“The end depends upon the beggining.”
St. Benedict Shool for Boys’ headmaster reiterate these words in the beginning of the film The Emperor’s Club, reminding the freshman boys of the school’s philosophy. This they are supposed to put to heart as they go through their journey in school. The statement empasizes the importance of the present to the future, and consequently the past to the present as well as the future. What we have done and what we do affects what is in store for us. Different people have different ways of defining and looking at the past. For some, “Past is past.” It is something that already happened. As Mr. Hundert put it, “We cannot step into the same river twice. An opportunity lost is lost forever.” The past is something we can not do anything about but which should not affect the way we live at present. At this point this belief becomes questionable because we all know that the way we live our lives is inevitably affected by experiences that we had and decisions we made in the past.
Believing otherwise may mean you want to repress hideous past experiences you do not want to remember. But the fact that you repress them proves they still affect you. Mr. Hundert is a remarkable history professor in St. Benedict who also involves himself in the lives of his students in the little ways he can, may it be in the school hallways or the dormitory. When he sees that Sedgewick is not fulfilling his potential, he arranges for a conversation with the boy’s father. The Senator then asks him, “What’s the good of what you’re teaching those boys?” He replies with a belief that “when the boys read Plato, Aristotle… Julius Caesar even, they’re put in direct contact with men who in their own age exemplified the highest standards of statesmanship, civic virtue, character, conviction.”
As a history teacher he believes in the power of the past to be a good example to his students. As was once said in our class, “The best historian finds a way to repeat an event in the future because it’s good or not make it happen again because it’s a bad thing.” In the context of their lives, Sedgewick and Martin both hold on to a past that determine how they behave in school. Martin’s father was once Mr. Julius Caesar, and as such he’s compelled to study hard and follow the rules to make his parents proud and give value to the tuition they are paying. Sedgewick, on the other hand, grew up without receiving much attention from his father. Thus, he struggles to please him and even goes on to cheat in the Julius Caesar competition just so he wouldn’t fail in front of his Dad. Even our split-second decisions can have a big impact to our future.
Mr. Hundert changing Sedgewick’s essay grade, prohibiting Martin from entering the competition, and letting Sedgewick’s cheating pass during the event itself changed not just his life, but Martin’s and Sedgewick’s as well. A lot of things could have gone differently if he didn’t change that A- and A+, or if he denouncedSedgewick’s cheating right there and then. To say that “how we perceive and act in the future is completely up to us” would be questionable, since we know that our present and future lives are inevitably affected not just by our own decisions and experiences but those of others as well. Again quoting from one of our class lectures, “Everything we have done, are doing, or will do inevitably affects others. Even everything we have not done, are not doing or will not do.”
A good illustration would be Mr. Hundert not being appointed as Headmaster of St. Benedict, and Mr. Ellerby taking the position. Mr. Hundert has been looking forward to headmastership for a long time but he neglected what Mr. Ellerby has been brewing on the side over the years. “History repeats itself. If you let it.” It is true that the past’s influence in our life is inevitable, but we do have the power to decide for ourselves, and we have control over how much the past influences our thoughts and actions, consequently our future. Sedgewick decided to live his life without striving for excellence, because he chooses to and not because his Dad wants it. Eventually, though, he ends up trying out to become a politician, still wanting to please his deceased his father.
Martin Blight not entering the Julius Caesar competition in school may have had a significant effect to him, but after twenty-five years he chooses to put it away. Instead, he sends his son to St. Benedict in the hope that Mr. Hundert has learned his lesson with what happened. Mr. Hundert is happy in the end, even if he failed with Sedgewick. He tells himself, “…the worth of a life is not determined by a single failure, or a solitary success.” Also, even if Elizabeth had a relationship in the past, it did not hinder their happiness together when the unsuccessful marriage finally ended.
Saying that “Past is both past and not past,” is justifiable because it means we see the past as something that already happened and we can not do anything about, but still affects our present and future to a certain degree. However, to continue the statement with, “How we perceive and act in the future is completely up to us,” would be problematic. The way we perceive and act in the future, and even our future itself, is influenced by our experiences and decisions made in the past and at present, as well as those of others. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where we coexist with other people who are determining factors in what happens to us, just as we are to them. In conclusion, the end does depend upon the beginning, with a lot of other factors involved here and there determined by the person as well as his society.
Courtney from Study Moose
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