There is a scene in the movie 300 where Leonidas, King of the Greek city-state of Sparta, responds to Daxos, an Arcadian, saying that their choices are to ‘retreat, surrender, or die’. Leonidas, perfectly consistent with his character’s conduct throughout the rest of the movie replies:
“Well, that’s an easy choice for us, Arcadian. Spartans never retreat! Spartans never surrender!”
From the very beginning of 300, when The Persian Messenger visits the court of Sparta, Leonidas is placed in a series of seemingly impossible situations. That at all times, he attempts to do what he believes to be the right thing, no matter the personal consequences, brings to mind a line from ‘Into Action’ on page 79 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences might be.”
In the modern world, much is made of the importance of the dangers of so-called ‘black and white’ thinking. My personal opinion is that dichotomous thinking can be advantageous, indispensable even, when it applies to certain aspects my own conduct, both internal and external.
Let’s start with the most obvious example, that of the alcoholic avoiding the first drink. There can be no shades of grey when it comes to this matter. ‘With us to drink is to die’. You either believe that – and live your life accordingly – or you don’t. ‘An easy choice for us, Arcadian’.
Here’s another one: Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery. What kind of person would you like to be married to? A person for whom the seventh commandment is open to interpretation? Or someone who obeys it unflinchingly. Yes, nearly all men, myself included, invariably fall short of Jesus’ ‘adultery in the heart’ gold standard (Matthew 5:27-28) – but the physical act of adultery should be a black and white matter, ‘an easy choice for us, Arcadian’. This is not intended to minimise the potentially disastrous consequences of indulging erotic daydreams and fantasies. As Joe and Charlie repeatedly point out in their discussion of Step 3: If all action is born in thought then it stands to reason my life will be determined by how I think.