By in Movies & TV

12 Years a Slave: Is Fear Your Master?

(Author's note: Although in the category of Movies & TV, this is not a true review, but more of a plea for the reader to step out of the comfort zone and to understand that, if we are to grow as people, we must be willing to view life through the eyes of others. I implore all to watch this movie, and then find a copy of the book to read. Thank you.)

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There are times when we need to shake life up and step into a world that we do not know.

It is not always comfortable to learn the stories of other human beings. We avoid bad news. We walk away from those whose stories challenge our very soul. We ignore that which makes us cringe.

But the telling of and listening to these stories is necessary, if we are to truly understand life and human beings. Yes, we learn of horrific atrocities, but we are also to learn about the resiliency of the human spirit. We hear of the resolve and courage to keep on going, despite what life dishes out.

Oscar-winning Best Picture (2013) 12 Years a Slave was a film story that did just that for me.

Based on the autobiographical account of Solomon Northrup (written in 1853), we learn of the selling of this free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, DC in 1841 and sold into slavery. He was sent to Louisiana and worked for 12 years on the plantations before he was released.

As I watched this film, there were many moments that I was angry, mortified, and saddened that human beings could even treat others as Northrup and others were treated. I am not speaking only of the atrocity of slavery, which is reason enough to be incensed, but of the deeper level of this story and how it speaks to the choices we all have to make as we make the journey through the life that is given to us.

We each have been given life and, through a series of events often out of our control, we find ourselves making decisions that affect the lives of others. Far too often, people will use justification, rationalization, and projection to excuse behavior that we would not accept if the tables were turned on us or our loved ones. Yet, we can feel smug in delivering personalized and vengeful attacks on others.

Although this film stirred up many strong negative emotions about what others are capable of waging against others, it also showed hope that there is a capacity for us to open our hearts and show kindness, forgiveness, and love toward others.

What we do not always understand is that fear seems to be the common denominator. So often, fear is a liar and we become enslaved to it.

Let us all learn to have the courage to face it, lest we spend many more than 12 years of our own lives serving fear as our master.

© 2015 Coral Levang

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Image Credit » by orythys

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rosepetal wrote on April 20, 2015, 11:33 AM

This was a very well written read and so true. Fear can prevent you from doing a lot of things, and even make you hide your shortcomings from yourself. Sometimes being brave enough to be honest with yourself is the only way to break the fear.

CoralLevang wrote on April 20, 2015, 11:58 AM

Thank you, rosepetal ... I wonder why it takes us so long, sometimes, to get past that fear, especially when we know it robs us of life and joy.

rosepetal wrote on April 20, 2015, 12:10 PM

I don't know, maybe that is part of our journey in life. As I have gotten older, I have found I am a little more accepting of myself, which helps me to walk through some of the fear I had in the past.

Feisty56 wrote on April 20, 2015, 4:24 PM

I think that educating ourselves about that which we fear is key to mitigating those fears. As human beings, we have much more in common with one another than we have differences. Learning as much as we can, then, about what those differences are leads to understanding even if we don't hold the same values.

CoralLevang wrote on April 20, 2015, 4:53 PM

Agreed, Feisty56 , but that also assumes that the other party wants to understand. Unfortunately, we never have control over another, even in that case. It would be ideal if we all came to the table with equal parts of willingness to be willing.

BarbRad wrote on April 21, 2015, 3:04 AM

I'm afraid there is only so much of the violence humans show other humans that I can absorb. I feel the pain of others to the extent it cripples my own ability to function if I let it get to me. I'm the one who faints when others are in pain. It just makes me feel helpless to see the cruelty and injustice and not be able to do anything about it but pray.

CoralLevang wrote on April 21, 2015, 9:13 AM

I appreciate what you have said here, Barbrad . I feel that this goes much beyond violent acts. It is the injustice and cruelty that is not outwardly visible that troubles me even more, if that is possible.

valmnz wrote on April 26, 2015, 4:21 PM

I've often considered getting this book on my Kindle. Now you have convinced me I should.

CoralLevang wrote on April 27, 2015, 9:35 AM

It is a book that I shall check out from the library in the near future.

AliCanary wrote on April 29, 2015, 6:00 PM

This was an incredible powerful movie that made me feel absolutely wretched, but I'm glad I saw it. Fear was such a pervasive force in that movie, and so it aptly illustrates your point about fear being a paralyzing thing.