4 Stars – Inspiring
It is often said that “money is the root of all evil.” That is not true. It is the “love of money” that causes a person to do evil and especially to lose their ability to love people. Becoming a person who has less and less compassion for others because that would interfere with their financial pursuits, a lover of money can become increasingly isolated and joyless even as their wealth accumulates. But it is not only the wealthy who can lose their joy. A self-sacrificing person can have mounting resentments due to repeatedly setting aside their own goals and dreams and miss out on the joy their sacrificial acts typically create. Taking a life-time to realize, many do not take the opportunity to evaluate their lives and choices until it is too late. But for a lucky few, there is just such an opportunity for change. That is the compelling message of Rob Reiner’s “The Bucket List.”
The unlikely pairing of two persons on such divergent paths is accomplished by their mutual diagnosis of terminal cancer. Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is the pursuer of wealth. Having a knack since his teen years for making money, he explains that his only successful marriage is to his work. Having four failed marriages, Cole has become the quintessential recluse who has little empathy or compassion for others and treats even his most loyal assistant Tom, a.k.a. Matthew (Sean Hayes), with disdain.
His self-sacrificing hospital roommate is Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman). A brilliant auto-mechanic who knows the answer to every question on Jeopardy, Chambers had dreams of becoming a history professor when his wife Virginia (Beverly Todd) became pregnant with their first child. Responsibly setting aside his own plans, Chambers took a position as a mechanic to provide for his new family. Always intending to return to school, his sacrificial act became a permanent way of life as more children were added to their family. Resenting this loss of his dreams, Chambers fulfills the role of father and loses love for his wife and passion for his life.
The opportunity to evaluate who they are and make the change of heart needed for them to find joy in their lives comes when Chambers remembers an exercise his freshman philosophy teacher had assigned his class. They were to make a list of the things they want to do in their lives before they “kick the bucket.” Taking the assignment literally, Cole and Chambers set off on an adventure prescribed by their list and experience transformation.
The key descriptor comes when they are sitting on the top of an ancient tomb in Egypt as the pyramids tower before them. Chambers explains that it is an Egyptian belief that when one enters the after-life a person is asked two questions: Did you find joy in your life? And, Did you bring joy to others? Though this is a fictional question not asked in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it has the ring of authentic spiritual evaluation and is worthy of our consideration as well.
We won’t tell how Cole and Chambers find the joy in their lives but we can easily recognize that it did not come from Cole’s money or from Chambers’ intellect. It comes from their hearts being reconnected with those who want to share their love. That is something worthy of all of us to accomplish before that final bucket is kicked.
If you were to create your own bucket list, what are the top five things you want to do or experience before you die?
Most of us know intellectually that if we use people to love money rather than use money to love people, then we will end up an impoverished human being. But why do you think so many of us still spend so much time in the pursuit of wealth-accumulation?
The resentment that Chambers felt toward his family for stealing his personal dreams is finally overcome and he experiences the love and joy in their presence that he missed all those years. Is there any resentment in your own life that is stealing the joy that your self-sacrificial acts are intended to create?
The final connection that Cole makes so that he “kisses the most beautiful girl in the world” brings him joy. Where have you found your joy? How have you brought joy into the lives of those who share your life?