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Into the Abyss

You can either surf, or you can fight!” — Lt. Col. Kilgore

"Apocalypse Now" is one of my favorite movies. I watched it recently and once again admired the genius of the director, Francis Ford Coppola.

With an amazing soundtrack, haunting images of war and death, and Oscar winning performances by Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, it is an iconic movie depicting a turbulent time in American history.

I admired how Coppola used art to creatively and affectively force us, the audience, to reflect upon our own values or lack of values. He used art to make a statement about the futility of war and how mankind’s lustful quest for power can be our undoing. The movie vividly depicts a man's descent into the darkest regions of the mind and into insanity.

The movie begins with Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard, being ordered to go on a mission during the Vietnam War. His assignment: to find the missing, medal brandishing Colonel Walter E. Kurtz,

played by Marlon Brando, who had gone AWOL and mad. Last they had heard, he was living somewhere in the jungle with his men. As Willard slowly makes his way down the river into the jungle, we follow him metaphorically into the insanity of war and into the mind of a madman.

It reminded me of my journey through this year, on a boat called 2020. It began with Kobe's untimely death and of learning about a crazy, weird virus called coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. It continued with the first lockdown, the strange obsession with toilet paper, the mass confusion on how one can become infected, and the controversy over masks. With the rising pandemic, joblessness, and economic uncertainty, came the rioting and the racial injustices. All along the ride of 2020, is the ticking time bomb of the death toll rising.

On the boat called 2020, we are lead by a mad leader, much like Kurtz, convincing in his deceptiveness. His loyal followers do anything’ and believe everything; it is their way of controlling a world gone mad.

The year and the boat ride ends pretty much the same way it began. We are deep into the thickness of the jungle with a new lockdown. We are in the abyss, the deepest jungle, with no answers yet, dangerously close to madness, but there is a light. At the end of this turbulent year, we are left with hope for a cure with a vaccine and a return to sanity with a new President-elect..

As I reflect on this ride called 2020, I think of the moment in "Apocalypse Now" when Willard wonders if maybe Kurtz's madness is merely a symptom. Maybe Kurtz is more sane than the world that has gone mad.

The pessimist sees only the tunnel; the optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel; the realist sees the tunnel and the light—and the next tunnel.—Sydney J. Harris

In the abyss, I remain vigilant in enhancing my physical and mental health. I continue with my routines and living as normally as I can. I cherish my loved ones and friends, for they are the biggest gift of 2020 and I hope for a return to sanity.

My boat ride of 2020 ended with a trip to Yosemite with my family. We hiked 7 miles on a quest to see the giant Sequoias. The end of the hike found us reaching the Grizzly Giant, the 25th largest tree in the world. We marveled at the giant tree.

How wise that tree was, we thought. Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-five years of watching men come and go, wars come and go, diseases come and go. Through all the storms of mankind, the tree remains serene, calm, and resplendent in its beauty and grace—a symbol of hope that all will be well.

I leave you with that beautiful image and a wish for a happy holiday season and a healthy new year.




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