Ben-Hur had to be seen again! I’m sure that all belonging to my age bracket would remember Charlton Heston’s movie, but then in the early 1970’s, I was too young to understand the actual story and significance of ‘Ben-Hur – A Tale of the Christ’.
Lew Wallace’s best-selling American novel, first published in 1880 has left its’ mark forever and ever. Obviously! A Tale of the Christ could never grow old. And I’m sure that for every generation it will continue to hold the heart of every viewer.
Back then in the seventies, it was the handsome Charlton Heston, the chariot race, the leprosy cave and the face of Christ that made up for the attraction; but now this time in 2016, Ben-Hur pinched my heart where it needed to.
To go back to the origins of the story, the writer Lew Wallace was not a warm or a hot Christian. In fact, he didn’t know much about his own faith. All he did then was to attend the Methodist Church without any relationship with his creator. The world today is full of men and women who are regular visitors to churches, temples and mosques and yet have no relationship with their originator. The wars are proof of what I express.
However, coming back to Wallace, he was a writer and wanted to write a never to be forgotten best-seller with Jesus Christ as the chief protagonist. You can imagine how unprepared the nineteenth century American reader was for such an idea.
Knowing full-well then that Jesus Christ would not sell to the people of the time, Wallace thought of a different approach. He told the Tale of the Christ through the eyes of a young Jewish Nobel. What turned out to be wonderful was that in the course of researching material for his work, he was at least motivated enough to read the Bible. He confessed later that he had been led towards ‘Absolute belief in God and the divinity of Christ’.
How wonderful it is today, to understand this beautiful story as an allegory on Revenge and Mercy. These abstract principles come to the viewer in the characters of Judah Ben-Hur and his brother like friend, Messala.
The world today has many such brothers gone astray due to fanaticism of beliefs and revenge of different faiths.
It’s the ‘your knife, my back’ and ‘my gun, your head’ principle operating everywhere around. As human beings, we were obviously not meant to hurt or hate, but to love and care. The news channels in our living rooms though, showcase the most unlivable scenes to our eyes.
We have been pushed so far away to the wall in stories of hate, that we have nowhere else to move and instead console ourselves that any amount of blood, noise or trouble cannot rob us of our peace; for peace is that within us that allows us to remain calm in spite of the horrible mess all around.
Acceptance has become our nature. We continue to live accepting blood spills and hate overflows with the ‘what can we do?’ shrug of our shoulders.
In a way, we are all modern Judahs (this time it is Jack Huston), loving and supporting peace but turning a blind eye to various atrocities as long as they don’t touch our families.
Everywhere we see violence, we know full well that it is only an unnecessary holding on to revenge. Like the characters of Judah and Messala, are we then racing ourselves to death, to fuel a worthless pride of retaliation?
The hopeful part though in our surroundings of betrayals is, that we too like Judah, unknowingly come across the knowledge of the Conscience which offers us a sip of forgiveness when we are falling with hatred growing out of revenge; like a cross on our frail shoulders. It is in our power then, to drink from that cup of mercy which will help us flush out the indigestible residue of hatred. Whether we sip it or not, is what will determine our future. Ironically though, it’s our tragedy that in spite of being surrounded by the fluid of freedom, we continue to hold on to our cross, tying our self to it in fear of drowning in the ocean of love.
The epitome of the movie this time is Andra Day’s soundtrack, ‘The Only Way Out’; the words tear through the heart searching its origins of love, and knowledge of mercy. It reminds us of how deaf we have gone, to be unable to hear love because of the noise war makes. It throws us down on our knees to let ourselves out of the cage of revenge and recognize that the only way out is mercy. Andra tries to sing loud enough above the sound of war, for otherwise the people as usual will not be able to hear love since they are at war. As always, ‘...revenge is so loud and the drums are so proud. But oh, I’m in a cage and I hear mercy say I’m here now and it’s the only way out’. Seeing Ben-Hur in the twenty-first century will, I can only hope make all warring nations put down their weapons of war and allow mercy to fill their hearts and let the world continue to be; because after all, that is ‘The Only Way Out’.
(Pic. Credits: Google)