Mark Collins, the ex-Navy seal navy, took a liking to the Kid from the quiet corner of the bar. He finished his whiskey and set his draft gentle down, and sighed. The Kid’s back was to him, but he had seen the fear in his eyes when he came in and knew trouble was following. Sure enough, the Thompson street gang entered the bar less than a minute later, not rushed, but not aimless either. They had a mark, and the Kid knew it was him. He turned to face them with nowhere to turn. The bartender slipped in the backroom for an errand as if he had seen this movie before. 

Mark had only been out three months from active duty when he stood up quiet-like and the gang boss Malcolm noticed. Malcolm stared past the Kid’s shoulder and made eye contact; no words said. Malcolm saw Killers’s eyes, he thought, much like his own. Without a word exchanged, he changed direction and headed for the door. His four delinquents followed him faithfully – somehow trained to know spontaneously and without direction when to retreat. 

The Kid had no idea why they retreated – he remained frozen, just staring at the door. The bartender returned as if he had missed nothing. 

Mark gently but firmly guided the Kid to his table and said Kid, you can’t fear those that can kill you, and after that have nothing more they can do to you. But I will warn you, fear him who can take more than your life, fear him. And then he ordered the Kid a burger and a soda. This was not the end of it, Mark knew, but for now, things were peaceful. Malcolm would be back for the Kid or maybe even Mark. He would have to chew on that a bit and develop a plan. 

Jeremiah was the Kid’s name. Mark had a feeling Jeremiah could handle himself against anyone of the delinquents with a bit of training – but not four, and not Malcolm. Something had to be done and done quickly. Jeremiah was about to learn about fear, men, and faith. Faith in good men, faith in himself, and faith in God. Some things are worth more than your life, Mark thought, but he preferred living nonetheless if he could manage it without sacrificing his integrity. The first step would be to see Father Jimmy for some projects around the church to keep the Kid busy and watched. The second stop would be solo recon work on just what sort of trouble he was facing.   The Kid’s future will be up to him, but Mark knew how to mentor kids; it came second nature to him at the core. He was not worried about this one finding his path – if just given time. 

Tom Cruise in 'Jack Reacher,' Based on a Lee Child Book - The New York Times
Scene from Jack Reacher film

Have you seen this script before? What do you expect from these archetypes? How would this fictional novel portray how we hope we would act and behave if in the same situation. Would we act or find a way out?

I am not a fiction writer. Here, the opening scene sets the stage for a pending battle between good and evil, with a Kid’s life in the balance. The principal thought of one’s integrity being worth more than one’s life is not something we genuinely contemplate in our daily lives, at least not most of us. It is a frame we hear often in Hollywood – there are things worse than death.

Yet we face integrity challenges every day, only most of them are not life and death decisions. They are more nuanced and less visible. You know what integrity means, right? But do we all share the exact Definition?    Websters gives us a starting point: 

1firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic valuesINCORRUPTIBILITY

2an unimpaired conditionSOUNDNESS

3the quality or state of being complete or undividedCOMPLETENESS

Still, even with an agreed definition, we are left guessing what the measuring stick is for incorruptibility, soundness, and completeness. I guess Putin and Biden feel they are incorruptible, sound, and complete with their own “moral code” of belief and principles. Arguably two of the most influential and powerful individuals in the world today – and I fear we do not know what they “won’t do” to maintain or increase their nation’s interest in the world.  What is your True North? Your moral compass?

Set Your Moral Compass True North - Ethics Sage
On Being an Ethical Person Blog by http://www.stevenmintzethics.com

Meatloaf’s I will do anything for Love album uses the undefined “that” to frame the struggle with the phrase “but I won’t do that!” Meatloaf meant the “that” to be defined by the listener, not his songwriter. I guess he had a code for integrity as well. His own life story included a meteoric rise and crash – and a comeback with Bat out Hell. He passed at the age of 74 recently.   

Back to my fictional hero Mark, the Navy Seal, who we assume will be the good guy, knew to fear somebody who could take more than your life? 

It is easy to violate our integrity with words or actions in this world. If we let someone or some group take our integrity, we will suffer a thousand deaths before our life ends. When we sacrifice that, we create our own hell on earth, living with the consequences of having betrayed our own code, hurt others, and offended the deity we hold to be supreme for the spiritual among us. Mark knew if he stayed seated and did not stand up for the Kid, he would be a silent accomplice to whatever came next. To be silent would haunt him the rest of his days. Malcolm would have taken a piece of his soul from him, today in this world, and into the next. 

Whatever your vacation or spiritual belief,  whether politician, musician, writer, plumber, or any other profession or trade, you have personal code written indelibly within your conscience. It is built into the “karma” of life and death. Violate it, and you suffer as do others. Sometimes you are given a chance to redeem yourself – take it. 

In my faith, Jesus Christ taught his disciples the following:

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that, have nothing more  that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 

That “him” in my world frame is the God of my understanding who prescribes a way of living that is hard and sometimes unconventional with western society and perhaps even with the religious institution that tirelessly carries the faith’s message generation after generation.  I must face that “God” moment to moment and be judged by the high standard set by his example, Jesus Christ. 

Let no man or institution sway me to violate the integrity of the message as delivered by the beatitudes, guided by love and compassion, mediated by reason and discernment, practiced with firm adherence, soundness of mind, and completeness of action. 

The battle of evil and good is played repeatedly in our daily lives, in our work, our social life, and in the cultural expressions of our great artists and writers.   It is not a metaphysical “devil” or “angel” on our shoulders, but our mind’s eye has all the tools to know what the next right thing is to do. We must know, though, before our foot hits the floor each morning – What we won’t do to get what we want!

Somethings cannot be taken from us – we must actively consent and be willing participants. That is when we cross into the metaphorical threshold of hell. Walk carefully.

Sadly very few Hollywood films capture man’s search for spiritual wholeness in a manner as theatrical and compelling as what today’s movie audience desires. That is part of why they are so comforting – the swiftness of good conquering evil while we enjoy buttered popcorn in the fancy theater seat or other food comforts from the luxury of our homes. We combat evil vicariously without the risk of actual confrontation with our own evil demons.

in hell swerk GIF

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