This weekend I watched “Gladiator” for probably the fifty-sixth time.
I love that movie.
It had been years since I’d last seen it, but watching it this time felt as if I were seeing it with new eyes. So many things struck me as poignant, especially in this day and age.
So the hero Maximus is a natural – and extremely respected – leader. He’s a soldier but he’s also someone who’s admired and followed, and dearly loved by all those around him, including Marcus Aurelius (Caesar). Even in the opening scene, on the brink of battle with the Germanic tribes, Maximus rides through the ranks of his armies on horseback and the soldiers stand as he passes by. Just the simple sight of Maximus is enough to motivate even a man who has never spoken to him.
To his closest leaders he then gives a small speech which include the famous words, “what we do in life, echos in eternity.” This short, yet powerful, statement reminds of us all that our actions do matter, that everything we do and say has consequences, both negative and positive. And it serves as a reminder, for me at least, to live my life to the best of my ability, here and now.
And Aurelius. He’s nearing the end of his life and is realizing that Rome must be turned back into a republic, that the people must have leadership again through the senate…”to give power back to the people of Rome, and end the corruption that has crippled it.” He knows his own true son cannot and will not succeed in accomplishing this goal — he’s too weak, he’s cowardly, he’s a liar, and he’s power hungry. So he chooses Maximus to hold in trust the powers of the emperor until the senate can bring forth the new government. When asked if he is ready to accept his new assignment, Maximus famously responds, “with all my heart, no,” to which Aurelius emphatically replies, “Maximus…that is why is must be you.” Gah! Dagger through the heart!
Of course when Aurelius’s son Commodus finds out he is not to be granted the powers of Emperor, he strangles his own father and tells everyone he is now Caesar. Maximus, knowing the truth, refuses to acknowledge Commodus as ruler, and as a result he is sentenced to death.
In yet another epic battle scene, Maximus escapes the death sentence and flees to his home to protect his wife and son, but arrives too late and finds them murdered at the instruction of Commodus. He collapses from exhaustion, emotional defeat, and infection from a wound, and is later picked up by a traveling group who enslave him as a gladiator.
The rest of the movie is about Maximus working his way up from a lowly slave, to a leader amongst the gladiators, planning all the while to bring forth his revenge upon the new Caesar.
And when he finally stands before Commodus and has the opportunity to “say his name”, he gives probably the most quoted speech of the movie, “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridus, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the one true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next!”
I’ve always loved this scene. Mainly because Joaquin Phoenix plays such an incredible bad guy and the look on his face when he sees that his long-hated enemy is actually NOT dead, is priceless. But I’ve found this scene to be incredibly poignant now for another reason. Could I, when asked, come up with a succinct and powerful statement about who I really am? What my life is about, who I serve, what my goals are…As of this moment, right now, I don’t know that I could. But I’d like to start working on that.
After watching the movie I was once again reminded of how much history I absolutely don’t know.
As you may have heard, my daughters have been out of school now for almost a year, and because of that I’ve been helping my youngest with her online homeschool program. To say that I have learned as much as she has is probably the biggest understatement of the year. It is truly amazing what you can learn as an adult when you revisit education.
One of our favorite (ok, it’s just my favorite) classes is Social Studies. This year the curriculum covers American History from the colonization of America up through the election of President Obama. Right now we are in the mid 1800’s just before the Civil War has started.
And one of the tools I have been using to supplement my own historical education is podcasting. There are so many terrific historical podcasts available right now, and one of the best I’ve found is, surprisingly, produced by Newt Gingrich. I don’t follow him for politics, or even his opinion, really, but he has impressed me so much simply because of his enormous knowledge of history…all history.
He has a series called “The Immortals” which he put out around Christmastime, and it’s basically about people he believes to be “immortal” in history for their contributions to society, and the development of America. One of the best I’ve listened to is his episode on Benjamin Franklin. It’s fantastic and I learned so much about one of our most curious, and intelligent, founding fathers.
Anyway, I searched through his podcast library after watching Gladiator and came across an episode on Julius Caesar. This episode is terrifically entertaining. I learned so much about the history of Rome as well as the politics of that time and how the societal classes were divided. Such an interesting time, and now I am on a mission to learn as much about the Roman Empire as I possibly can.
