ARTS & SPIRITUALITY: 7 LIFE LESSONS FROM DR STRANGE
This article is the first installation in an upcoming series of pieces commenting on the symbolism, power, and use of spirituality in the arts/popular culture.
Sometimes the most precious lessons in life come wrapped behind veils of overwhelming pain and agony. It isn’t easy to peel back the layers and layers of baggage, hurt, despair and even numbness that build up over our hearts after months, years and decades of neglect, to find the hidden Light at the core of our struggles.
Some of us find it easier to bury the past deep within, never fully confronting ourselves until we begin to come apart at the seams from the accumulated stress and anxiety of desperately trying to running away from our troubles. For others, the calamities that befall us transform our lives so completely that the pain is simply too excruciating to ignore.
For Dr Strange, certainly, it was the latter. A gifted but arrogant neurosurgeon who excelled in his career, he found himself at the edge of sanity after being involved in a horrific accident which left him with severe nerve damage and incapacitated his hands. At wit’s end, without a clue of what to expect, he travelled to Kathmandu to find healing from a reputed teacher who guided him on a journey of healing and self-discovery.
7 Life Lessons From Dr. Strange
- Clarity of purpose moves mountains.
The first blow is always the hardest. When hardship first hits us, it’s difficult to even process the pain, much less attempt to understand the hikmah or the bigger reason behind it. But often, the things that cause us the most pain in life push us to question ourselves and our lives in order to reorient our direction in life. Through constant practice and remembrance, we begin to empty ourselves of all that we thought we knew before, and fill ourselves up instead with the sweetness of self-knowledge and Love.When Dr Strange first shows up at the door of his teacher in Kathmandu, his senior and companion, Mordo, tells him, “Might I offer you some advice: forget everything you think you know.” It takes Dr Strange a while to let go of his pain, but when he begins to realize that his true purpose in life is to serve humanity through protecting the world, he unleashes the full extent of his power towards that cause.
- Embrace your brokenness.
It can seem impossible to even move past the pain rooted in disappointment and resentment from the past, especially when it was inflicted by someone else. Ultimately, though, the antidote to our pain does not lie in renewing our impassioned pursuit of this temporary world for its sake alone, but in pouring all our brokenness, desperation and sincerity into finding the tranquility and inner peace that our souls crave.Initially, Dr Strange has a lot of trouble letting go of his own anger and resentment at having damaged his hands, which were his pride as a neurosurgeon. Eventually, he learns to accept and even embrace his disability, just as The Ancient One advises him: “You cannot beat a river into submission. You have to surrender to its power and use its power as your own.”
- Fear impedes, not guarantees.
Every one of us has something we fear losing in life. Some fear having to accept their past. Some fear betrayal even from their loved ones. Some fear not having any sustenance to provide for our families. Fear colours the lens through which we perceive the world and shapes all of the decisions that we make in life. We tend to believe that when we succumb to our fears, we are guaranteed “safety”, in not having to face the unknown. Yet it is precisely this which holds us back from achieve greater things in life. The servant of Allah is not necessarily someone who is completely fearless; rather, he is someone who places all of his faith and trust in Allah instead of in his own fears.Even after advancing rapidly in his training, Dr Strange fears that he isn’t ready to face the dark dimension, and confides in his teacher about it. The Ancient One tells him: “You always excelled, not because you wanted success, but because of your fear of failure. That is what has kept you from greatness.”
- You are your own worst enemy.
Amongst the chorus of naysayers and haters in our lives, the loudest voice is often the tiny voice within our heads that at times would have us believe that we are useless, and at other times, all-important and irreplaceable. Indeed, the nafs plays far greater tricks on our minds, hearts and souls than any other person or being does, including Shaytan. It convinces us to place our faith in ourselves and our own capabilities instead of recognizing Allah’s Greatness, Generosity, Magnificence and Mercy. Indeed, this is what holds most of us back in life.After enjoying a life filled with success and prestige, Dr Strange is initially full of arrogance and deplorable conceit over his remarkable talent. Though training under The Ancient One greatly subdues him, his arrogance still impedes him until he lets go of himself, just as The Ancient One advises him: “Arrogance and fear still prevent you from learning the simplest lesson of all: It’s not about you.”
