The other night my wife and I rented the movie “Flash of Genius.” It tells the true story of Robert Kearns, the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper for automobiles only to have his idea stolen by the Ford motor company. Kearns, over a twelve-year court battle, successfully sued Ford and earned recognition for his invention.
Please watch the trailer to the movie as it relates to the rest of the article:
According to the trailer, this looks like a classic “David vs. Goliath” tale. You would think the movie portrays a family coming together to invent something very practical and ingenious. They then need to work together and fight a huge corporation that stole their idea. Through a lot of hard work and sacrifice they eventually win the lawsuit. Sounds pretty rosy right? However, the trailer leaves out a lot of the dark undertones that run throughout the film. Actually, the movie presents a man who obsesses over the fact that someone took credit for his invention and pursues justice at all costs. In pursuing this quest to get recognition for his work, Kearns alienates his friends and family. His wife cannot handle the stress of the lawsuit and his refusal to settle with Ford. She ends up leaving him and takes their six children (the movie does not say whether they got divorced). At the end of the movie, after winning the lawsuit, a now gray-haired and frail Kearns reflects on how winning the case will never give him back the last twelve years of his life. Unlike other movies where the audience feels happy when the main character wins in the end, this movie ends with a sense of hollowness since Kearns wins his case at a huge personal cost.
What does “Flash of Genius” have to do with the rosary and faith? I think the movie is a great example on how sometimes we let our earthly pursuits distract us from living in God‘s grace by following His will. Even when our pursuits are noble they can still lead us to act in ways that run counter to our faith. In the movie, Kearns asks what type of example he would be if he just let someone get away with theft. I ask, what type of example is someone who destroys his marriage and family to pursue recognition for an invention? I’m not saying that Kearns should not have fought for what was right but he should have kept his lawsuit in perspective. He basically made defending his invention more important than honoring his marriage and family. This is an extreme example of what we do all the time which is put our earthly desires in front of our Heavenly ones. Because Heaven, our souls, and the after life are such hard concepts to grasp we often settle for lesser goals such as wealth, fame, comfort, or earthly power. But living solely for those fleeting prizes will not earn us more grace in God’s eyes and in the end won’t amount to any true happiness either in this life or the next.
Kearns’ situation in the movie reminds me of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. I’m reminded about how unfairly the Pharisees, Jews, and Romans treated Jesus. However, Jesus bore all that pain and suffering because it was God’s will. In the Agony in the Garden, Jesus asked God to spare Him the suffering and crucifixion if possible. However, He also said that it wasn’t His will, but God’s will that would be done. And sometimes, pursuing God’s will can lead to unpleasant situations in our lives. Living our faith does not mean we will always be treated fairly. But our faith does give us a road map on how to live when others treat us badly. It is not to pursue retribution or justice at all costs. Jesus, even though his suffering and death showed us to love and forgive those who mistreat us. How we act when the world treats us unfairly is the true test of our faith. Faith is having the ability to say “yes” to God even if it will make life more difficult or means that you will give up some worldly benefit. Living our faith may not always be easy but it is the only way to achieve lasting happiness.
I enjoyed “Flash of Genius” as a movie. It was well made and the actors put on a good performance. And while it was a much darker movie than what the trailers would have you believe, it was a good rental. But it served more as a reminder of how shallow life’s little victories can be when they are solely centered on earthly pursuits. The next time you pray the rosary ask yourself, for whose kingdom are you living? God’s kingdom of Heaven or your kingdom on earth?
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