Thursday, April 29, 2010

The perversion of intent: A cautionary tale

The movie 300 (as opposed to the actual battle as narrated by Herodotus) depicts the Battle of Thermopylae where the Spartans, led by their heroic King Leonidas defends the pass between the Trachinian Cliffs and the Thracian Gulf against an overwhelmingly superior force of Persians led by Xerxes. Now, the Spartans were approached by Ephialtes, who's portrayed in the movie as a severely deformed creature, the child of a former Spartan soldier.

He comes up to Leonidas and asks for entry into his army so that he might serve and do his part against the Persians. This was a noble intention and Ephialtes was certainly brave to volunteer to embark on such a suicidal mission. Unfortunately, because of his deformity he was not able to hold his shield properly and therefore fit into the Spartan phalanx formation which was their main source of strength against the numerically overwhelmingly superior Persians. And thus, despite his unquestioned bravery and the nobility of his intention, Ephialtes had to be rejected in order that the Spartans and their phalanx formation could be used.

Here's where something bad happened. What started out as a noble intention to serve was warped and twisted by Ephialtes' ego and the spirit of service and self-sacrifice which initially motivated Ephialtes was deformed to match his grotesque body. His previous nobility turned into bitterness and the bravery now turned into vengefulness. His ego was bruised and his pride was hurt, to have his offer to serve rejected. He did not understand, nor did he care that what was done was for the greater good. He did not have a true spirit of service, through which one serves where needed most, and not where one wants to serve which is a projection of the ego. He wanted what he wanted, he wanted to do what he wanted, to serve where he wanted, in the capacity that he wanted, no matter what the cost, regardless of whether of whether what he wanted served the common good. He was the center now.

His heart and spirit now matching his misshapen body, his desire for revenge overcoming his sanity, his self-control lost in a lust for vengeance, the formerly noble Ephialtes betrayed the Spartans to the Persians by revealing a path where the Spartans may be flanked and thus destroyed. In the movie, he is seduced by Xerxes' offer and exclaims "Yes! I want it all! Women, wealth, and one more thing... I want a uniform".

He wants a uniform. He. His ego and desire to fit in and his sense of rejection have warped his motivations to conform to his body and now, he wants a uniform. Besides the women and the sex and the wealth. A uniform.

Later, clad in the uniform of the elite Immortals of the Persian army (I wonder what the Immortals thought of this treacherous creature soiling the elite uniform an Immortal), and looking utterly ridiculous in comparison to the true Immortals who look regal and dignified, he betrays the location of the path and this dooms the Spartans.

The uniform does not make the man. It's the man who merits the vesture and not the other way round as the government, putting weak students into good schools hoping to turn coal into gold have found out.

Scripture warns us: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Pet 5:8-9) The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, always on the hunt, always waiting to strike and to devour. When we give in to our vengefulness and our lust for revenge, when our motivations and our reasons for wanting to serve are contorted by our ego and what we want dominates and takes center stage and the good of the whole is subjugated to the desires of the one, then we are easy prey for this roaring lion.

Let's look at our motivations and not let the green eyed monster possess us. Let our grapes be sweet and not otherwise so that the libation we offer be not rejected. Let our intention to serve be motivated by the greater good and not for the puffing up of our egos and, for Heaven's sake, not for a uniform!

It's been a while, yeah, I know. I've been busy. This is in response to a comment received the other day on my Fb =)