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The Green Place

One of my favorite scenes from Mad Max: Fury Road is when Furiosa learns that “The Green Place” she’s been searching for has long since been destroyed. She drops to her knees and lets out a heartbreaking cry of pain. It’s reminiscent of the scene in Little Miss Sunshine when the teenage kid learns he is colorblind and he will never pilot a plane. He also drops to his knees and yells a slightly more colorful word. Or when Willow and his gang of unlikely heroes finally arrive to Tir Asleen where everything was supposed to be okay, and find that Tir Asleen is no more.

These scenes paint a picture of the moment a dream splits in half. There is something holy and awful about the instant you realize the state of the world, the state of men’s hearts, the state of your own heart. The question isn’t whether that moment will come for us, but rather: what will we do with it?

In Mad Max, Furiosa (played brilliantly by Charlize Theron) runs away from the Citadel, the place where the evil tyrant Immortan Joe lives and presides, to find “The Green Place” where she was born. The Green Place is the place of “Many Mothers” and is ripe with plants and freshwater, unlike the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland that the story is set in.

She goes through hell to escape Immortan Joe, and then to travel far out into the desert with Mad Max to find The Green Place. She finally stumbles onto a few of her old clan in the far reaches of the wastelands who deliver the bad news: The Green Place is no more. They are all that’s left of the Many Mothers.

Furiosa kneels in the sweeping sand and screams with all the pain of hope lost.

She decides the only thing they can do is to pack up their motorcycles and ride as far as they can across the saltlands, just to see if something is out there. But Max stops her and tells her the way she is going “There is only salt and more salt.” Instead of pushing on into the saltlands, he proposes a crazy idea: go back. Take the Citadel, the place from which she escaped.

Ironically, the Citadel is a type of “green place.” It’s set in a mountainside and houses many gardens and a stream of freshwater. But it’s ruled by a cruel lord who distributes the water as a tease to the people who wait at the base of the mountain for one tiny sip.

There is a part of me that wants to hop on a motorcycle and ride off into the saltlands dreaming of a place I once knew, never to look back. But what if there is only salt and more salt that way? Hetty White

Furiosa knows that it will not be an easy road back and there is a war to fight, but she decides to take Mad Max’s advice. They start the return journey and all hell breaks loose. It’s a crazy ride back and there is a war on the road between Furiosa’s gang and the troops from the Citadel. Many people die, but the story concludes with Furiosa standing in the Citadel as the victor, releasing the stream of water to the thirsty people below.

This whole last year has felt like the death of a dream. The dream of everything we once knew. Along with thousands of others, I lost someone precious to me, someone I’m not sure how to live without. There is a part of me that wants to hop on a motorcycle and ride off into the saltlands dreaming of a place I once knew, never to look back. 

But what if there is only salt and more salt that way?

The way back to the Citadel would be a fight, a war. And I don’t mean with others, I mean with ourselves. A war of belief: believing The Green Place is already ours, that it is our inheritance as children of God. But the reward is huge: an endless supply of water that we can freely give to others.

It is a privilege that we even have the dream of a green place to look back on. Yes, most of us would like to go back to a time similar to 2019. But not all of us. What about those who grew up in captivity? Those who don’t even know what fresh water tastes like? Instead of the death of a dream, what if this moment is an opportunity to establish a dream for those who have never dreamt one?

Taking on the Citadel takes teamwork, and teamwork in a post-apocalyptic world doesn’t come easy. When Furiosa and Mad Max first meet, they try to kill each other. As they slowly earn each other’s trust they begin to realize they are each other’s only hope to take the Citadel.

At the end of the film, Mad Max stands in the crowd of people looking up at Furiosa. He nods to her. They have gone through war together and won. I hope some years down the road, we will look at each other with knowing eyes and bump fists (I can dream can’t I?). We went through hell together. But it was worth it. It was worth it to take the green place from our memories and our hearts, and make it a reality, not just for ourselves, but for everyone who is thirsty.

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