Alan Rickman had both talent and humility, lessons from which can be applied to other facets of life.
As I awoke this morning, I had an entirely different idea of what I was to write today. However, soon after clearing the sleep-induced cobwebs from my head I happened upon the news that actor Alan Rickman had died. My thoughts instantly traveled on an entirely unexpected tangent of reflection. I was so sad. How could the passing of an actor that I’ve never known other than through his portrayal of characters on stage and screen cause such an immediate, and seemingly deeply rooted sadness within me?
First, as a compassionate person, my heart goes out to his family and friends because they lost a part of theirs in his passing. Secondly, I mourn for the immense talent that Alan Rickman shared with the rest of us–a talent that made us feel something. He may perhaps be best remembered for such villainous roles as Hans Gruber (Die Hard 1-3), the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves), and Judge Turpin (Sweeney Todd…) for which he invariably stole the starring focus of the movies with his ability to make the audience both love and loathe his characters at the same time. He shared a more tender side of himself as Jamie (Truly, Madly, Deeply), and the swoon-worthy Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility). Of course my geeky favorite is Rickman as the frustrated thespian playing a role he deems far beneath his talent as Dr. Lazarus of Tev’Meck in the sci-fi parody Galaxy Quest. Of course, Alan Rickman may be most remembered for his brilliant, multifaceted portrayal of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films.
More than mere appreciation of his obvious talent, I think the humble personality behind the roles is what resonates most. Alan Rickman discovered early on that he had a passion for acting, but worked as a graphic artist until the age of 25 before pursuing the craft that “wasn’t deemed sensible at 18.” How many of us can relate to delaying pursuit of a talent because it’s not viewed as responsible or secure? How secure can any pursuit be if we’re unwilling to take a risk and work for it?
Alan Rickman labeled his talent “an accident” because his parents had nothing to do with the theater. He often described his talent as “an accident of genes, and a responsibility.” More than random chance, I think that we all possess God given talents for which we can only hope to have the wisdom to recognize, and the courage to pursue. It’s in that pursuit of our talents that breathes life and passion into our souls. Talents are a gift that should be honored; a light that shines within us that should be cultivated to shine outwardly upon others, rather than hidden in the dark. Rickman also said, “There’s a voice inside you that tells you what you should do.” That brings about the question, are we brave enough to heed the call?
How many of us try to smother our inner lights because our dreams and goals might be viewed as frivolous or far-fetched? Or perhaps on the contrary, seen as simple-minded or lacking imagination? How many of us listen to those niggling whispers of doubt and quit before we’ve ever begun? I know that I have been guilty of all of those things.
Rickman saw his talent as a responsibility to tell stories in such a way that it would impact the lives of others and make them think. He had a tremendous talent honed with a driven need to always do his best. Not Be the Best, but to do his best. He said, “If you judge the character, then you can’t play it.” I think the same can be applied to our own lives. If we judge our goals or accomplishments based on the perceived success of others or what others view as success, then how will we ever be able to truly shine in our own right? When we get caught up in the swirling doubts of “I should be _____ by now…” or “I’ll never be as good/talented/successful as _____…” in our minds, we cripple any effort to simply be the best that we can be. Not someone else. You.
Comparison only serves to fuel to the innate doubts that have no business casting a shadow on our given light and gifts. After all, cultivating that light so that we are sharing our best selves is all that any of us can hope to achieve. If that being happens to resonate with others, then we’ve followed our passions and done well.