One of my favourite films ever is a 1980s comedy movie called Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s a film about a guy who skips school for the day to show his friend a good time by walking him around Chicago. They eat in a fancy restaurant, watch the stock market, go to one of the worlds tallest buildings, view an art gallery, drive a fast car and watch the ball game, all in one day!
I read recently, however, the deeper meaning of the film was that Ferris actually took him to Chicago to rescue his friend from suicide. He wanted to show his friend that life was still worth living by showing him what the world has to offer – art, trade, sport, fine dining, architecture, city life, music, and the value of friendships.
Over the hundred times (literally) I watched the film I had missed the deeper meaning. This wasn’t a film about a guy just selfishly having a fun day and getting his friend to tag along, this was a film about a young man who made a selfless act to save his friend (if Ferris was caught by the crazy headmaster who was pursuing him – he would not graduate). Yip, 100 times watching the film and I missed the real meaning!
Interestingly, at the beginning and end of the film Ferris looks at the camera and says “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” Life does indeed move pretty fast. We are consumed with doing our jobs, managing our businesses, reacting to stuff that comes at us and pushing forward our own agendas and plans. With all this activity, we do miss a lot. We miss what’s really going on below the surface with people that are close to us and with people we don’t even know. And maybe we also miss what’s really going on with ourselves.
So, it seems to me that one way to get a deeper sense of it all is to stop everything, put your coat on (because it is really cold out there) and start walking. It will take a bit of time but you will start to do something we rarely do – you will “think” and then you will do something even rarer – you will “reflect.” And as you think and reflect you will start to observe the world around you. You will see things you have never seen before in yourself and others, you will get clarity on stuff that has been to date confusing, and perhaps you will also have conversations with strangers that will give you rich insights and perspectives that will help you, and others, on the journey. Then, you may start to have deeper conversations with those who you normally only engage with at the surface level.
I recently did an evening walk around Belfast. What did I see? I seen the usual busy rush of people coming and going, some great buildings, and some amazing food. However, look a little deeper under the surface and it takes you to a different world; a homeless girl who looked not much older than my young daughter, a business owner who behind the jovial trader was a guy struggling to care for his sick wife and his son who also has his major struggles, a young guy who just left his home in England with the hope of turning a hobby into an enjoyable enterprise, and a homeless man on the street who has no hope other than the possibility someone would dare to treat him as a human being, even for a brief moment.
On that walk of thinking, reflecting, observing and conversing, I easily learnt more in two hours than the last six months of just “doing.”
“Life moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you might miss it” Ferris Bueller