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“It’s precisely what kept you from greatness.” (Doctor Strange, 2016)

With the recent release of Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I found myself rewatching the first edition of Doctor Strange (2016) to refresh my memory of where they had left off. Being a huge Doctor Strange fan, I was fully immersed in and in love with the movie again just like the very first time I had watched it.

Aside from noticing details that I hadn’t noticed before, I found myself extremely drawn to some of the quotes in the movie. They seemed to carry a weight of profoundness that my 17-year-old self wouldn’t have understood, let alone paid attention to. Watching it after 6 formative years of my life made me watch it through a different lens and with different focal points.

One quote that deeply resonated within me came from the bittersweet moment right before The Ancient One’s (played by Tilda Swinton) death. She had just suffered fatal injuries from her fight with Kaecilius, her former protégé who had rebelled against her and was receiving surgery. During the procedure, both hers and Doctor Strange’s astral forms travelled to a balcony of the hospital where they managed to reconcile after a misunderstanding had occurred between them. The Ancient One also takes the opportunity to impart some of the most human lessons to Doctor Strange.

Here, she tells Doctor Strange that though he had possessed such a capacity for greatness, his excellence did not stem from a desire for success but rather, a fear of failure. When Doctor Strange argued that it was his fear of failure that made him a great surgeon, she counters him by saying, “It’s precisely what kept you from greatness.” The Ancient One explains that along with his arrogance, it was his fear of failure which kept him from learning the “simplest and most significant lesson of all” which was that it was not about him.

Towards the end of the film, we eventually see a breakthrough in Doctor Strange’s character when he willingly offers to be killed by Dormammu over and over again in an eternal time loop that he creates to save humanity from destruction lest Dormammu gives in to his bargain. This character growth we observe in Doctor Strange also reveals a transformation in his worldview that moves away from his selfish and arrogant self towards a more selfless and humble individual.

So often in life, we can get too comfortable staying in our comfort zones that the mere thought of stepping out of it scares us. Unknowingly, we become driven by the fear of failing that we unknowingly imprison our capacity to grow and pursue what we genuinely desire to have. The idea of doing what’s easy and convenient can be very tempting at times, especially in moments of discouragement and setbacks, but one thing we can ask ourselves for a reality check is this:

If today turns out to be our last day on earth, what are some things that we might regret not doing?

Perhaps, this would give us some perspective to think about.


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