From "Raging Bull" starring Robert De Niro - United Artists, Chartoff-Winkler Productions
This is a difficult topic to write about. I thought that the characters in Raging Bull would help frame this commentary. My apologies to those readers who find these things difficult to read, and perhaps relive …
Can a human being, flesh and bone, take and give beatings that defy the normal human ability to survive. The real life Jake La Motta was a raging bull, how does this happen – are we born that way, made that way, or is it a combination of both?
The movie, based on his autobiography, doesn’t reveal his earlier life, but I have to wonder at the surroundings, and the culture he was raised in. To the viewer, he is this insanely jealous, and brutal man. A man who believes the only way to get by in life is to beat your way through it with your fists. His hands keep order in his life and keep control of his surroundings; Men need to be tough, and women should be seen and not heard. During the fight with Pretty Boy Tony Janiro, the viewer is given the distinct impression that Jake is insanely jealous, and he gives Tony a beating that is the most brutal anyone in the crowd has ever seen.
This isn’t a movie review – My point is human emotion is a controlling force in our lives and when it is given direction by the mind it can create many different outcomes. Obviously, based on this example, destruction is one of them. The control of others is another; to the point where, if the human will is not strong enough, there is no escape. We can be trapped in a relationship that has little value to our own growth, and quite possibly physically and emotionally damaging. Even if we are consciously aware of it, it can take years before our mind, our feelings and emotions, create the strength to extract ourselves from that relationship or behavior.
In all the theaters of my life, I see this scene played over and over again, it is talked about incessantly, often to no avail, often to the point of frustration to the listener. The same reasons for staying are heard time after time; “Where would I go, what would I do?” “I’d have to give up everything. I’d have to be alone.”
Looking around here too, the stories here are REAL, and it’s not 1941 anymore. Has the world not changed at all in fifty years? Is it only that the doctors are better at patching up the wounds? What about the emotional wounds and scars? It’s been said many ways but the message is this – If you feel you are being abused, it is because you are cooperating with the abuse – But maybe that is all we know, and some simple words written here are the first imaginings of a world that is free from the Raging Bull, whether inside of us or outside.
I know there are a thousand reasons why people cooperate with the abuse, but there are just as many ways out. In the movie Vicki finally packed the car and the kids, and left – it took her 11 years. She still loved him. Love isn’t staying and taking it, love is offering the person an opportunity to see themselves as they really are. It took Jake a while to have life open his eyes, and remarkably, with Vicki’s help – by finally leaving him – he did see the truth.
The movie ends with a very telling line from the New Testament – John 9: 1-41 verse 25 “One thing I do know; I was blind, but now I can see.” As true for Jake as it was for Vicki.
What clouds our eyes? What things do we not see? There are all kinds of blindness; physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. Joni Mitchell in her song Woodstock said “Oh, but you know life is for learning.” Certainly, that one fact we all would agree on, life keeps showing us, secure in the knowledge that sooner or later we see.