Fun fact: did you know the calendar we use today was Caesar’s invention? The month July is named after him, and August after his nephew.
Anyway, enough of that side track, LOL.
And How’s My Novel Writing Coming?
Well, I’m about ten chapters into a new work-in-progress. I don’t know where it’s leading as I have zero outline or notes prepared. I only know that there is conflict in a wealthy relationship, there’s an affair, there’s a young, sexy doctor, and there might be something dark coming soon…insert evil laugh here.
I like not knowing what is coming next in a story. For me, it’s just as fun to write what happens next as it is to be a reader, picking up a book for the first time without reading the back cover. If it surprises me while I am writing it, then my hope is it will surprise you as a reader as well.
Here’s What I’ve Been Reading Lately
I read a book by an author I should have read years ago: Colleen Hoover. And from what I’m hearing and seeing online, I picked the dooziest one of hers to begin with. It’s called Verity and it’s really good.
Immediately loved her characters, immediately was sucked right into the story (warning: it’s a slightly gruesome event that starts the book off), and then I spent the rest of the two days it took me to read it trying to figure out what was going to happen next. Gah! It was so good! Gritty, romantic, intense, and creepy all in one book. Get it.
I also read a supernatural vampire romance that was good, but nothing I would recommend. I’m only including it here so it looks like I’m actually reading each month. HA! If you want to follow me on Goodreads, you’ll see all the books I read there (even the embarrassing ones).
Annnnd I am still working on the audiobook of Gabriel’s Inferno, which I am anxious to finish just so I can finally be done with the thing. I thought it was going to be so good, after all it has a movie on Passionflix and Tosca Musk has done what looks like an incredible job of bringing it to screen. In fact the movie clips were what drew me to spend the money on the audio; I’d needed a book to read during repainting the house. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the narrator, but this book has had more cringe-worthy moments than any I’ve read in a long time.
Music Can Change Your Life
Coastline – Hollow Coves
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room – John Mayer
Cold – Chris Stapleton
These are my super moody, angsty love songs that help me write some emotional relationship stories. They are also great songs for a long drive, or on a rainy day on the couch with a cup of coffee.
Speaking of coffee…
Products I’d Give up Coffee For
This new sweatshirt from Target is butter soft (even after washing), it’s got thumb holes, a long length to cover the bum, a cozy hood, double zipper, and the best part: it’s lined with fleece. It’s my new favorite thing. Check online because I think they are sold out in stores.
This will sound totally crazy but this little propane heater has saved our lives during the recent ice storm and loss of power. I bought it initially for volleyball tournaments when we had to set up team food tables outside in the cold.
It runs off of the small size propane canister (which reminds me, I need to order more), and it puts off an incredible amount of heat. It’s a nice little thing to have when you rely on electric heat and the power grid goes down.
Here’s a face serum that actually works. I don’t know what happened but a few years ago my skin sat me down in front of a mirror and said, “Hey. You’re old.” And since that time I’ve found myself using oil on my face instead of lotion. I think it follows the theory that, like a cherished old leather couch, my skin has aged and has dried the F out.
Using facial oil helps keep it soft and somewhat supple. This is a good brand and seems to have the best effect out of the several I’ve tried. I don’t usually purchase a new product more than once (because I find another one I like better), but I’ll definitely be buying this one again.
Recently I killed my hair.
No, I mean it. I’ve been over processing it for years and it finally just waived the white flag and then fell down and died. It’s been thinning and falling out now for about a year but had gotten to the point that it was breaking off closer and closer to my scalp. I had to do something. So, I cut about 4 inches off, stopped highlighting it, and stopped using shampoo every dang day. I still get my hair wet every day, because, have you seen it? It’s an unruly mess. But now I use a conditioner every day and only shampoo once a week. Here’s the conditioner I swear by. And I change scents all the time because I can’t decide which one I like best. They all smell amazing, and the best part is they are paraben and sulfate-free, so it’s a win-win for your hair and the environment.
Have a wonderful month of March. Stay tuned next month for my report on a 5-day fast I started yesterday. Have you ever fasted? I need all the details!