Master and Commander

A Russell Crowe and Paul Betany must see!   A story of two friends in the English Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. There is something very compelling about the sacrifice, the discomfort, and the sheer difficulty about naval life during this time frame. Take every hardship of the era and then increase it by a factor of 10;  reduce your sleeping space to  less than 2 ft by 4-5ft… oh and eliminate fresh food and that is the life on ship.


If that wasn’t enough, you’re on a little wooden vessel (let’s face it, even the largest ship in the fleet was tiny by modern comparison) and you are shooting huge iron balls into the hull. Remember, there is no search and rescue, no homing devices, no radios and limited means of communication. By today’s standards, these dudes have nothing to prove, but in that day and age, they had to prove everyday that they were men, to themselves and to their shipmates


Russell Crowe plays the consummate British Captain, dripping with King and Country, “Lucky Jack” and Paul Betany is the ship’s physician, an apolitical character– seemingly along for the ride.


One of the scenes in the movie though epitomizes the struggle men go through in defining themselves.  

A Midshipman named ‘Hollom’, the lowest officer rank in the Navy is struggling to maintain the respect of his shipmates.  It gets to the point that all the ills that occur on board are attributed to him and he is deemed the “jonah” and out of desperation, he takes his own life to free his shipmates and himself of this supposed curse.


After this tragic incident Captain Jack gives this eulogy:


“The simple truth is, not all of us become the men we once hoped we might be. But we are all God’s creatures. If there are those among us who thought ill of Mr. Hollom, or spoke ill of him, or failed him in respect of fellowship. . . then we ask for your forgiveness, Lord. And we ask for his. God be praised.”


Given the life I just described, how could this man have felt a failure. A jinx, being an officer, he chose that career, he was not “pressed into service” yet he felt inadequate.


The curse is really the same curse men have always had.  As boys we daydream about what life will be like as adults and for 99% of men it will not be as envisioned.  In fact the reality is that life is harder and the world is not really that accommodating to boyish daydreams.  I think that the loss of that boyhood vision is one of the causes of what we like to call the mid-life crisis.


Part of being a successful adult is to face the fact that your life will not always play out the way you think it will

The mature man  realizes that you have to adapt and modify those desires and goals to conform to the reality of one’s situation. That is not to mean that you give up on goals or  you don’t shoot high. I would argue that the higher you set your sights the more you are able to achieve and the farther you will go. Hand in hand with this is accepting responsibility in your successes and failures, and  the understanding that you must sublimate some of these desires or goals for the greater good of those around you. For example, you may have to accept that your ideal dream job is inconsistent with a healthy family life.


Final note, in this journey of life… 

Don’t get hung up on Plan A.   If you don’t become that astronaut you dreamed of being as a kid that does not make you a failure, it was a long shot after all, but whatever you end up doing take pride in doing it well.  Do not fall into the error of thinking you can rid yourself and others of the curse by “eliminating” the man you are and not the man you hoped to be.

Being a man is more than just a career or a singular accomplishment, it truly is being faithful in the little things, do that and you will have a legacy that far outlives the gift of your ordinary days.


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