Not for ourselves alone are we born.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 
 ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here I am talking about Mad Max yet again, well, I can't help it.  The movie is so action-packed and beautifully written that you can watch it four or five times and still see things you haven't seen before.  It just keeps giving back.  And while I do love re-watching for those explosions and that one car getting swept up in the dust tornado, I'm not going to write about that.  I found another touching bit of symbolism related to Max's condition in my most recent watch.

First, a bit of backstory on Mad Max lore: Max is rarely called by name and has a "title" in each movie, or sometimes two or three titles.  In Fury Road, he's abducted and used for human blood transfusions, earning him the glamorous title of "blood bag".  Later when he uncomfortably runs into Furiosa, she leaves unsatisfied when Max refuses to speak to her.

 After that awkward attempt at human contact, she takes to calling him "Fool."  And then they bond over time, and explosions happen and motorcycles flank tanker trucks and old ladies shoot at oxygen tanks and Furiosa ends up fatally wounded, with a tension pneumothorax, (a collapsed lung) and exsanguination (her wound is causing her to bleed out.)  She's laying in the back of the vehicle looking pretty grey and disgusting, when Max realizes what's happening and out of nowhere begins some pretty grisly and effective EMS interventions.  (I didn't know they taught cops that...I digress...)

The first few times I watched it I just nodded pretty satisfactorily, because there's nothing better than a well-done lifesaving scene.  Hollywood gets it wrong most of the time, so I can't be the only person with a medical background who gets excited at stuff like this, right guys?  Whatever, the point is, when I watched it recently, I noticed how Max, the PTSD-crippled "fool" who barely speaks the entire movie and jumps at shadows, was busy saving a life while the others stood by, terrified, watching and taking orders when he mutters them.

And it proudly reminded me of how my experience with trauma and emergencies sparred me to get my EMT certification; that unwanted gift of jumping in to help, of knowing how to channel adrenaline and somehow having the ability to move when the whole world freezes--that is a mentality that is invaluable in prehospital care, and it's an ability that my PTSD has honed far beyond the level of reasonable.  Eye contact? Nope.  Stabilizing a protruding femur? Sure.  Thanks, PTSD.

Anyway, what I hadn't noticed is how vocal he was at this point.  Max mostly grunts through the movie, but while he was working on his patient he was speaking almost normally.  He was reassuring, calm, polite.  I notice a change in myself when talking to patients; that is, my voice goes to a more nurturing and concerned tone.  I make more eye contact and I'm warmer.  I don't have as much contrast as Max, but the difference in communication is there, and I've heard and seen it in my coworkers as well.  It is comforting to know that while I am sure I come off completely crazy and bitchy all those times I awkwardly sidle out of a room or refuse to look in someone's eyes, I at least have a pretty good bedside manner.  Whatever instinct it is in us as humans that causes us to take care of others seems to know how to switch on 'nurture' mode when it's needed.  It's lovely, really.  

Back to the scene; he finished his butcher-y, post-apocalyptic unsanitary interventions, and Furiosa became unconscious.  Max's response to that was one that I thought was just simple and poignant at first, but I finally realized the full weight behind the words.  When she passed out, he leaned over her and said, "Max.  My name is Max."

I know, I know, he was FINALLY answering her question from forever ago when they first met, but that's not it.  Max had remembered himself while taking care of Furiosa.  The message is pretty clear; through service to others, we connect with ourselves.  We are actually caring for ourselves.  I don't know how that works, but I do know that it's true.  Not just in medical circumstances, but when I am helping a friend with a problem or even just doing volunteer work, I feel so much more grounded than when trying to flounder around in my own head and world of problems.

Max started the movie as a jumpy runaway who had uncontrollable trauma, and that's exactly how he ended the movie, only with the benefit of having a small break in between--a break where he almost died about 8 million times, made a few interesting acquaintances, recovered his jacket, but most importantly, he was able to find himself for a moment in there.  It happened because he cared for, and took care of, another person.

Right now I rely on those moments of finding myself to get me through.  To be honest I haven't had one in awhile and it's been extremely tough.  But I saw it in the movie and that was enough to remind me that it can happen. Which is more hope than I've had in months, to tell the truth.


  1. I stumbled on your blog while doing some trivial google search about Sweden; I have been reading intermittently over the last few days, and have been both educated and moved by a lot of things you have written. I wonder if you know of the poetry of Philip Larkin, and this in particular (allpoetry.com/This-Be-The-Verse). This post brought a tear to my eye. I can't claim anywhere near the trauma you have had, though I have had some in my life, and my life has been and is quite radically different. Yet your words really resonate with me at a challenging time of my life. You are a really wonderful writer, and obviously very self-aware. And, if I may say, very beautiful (I am a straight middle-aged woman, for whatever that is worth). I will keep reading, and wish you inner peace as a fellow atheist on this Christmas Day. Please keep writing. ~Lucy

    1. Thank you so much for this beautiful comment Lucy. I am sorry I didn't see it sooner.