Over 20 years ago I saw a movie called “Mission” with Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. It took place in South America, probably in the 1800s. Irons was a Jesuit monk. DeNiro was a man convicted of murder, travelling with the Jesuits to their mission work deep in the Amazonian rain forest. As punishment and penance, DeNiro’s character made the grueling trip on foot (as they all did) with a huge rope sack tied to his back. The sack was filled with boulders. Each step was cumbersome and grueling, dreadful just to watch. Knee deep mud, incessant rain, mosquito-thick air, unimaginable heat. Their journey lasted days, perhaps weeks. At one point they made a harrowing climb up a massive water fall. An almost impossible climb and they were all struggling miserably. Irons pulled a knife from his robes and reached to cut the sack from DeNiro’s back. But DeNiro pushed his hand away. He refused to lighten his load. He insisted on reaching the top with his burden, or die trying.
I was reminded of this scene yesterday when a friend and I were talking about letting go of and releasing painful experiences and memories. I thought of DeNiro and how so many of us are like him, walking through life weighted down with our bag of hurts, fears, anger, and regret. This creates prime breeding ground for illness, disease, and dysfunction. A friend told me once that we all carry that sack. We spend the first 40 or so years of our lives filling it up