The Dharma of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

I’d issue a spoiler alert, but I figure since the movie has been around for 65 years, you’d have watched it by now if you wanted to.

I’ve never paid close attention to this movie until we just recently watched it as a family.  I always had it in my head that it’s just a smarmy, overly-sentimental Christmas movie.

But upon closer inspection, it appears to embody the Buddhist idea of finding joy in the midst of suffering.

When the main character comes back home after his nightmare hallucination with the angel, he is no longer depressed or hopeless, and yet nothing has changed. He doesn’t yet know that his daughter is feeling better, his house is still drafty, he doesn’t know that his money woes will be resolved, he doesn’t even know that he won’t still be jailed.  The only thing that has changed is his point of view.


I want to learn how to do this, sans angel.  (Or, if I need an angel, fine, but be quick about it.  I don’t have hours every day for rambling what-if scenarios.)

Can I approach every situation being grateful for all the wonderful things about it, while dealing intelligently with the not-so-wonderful things about it with an eye toward possible solutions?

Can I leave aside the oh-so-cool cynicism of my youth, the existential angst that insists the only things worth noticing are the things that prove that nothing matters? (Definitely not present in the movie, but something I think we as a culture picked up along the way in the last part of the 20th century, and something that colors our perception toward the negative.)

Can I embrace the positive at risk of being accused of Pollyanna-ism?

Can I acknowledge and then leave aside doubt, fear, worry and regret and remain open to what is?


One response to “The Dharma of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

  1. My comment from your Dixie post would fit here too, I think. I’ve tried the listening exercise for about two weeks now and have never felt more at peace or content despite facing some challengind situations.

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