Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Looking for Inspiration

While there is generally no dearth of inspirational stories around us, there are occasional days that seem low on brilliance. Last night was such a night for me, so I flipped on the Turner Classic Movie channel, hoping to catch a great Oscar winning movie as the channel does its countdown to the Academy Awards a month away.

Sure enough, “The Best Years of Our Lives” had just begun. This 1946 film portrays three veterans returning from WW II and the challenges they face upon re-entry to their day-to-day lives. Clearly a precursor to the genre that emerged after the Vietnam War (e.g., "Coming Home," "Born on the Fourth of July," "The Deer Hunter"), this film threaded the needle carefully as each character confronts his emotional, and physical, realities. While the film has a happy ending, unlike its more contemporary counterparts, it does present some of the rawness of war’s consequences. Homer Parish, for example, returns home with no hands. Fitted with prosthetic hooks, he struggles to make peace with his newfound disability, sure that his sweetheart will no longer want him. The performance is inspiring. More inspiring still is the story of how Harold Russell came to play Homer Parish in this film.

Director William Wyler learned about Russell, a vet and non-actor, from a documentary that was made about Russell’s service during WW II where he lost his hands detonating a bomb. Wyler rewrote the Parish character for Russell, who went on to win two Oscars for that performance, the only actor ever to do so. Read more about this remarkable actor and the film.

I have written about prosthetics and robotics in other articles. Each time I research this topic, I not only admire the will and determination of so many otherwise ordinary people who face what life tosses them, but I also feel changed. Is this inspiration? See the video of a brave and rather blasé man showing how he uses his prosthetic hand.

And don’t miss all the recent news about the Mono Skier X competition in the Winter X Games 14. Talk about inspirational!

What inspires you? Post your comments below and send us your ideas for ways to “be unlimited.”

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