Hope not sadness found watching The NeverEnding Story

The NeverEnding Story was one of my favorite movies growing up. When I saw it was playing at Brewvies for brunch on Sunday, I knew I had to go. But one of the things I noticed is that when people think about The NeverEnding Story, they mention how sad it is. I had that reaction from a few friends when I said I was going. I also see it on social media – Artax’s death is a source of much sadness. However, I find The NeverEnding Story to be one of the most inspiring and hopeful movies, and that’s why I love it so much. When I think of the state of the world with Climate Change, immigrants being locked up and children caged at our boarders, mass shootings, and other terrifying things going on in this world, I found lessons from The NeverEnding Story on how to make my way through our world with hope.

It is heartbreaking especially for a young child to see Atreyu lose his beloved horse Artax in the Swamps of Sadness. But even today, I find that scene incredibly powerful. Life has sadness. We can’t escape it. We have to walk through it and experience it. However, we have a choice to let it take a hold of us and let it eat us up or we have the choice to keep moving. Even after Atreyu loses Artax, he remains sitting on top of the swamp. He is sad and mourning his friend. He experiences sadness and he feels the pain, but that’s what it is an experience and feeling. It is not him.  It does not consume his heart. He knows he has to keep moving and keep going on.

Atreyu does start to sink in the swamps after his meeting with Morla, the ancient one, when he’s lost his hope. But he is saved by Falcor, the luck dragon. It always helps to have a little luck, but for me I’m more likely to believe in magic than I am in luck. So, I don’t think that it is luck that saves Atreyu and gets him through to the Southern Oracle. I’ve always liked the quote “luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” from Senaca, which is partly what is going on with Falcor. But more importantly, the message is that we can’t do this journey alone. We need our friends and support systems to help us through hard times in life. Also, the message is that we are never actually alone. When Atreyu felt the most alone in life, that’s when Falcor came through. Often in my life, when I feel the most alone, it’s a feeling I’ve created in my own head. I’m not actually alone, I’ve just blinded myself to all the support and love I have. I’m so grateful for the Falcor’s that have come along in my life to remind me I’m not alone.

Falcor has another powerful lesson in the movie. He isn’t prone to doubt or worry. He believes in Atreyu and that Atreyu is completely capable of the task he must complete. Falcor knows that Atreyu has been tasked with saving Fantasia. Even though this seems like an impossible task, Falcor believes that everything will work out. He has hope and never loses it. Everything will work out the way it is supposed to. It can be easy to let the fear and doubt that things are only getting worse and that there is nothing we can do. Fear and doubt can be cripple believing that change is possible. Fear and doubt can make us stuck. But faith that everything will work out the way it is supposed to, creates hope and allows us to keep moving.

I’m not saying that facing the challenges of our world aren’t scary, because they absolutely are. The challenges that Atreyu faces is The NeverEnding Story are absolutely frightening as well. Look at the challenges at the Southern Oracle. The first gate to the Southern Gate only allowed those who know their own worth to pass. A fancy knight is killed trying to pass. Atreyu who does know his worth, but face with possible death starts to doubt. It looks like the gates are going to kill him for it, but instead he runs. Knowing your value, doesn’t mean you’re the best or the greatest. It’s knowing we are worthy of this adventure called life. We are worthy of the challenges ahead of us. It’s also okay to doubt ourselves as well. It happens. Life throws some pretty scary challenges our way that we can’t see how we are going to make it through. Atreyu did have doubts and was afraid the gate responded. But he didn’t let the fear and doubt make him freeze. He ran and dived passed the gates. He demonstrated the great quote from Mark Twain, “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” This is a powerful life lesson I’ve been working to embrace – even when I’m afraid I’m not enough, I’ve got to keep going.

Bastian’s role in The NeverEnding Story has two extremely powerful lessons for living in the world today. The first – He is part of the story. I am part of the story. You are part of the story. Not only was Bastian part of the story. It was his action that saves Fantasia. For most of the movie, we see him doubting his role and what he was supposed to do. But in the end, he knows that he is part of the story. With the constant bombardment of what is going on in the world, it’s easy to shut down and disconnect from it. This sentiment can be seen in attitudes like -it’s not happening to me, someone else is dealing with it, my life is enough and I can’t handle anymore, or even complete denial. But the truth is, I am part of the story and you are part of the story. Accepting that I am part of the story gives me the power to act.

The second lesson from Bastian’s role is that we get to create the world we live in. After Fantasia is lost to the Nothing except one grain of sand, Bastian gets to imagine Fantasia back into existence. I admit, I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about what’s wrong with this world. But there is power imagining the world as the world I want to live in. The way I wish it was – healthy, supportive, loving, connected. For change to happen, we do have to imagine different possibilities. I find that incredibly inspiring – through my dreams and imagination, I can create change by living towards my dream world.

Yes, The NeverEnding Story is one of my favorite movies from childhood, but I found so much inspiration watching it again yesterday. I’d recommend taking a rest from the world around you and let The NeverEnding Story bring some inspiration to you as well.