The Impossible: A Study in Weakness and Gratitude

The Impossible ReviewWhen Henry, Maria and their three sons touch down on the stunning shores of Thailand, they see nothing more than the raw beauty of the tropical paradise that awaits them.  But on the morning of December 26th, 2004, their whole world changes in a matter of moments.  For as the family laughs and plays in the deceptive comfort of their resort surroundings, a deep and guttural sound rises up, as if the earth itself has been shaken loose of its moorings.  And as Maria looks on in horror, an enormous, surging wall of pitch-black water comes crashing across the well-manicured grounds, engulfing the family in a swirling vortex of death and destruction.

These are the opening moments of the Oscar-nominated film, The Impossible, a true-to-life story of one family that was caught up in the nightmarish events of the Southeast Asian Tsunami.  Filled to the brim with scenes of overwhelming terror and emotional violence, this is not a film for the feint of heart.  And yet, having said that, this is one of the most profound meditations I have ever encountered on the subject of gratitude.

Over the course of its almost two-hour run-time, the viewer is constantly confronted time and time again by the near omnipresence of two simple words: “Thank you.”  And as the film continues to unfold, the power of these words continues to rise to an almost palpable force as the viewer is repeatedly subject to images of destruction and despair.  No one is capable of standing against these awesome forces of nature, but in their powerless state, everyone seems to find a way to express their gratitude.  It was as if the filmmakers had sought to create a living embodiment of an old quote by Melody Beattie:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

This, of course, got me to thinking.  Why is genuine gratitude such a difficult concept for us to latch on to in the West?  Think about it.  When was the last time that you genuinely experienced a true feeling of unadulterated gratitude?

Is it possible that gratitude, at its base root, is nothing less than a visceral reaction to one’s own state of powerlessness in the presence of one who can help?  And thus, is it possible that genuine gratitude can only be experienced by the truly powerless?

If that is true, than perhaps this goes a long way towards explaining why we in the West struggle with this concept.  For if the West has one dominant myth, it is the myth that we can control our surroundings.  And if gratitude is nothing less than an emotional response to a state of powerlessness, than it is a emotional response that many of us will never truly experience until we willingly surrender some of the myths that have come to define our lives.

“Come! Let us sing for joy to the Lord!  Let us shout out praises to our protector who delivers us!  Let us enter his presencewith thanksgiving! Let us shout out to him in celebration!  For the Lord is a great God, a great king who is superior to all gods.  The depths of the earth are in his hand;and the mountain peaks belong to him.  The sea is his, for He made it.  His hands formed the dry land.  Come! Let us bow down and worship!  Let us kneel before the Lord, our creator!”  (Psalm 95:1-6)

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