(If you have not yet seen the movie, I do not think this will ruin the movie for you. However, since each has his own measure of "ruin," it's your choice)
When Philomena returns to the nunnery in search of some more clues as to the whereabouts of the son that was taken from her, the nuns handed her a letter that she had signed 50 years prior. The letter said that she relinquished all rights to information about her son.
Her friend, the journalist, asked her if she was coerced. He says something to the effect, "If you were coerced in any way, we can fight this!"
Philomena (played by Judy Dench) responds with something like, "no, I signed it freely. I truly believed what I had done was a sin." (she had sex with a handsome young man at a carnival).
Then the scene changes. The film did not push the question of whether one is still free after years of indoctrination in an isolated location. Disowned by her family and thrown into a convent, Philomena lived with nuns who shamed her and told her she was damned for her sins. Under those conditions was she really free when she signed form?
In our conflict resolution doctoral program, we discuss at length this notion of "choice." What does it mean to be able to choose?
If we had never heard of yoga, do we really have a choice about whether or not to practice it? Can we really expect people to imagine solutions beyond the contexts in which they find themselves? The past 50 years has seen a shift, at least in criminology discussions, to consider the options the person may have considered as possible at the time they conducted whatever crime. A person growing up in an abusive home in a poor neighborhood feels (and maybe rightly so) that she has less choices available to her about what to do with her career, how to care for her health, and how to handle challenging situations.
Then there are these exceptions. My friend, who grew up in the Deanwood Community in DC and had a job giving parking tickets, has totally reinvented himself in this 3 months since we have met. He has committed to bringing healthy food to the neighborhood in which he grew up (Deanwood)
He says they have not had a grocery store for 20 years!!
The only food options are fried chicken and hamburgers. He says these folks don't have choice to be healthy the same way as other folks. At least not with the same ease. He's becoming a vegan chef and will change the face of his neighborhood and the country, I believe. His gift is giving people the power of options. (I would like to write more about him, but surely he will want to write his own autobiography one day and I don't want to ruin it)
The movie, my friend's life change and the doctoral program have all caused me to consider if whether choice and/or the perception of having choice is one of the greatest ways to contribute to others.
Something to think about....