Life Lessons of The Shawshank Redemption

Shawshank Redemption

By Cathy Eck

 

I’m Not Obsessed With Much, But…

This is my 100th post, and so it had to be special — it had to be about Shawshank Redemption.  You don’t have to read my blog for very long before you find a Shawshank Redemption quote.  My Leadership Coaching program is based on lessons found in Shawshank.  Shawshank Redemption is a near perfect story; I love it.

Today I had an opportunity to attend a screenwriting webinar analyzing the Shawshank Redemption.  How’s that for perfect timing?

Without knowing it, screenwriters often see through the illusion because the illusion is also based on the three-act story.  Almost every good story follows this blueprint or arc.  We unconsciously identify with it when we see it on the big screen or in the pages of a novel.

Every human starts in Eden or the realm of the True Self.  Then we fall into the hypnotic illusion of the material realm, and finally we work our way back out to freedom.  We become our True Selves again.

It seems like a stupid trip to take since you end up where you started.  But the person who arrives at the end of this three-act journey is not the same person who began it.  They now have vision, knowing, and stability that they didn’t have when their journey began.

 Red: “It takes a strong man to save himself, and a great man to save another.”

 

We All Have a Fall Story

Everyone has a True Self that doesn’t fall.  The false self takes root pretty quickly; our parents usually make sure of that.  It’s our false self that has the storyline that causes us to forget who we really are.  Stories were originally invented by astrologers based on our date and place of birth; now they come from Hollywood and religion.

Andy Dufresne had the perfect life, or so it seemed — hot wife, great job, nice house, club membership. It looks like he’s living in paradise; but he’s not.  He doesn’t have freedom or love; he’s stuck in his myopic fallen illusion.  He’s winning, but winners are often more stuck in the illusion than losers.  They have to give up their winnings to get free; that often seems like too high of a price to pay.

None of this is conscious to Andy, so his wife reflects it for him by seeking freedom and love in another man. Like most women (or children) who reflect the men in their life, she’s just being his mirror and probably doesn’t even know why she’s doing what she’s doing.

So like most men (or people in the masculine role); Andy thinks he’s a victim of his wife and her lover.  He believes that his anger is because of their actions.  He wants to get revenge and break his own mirror; but fortunately, he doesn’t.

Later on in the story, Andy takes a big step toward freedom when he realizes that he caused his wife to cheat, in a way he killed her.

Andy: She was beautiful. God I loved her. I just didn’t know how to show it, that’s all. I killed her, Red. I didn’t pull the trigger, but I pushed her away. And that’s why she died, because of me.

 

Like Andy, we must all realize that we are the writer, director and producer of our three-act illusory play.  We can’t change it until we take responsibility.  It’s taking responsibility that puts the letting go eraser in our hand. Responsibility gives us the power to rewrite our story.

 

Beautiful Women

To most people, putting up posters of beautiful women sounds kind of like male lust.  But metaphorically; it’s perfect.  Andy hides his secret tunnel to freedom behind pictures of beautiful women.

Initiates knew that the way out of the illusion was through the feminine.  Initiates followed their own feminine emotions to show them what to let go — to point to the causal beliefs within their own mind.  You can’t find freedom by denying what you feel. Thus Andy hides his secret tunnel to freedom behind pictures of beautiful women.  Each night Andy chips away at the cell wall (his false beliefs) that lies beneath his feminine (emotions).

The Greeks put Athena in the Parthenon. The Egyptians dedicated temples to Isis.  Babylonians had Ishtar. America’s Congressional building is topped with Freedom (female). The female Statue of Liberty greets immigrants to America.  The path to freedom is feminine.

 

The Rebirth

Andy eventually escapes by crawling through a sewage pipe, a damn good metaphor for the small, dark birth canal; he pops out looking like a newborn.  He’s free, but he’s really dirty.

Red: Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.

The story demonstrates that if we want to free our body, we must first liberate our mind.  It’s an old teaching that most have completely forgotten.

Most people use their minds to keep themselves in prison — a life sentence without parole.  They put art deco on the cell walls and flowers in the urinal and call it Home, Sweet Home.  It looks like acceptance of their destiny; but it’s really apathy.

Andy didn’t have apathy.  Regardless of what happened on the outside, Andy knew he was innocent.  Apathy occurs because someone else has convinced us that we deserve punishment because we broke their bullshit rules.  We wait patiently for them to give us back our innocence.   They never do.

Andy knew he was innocent. Therefore, Andy had real hope that redemption was possible, even when it looks improbable.

Red: I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

 

To be continued…