- Good company is better than being alone.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we end up simply going through the motions in life, doing things “just because”, slipping into mindless routine. Perhaps this is simply the nature of modern life, but it makes us overlook one of life’s greatest treasures: our relationships with our loved ones. It is often those who truly love us who give us the brutal honesty and unconditional support that is so hard to come by in life. We find ourselves growing apart from them when we begin to think that isolation and self-reliance is the only path to growing in life.Dr Strange at first goes out of his way to work alone in life, distancing himself from his lover Christine and even his fellow trainees in Kathmandu later on. But as The Ancient One tells him, he needs companionship to progress further: “Mordo’s soul is rigid and inflexible, forged from the fires of youth. He needs your flexibility just as you need his strength.”
- Insecurities plague us only as much as we allow them to.
We go through a plethora of experiences throughout our lives that shape our perceptions of ourselves, the people around us, and the world we live in. When these experiences are negative, though, they sometimes leave us bitter and with deep-seated insecurities about ourselves. It isn’t easy to break away from these insecurities in order to feel confident about ourselves. But when we recognize that both our strengths and our weaknesses are reflections of Allah’s attributes, our insecurities slowly lose hold over us. Indeed, as the Ancient One advises Mordo, “We never lose our demons. We just learn to live above them.”
- Gratitude begets goodness.
Modern life has a way of distracting us from our own lives and shifting our focus towards others’ lives. Particularly in an age inundated with social media, we tend to compare ourselves relentlessly with others and what they’ve achieved in their lives, inviting envy and jealousy into our hearts. Perhaps the cure lies in shifting the focus back to gratitude for the things we do have in our lives: Allah says in the Quran, “If you are grateful, I will surely give you more.” Yet most of us remain ungrateful, despairing over the things we don’t have in our lives.After having travelled hundreds of miles to Kathmandu to see The Ancient One, Dr Strange initially rejects her methods in disbelief, to which he is told: “You’re a man who’s spent your whole life looking through a keyhole. You’ve tried to widen it. To see more, to hear more. And now, upon hearing that the keyhole can be widened, you reject it.”
All of the 7 life lessons above will be covered at The Sacred Path of Love 2016: find out the true reality of gratitude, learn some practical steps to better our relationships with our loved ones in life, and discover how to move on from emotional baggage and regret from the past.
SACRED PATH OF LOVE 2016 – 18 DEC IN SINGAPORE
4 Topics will be covered on 18th Dec by 4 speakers:
★ The Power of Gratitude: Freeing yourself from envy
★ Freedom of the Self: Unleashing your hidden potential
★ Witnessing Love: 5 Steps towards lasting changes in your relationships
★ Wisdom in Hardships: Gaining strength through remembrance of God.
Step into the Light of the Divine and listen to the pearls of wisdom and Love from Dr Omar Mahmood (USA), Dr Sawssan Ahmed (USA), Imam Abdoulaye Ndaw (USA) and Ustazah Nurul Izzah (SG). Event is open to all – participants from all races, cultures & nationalities have attended this event in the past 7 years!
<3 WHAT PARTICIPANTS SAY <3
“When I first got out of prison, I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid that I might revert back to my old ways. Attending both days of the conference completely changed my life and my perception on life.”
~ Ali R.
“I had been soul-searching in life. I found what I was seeking for in the event.” ~ Simon
“I couldn’t understand how I could lose my mother at such a young age. The event made me contemplate on life and death. What makes us different from the earth is our soul. How we see this world is how we see it from our souls.” ~ J. D.
18th Dec, 9am – 5pm (Package B) – $65
Register for SPOL 2016 at: