for a dual purpose, because the film takes up not just one of the questions I mentioned, but both of them: What it means to design one’s life well, and how to know when we have really found peace and fulfillment. For in the end, finding peace and fulfillment is what the precious gift of freedom is for.
–Fr. Paul N. Check, Executive Director, Courage, Int.