[SPOILER ALERT] Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is known as one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s certainly one of my top favorites. Three and a half hours of pure poetry.
And yet for all that artistic mastery, the great message of the movie is not revealed until the final minute of the final scene: Which is, that the real victor of a battle is not the heroes who fight it, but the people they serve. The three surviving samurai walk away with nothing, with four of the seven comrades dead, meanwhile the village peasants they saved from the villains are alive with song and joy from the victory.
The leader says: “In the end, we lost this battle too. The victory belongs to the peasants, not to us.”
And then we see a final shot of their four dead comrades’ graves (who we got really emotionally attached to in the last few hours), and we roll credits.
It’s heartbreaking, yet so utterly poignant.
Why? Because anyone who’s ever done anything worth a damn, knows that they probably weren’t the main beneficiaries of their efforts. This seems to be especially true in the art & creative worlds I’ve lived in. Our work may have lit up the world, but we still remain down in the mud, somehow.
St. Paul would’ve called this being “a living sacrifice unto God”, emulating Jesus.
In other words, doing something meaningful- in business, in art, in war, in life- will probably pay off in the end, it just might not pay off for you. Anyone who’s ever been a parent will know exactly what I’m talking about.
But all that is still our choice. Hopefully we’ll make the right one when the time comes.
“Since 1997 I’ve drawn thousands of ‘Hughcards’ [cartoons drawn on the back of business cards], just to give me something to do while sitting at the bar” .