“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” -T.S Elliot
Gratitude comes to my mind when I think about my life. Like many, I want to make the most of this rare experience.
In an episode of the Joe Rogan show, critically acclaimed director, Guy Ritchie, who’s well-known for movies like Snatch, The Gentlemen, and Sherlock Holmes, told the biblical story of the Prodigal Son in typical Guy Ritchie fashion.
Whether it’s finding purpose in our lives or trying to find clarity in our experiences, the parable of the Prodigal Son may give us deeper insights into those unanswered questions that we ask ourselves.
The parable begins with three characters. A father and his two sons. In the tale, the younger son demands his portion of his father’s inheritance. His plea is answered, and the father gives him his share of the estate.
The younger son, being the wild, feral and unruly son he is, becomes a vagabond, travels to a different country, and indulges in every conceivable pleasure until he squanders all his inheritance.
Down on his luck and in the midst of a famine, he becomes destitute and starts working as a pig farmer. He has a stark revelation when he realizes that the livestock he tends to is eating better than him.
He travels back to his home country and begs his father to take him back.
“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.”
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”Luke 15:20–24
The older son who was essentially the poster child has followed all the rules. He hasn’t squandered his father’s wealth. He’s angry and upset. He can’t fathom the fact that his younger brother is being embraced by their father after he has deliberately screwed his life over. Seeing the pain in his older son’s eyes, he says:
“And he [the father] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”Luke 15:31–32
What’s the Point of the Story
If you look at the story literally, then it may be hard to draw philosophical conclusions from it. However, when taking an introspective look at the parable, you can start to appreciate the lessons and how they mean more than what meets the eye.
It’s important to note that with spiritual texts (in this case, the Bible), interpretations can be many because belief systems of any kind can be subjective in nature.
With that being said, I enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s interpretation because almost anyone can relate.
The Father and the two sons represent us.
All three characters are exemplified in the human persona.
The father represents our true self. It’s the entity that understands that we are experiencing life. The older son represents our intellect and the younger son represent our adventurous self.
The Younger Son
He represents our need to taste the material world and indulge in our deepest and darkest vices. When the younger son realizes that he is no better or happier after experiencing what the material world has to offer, he comes back to his father, who embraces and accepts him fully.
The younger son has learned an important lesson. Everything in the material world is transitory and ephemeral. He understands that nothing belongs to him and that he is a passenger on this ride of life.
The younger son doesn’t have the ability to understand his older brother, who used his intellect to play it safe. However, he’s never had to succumb to the unsavory circumstances
The Older Son
He represents, our intellect. Our intellect follows rules. Our intellect doesn’t want to cross the border into the unknown. It’s content knowing what it’s been taught.
He is sure he has life figured out. His intellect hinders him from real growth because it is governed by information from another. He follows all the rules. He’s kept all his checks balanced and never crossed the bridge to the other side of the unknown. However, he still finds himself envious of his younger brother because he doesn’t have the ability to see the value in being reckless and adventurous.
The Father is our true self. He’s the experience of life. He can also represent God. He lives in abundance and lacks nothing. He doesn’t have to look anywhere to find what he’s looking for, because it has been within himself all the time. He accepts both sons for how they are because they are a part of him.
Eventually, the younger son returns home. He returns to his true self. He returns to his father’s home, where he realizes that he’s always been enough. However, he had to go on this adventure and lose everything before he understood the transitory nature of life.
The younger son as said in the parable, “he was lost and is found.”
Final Interpretations of the Story
If the two sons represent the battle of the yin and yang of life, then the father is the arena they are playing in. We have this internal battle where we want to stay on the paved road, but also travel off the beaten path.
The intellect can only go so far. The intellect is more concerned with day-to-day struggles. It knows only its small close-knit circle. It’s compromised by conformity and resides in the illusion of certainty. There is a portion of us that wants to bend the rules and press the proverbial red button. Carl Jung calls this the shadow self. The shadow self represents the facets of our personality that we reject and repress. By doing this we fail to fully recognize ourselves.
Both intellect and an adventurous spirit are needed to make the most of this experience.
To be innocent, and at the same time, not naive to the ways of the world is an important balance to strike while living. In closing, the central theme of this story can be summed up in a few words.
You have always been enough.