The Sound of Music is a classic musical that I grew up to. I have always enjoyed it, but over the past few years I have been inspired by it. It is a true story of hope, redemption, optimism, and love. In some ways the plot could be summed up as a nun who gives up her calling to get married. Of course, that is a gross over simplification missing many of the major plotlines, but an interesting point. The story resists a rigid understanding of our destiny, calling, and even service to God. Rather than the simplistic and dogmatic storyline of the person who gives up everything to serve God as priest, nun, or pastor, this story challenges us to live and fight for who we are.
Nietzche wrote “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.” This could be characterized of the would-be nun, Maria, in the story. She flees back to the Abbey because she begins to fall in love with Captain VonTrapp. But the mother superior challenges her that she can serve God just as faithfully by loving this man as she could by devoting her life to the Abbey. What follows is a song about finding your dream. It is interesting that the movie connects serving God with following your dreams. The author of this story does not see the two as mutually exclusive but rather intimately connected.
Climb every mountain, Search high and low, Follow every highway, Every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, ‘Till you find your dream.
Mother superior’s “advice” has some serious depth to it. It is hard to know what we want when we have lived our lives under “shoulds.” For some it may be religious shoulds, parental shoulds, peer shoulds or cultural shoulds. The point is that we acquire shoulds in life. We believe we should do this or that, should do a certain thing or make a certain amount of money by the time we reach a certain point.
It’s hard to know our own hearts sometimes because we spend so long trying to emulate something or someone else. Kierkegaard said that the “will to be oneself is man’s highest vocation.” It is hard to let go of all the shoulds and begin to discover who we are. Sometimes it’s easier to just follow the same path we have been following. That was Maria’s dilemma, from the time she was young she wanted to be part of the Abbey, she dreamed of its safety and security. Now, faced with the possibility of living another life, she felt lost. How do I learn what I want when all I’ve dreamed and worked for has been one thing? Well, it takes courage, strength and risk to discover your heart. The Mother’s advice is sound and profound— climb every mountain, take every path. Be tenacious in your exploration of what you might want to be and do.
Sometimes I find this inspiring and other times I find it exhausting, but that is what life is about. Mountains are hard to climb, but the view can be amazing. You can’t know what the top looks like till you get there. It’s not as easy as it sounds to live out of your “Wants” but it is the road to being yourself, to finding who you are created to be. Too often we are square pegs being shoved into round holes. It is hard to resist the hand that tries to force us in and it is hard to know where to go when there are no square holes in sight. The only way is to boldly go on the quest to discover yourself, climbing every mountain, fording every stream and following every rainbow.