Moments of Conception 157 — The Drown Tank Scene from Divergent

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the drown tank scene from Divergent:

If one and one makes two, you failed.
Wherever we land, whether it’s a new job or a new city
or a new industry, we’re greeted with a list of rules. And there’s this myth
that if we check all those boxes, we will get ahead. Of course, that’s just the
story perpetuated by the institutional agenda to keep us scared, stupid
and dreamless. Those who seek to keep our thinking as small as possible. The
reality is, the future belongs to the destroyers of all that has gone before.
And so, once we spot the ideas that are
too convenient to be killed, once we let the curious part of ourselves take a
risk and pay attention to the man behind the curtain, we become the great and powerful ones. Divergents possess that ability. They’re aware of when
they’re in a simulation. They’re conscious that what they’re experiencing is
not real. And so, they can manipulate or even shut down the system by
exercising their independent will. Because
it’s all in their head. That’s why the government is trying to wipe them out.
Divergents threaten the social order. If that’s not a metaphor for modern
society, I don’t know what is. Critics can call this movie another clone of the
post apocalyptic teenage dystopian fiction factory, but I experienced it as
mythic, archetypal and allegorical. What would you do if you saw yourself as being in control instead of

No great band
ever wasted any time complaining.
Divergent is a story about stoic
characters. People who don’t do a lot of complaining. People who aren’t dependent
on externals for equilibrium. People focused on strengthening the mind, body
and soul so it can flourish in any environment. Because they recognize that all
situations unfold regardless of how they feel about them. And so, nothing can
shut them off from action. Tris is just now starting to internalize this
philosophy. First, she tries yelling. Next, she tries banging against the wall.
But then, as the water engulfs her body, she has a realization. The only way
out is through. The only way to face her fear of drowning is to swim deeper. So
she relaxes into the moment, confronts herself in the reflection, and gives the
pain of glass the tiniest tap. And that creates the crack that sets her free.
If that’s not a public service announcement for stoicism, I don’t know what is.
Pausch, in fact, wrote that complaining
doesn’t work as a strategy. That we all have finite time and energy, and any
time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals or make us
happier. Tris reminds us, then, not to complain, because complaining sucks the air out of any new possibilities
that may appear in the present moment. Instead, we learn to take
the energy we would have used complaining
and filter it into action. What are your three biggest time wasters?

Sometimes all
we need is an ounce of not alone.
This particular tank
is merely a simulation. Later in the movie, when the characters are captured
and sentenced to death, Tris wakes up sealed inside a real life glass tank that
fills up with water. And she knows she can’t tap her way out. But at the last moment,
her mother appears, breaks the tank and rescues her. Because she, too, is
divergent, and understands the pain of being alienated. I’m reminded of a
powerful passage in the book around this very theme. Tris says that to live
factionless is not just to live in poverty and discomfort, it is to live
divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life. Community. Because we can’t survive alone, and even if we could, we
wouldn’t want to. A touching reminder that life without witness, isn’t. That
we’re not built to be singular units. And that we’re never alone in this world
unless we want to be. In fact, the things that make us feel most alone have the
biggest potential to connect us. It’s simply a matter of finding the right
faction. How many centers of belonging do
you have in your life?


What did you learn from this movie clip?


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