The All is Lost Moment
Almost every Wilderness Passage reaches its crisis in what screenwriters call an “All Is Lost Moment.”
This is true in movies and it’s true in real life.
What is an All Is Lost Moment? It’s when the hero, i.e. you and me lost in the Wilderness, hits the wall. We reach a dead end in which all our efforts to resolve our personal crisis come to naught. In the All Is Lost Moment, we see no way forward and no way back. We are lost, in the darkest, most fatal sense.
Paradoxically, our All Is Lost Moment is pregnant with hope. If we can find our way over/under/through whatever it is that is blocking us, we can achieve a breakthrough that will save us … or at least propel us, still breathing, into the next phase of our journey.
Here’s a movie example of an All Is Lost Moment. In Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise as reckless-but-unbeatable fighter pilot Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has been assigned to train a dozen crack naval aviators to fly a desperate mission. Maverick has embraced the challenge and, over weeks of training, has become emotionally attached both to the fliers and the mission. Suddenly his guardian commander, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) dies. At once, Maverick finds himself at the mercy of his arch-enemy, by-the-book Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm).
Cyclone promptly fires Maverick, informing him he will never fly for the Navy again—“permanently.” For Maverick, this is a fate worse than death.
The All Is Lost moment is ubiquitous in books, movies, legends, myths, sagas, and epics, not to mention TED talks.
Huck Finn hits an All Is Lost moment when he must write a letter turning in his great friend, the runaway slave, Jim.
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) hits one in Casablanca when he must give up the love of his life, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman).
You and I hit ours, in real life, when we, as Peter Finch said in the movie Network, “run out of bullshit.”
Suddenly we find outselves face-to-face with the issue we have run from or evaded or been in denial of for our whole life and we have no clue how to combat or overcome it.
I’m going to go into excruciating detail on this subject in the coming weeks, both as it applies to fiction and to our real lives.
It’s all under the heading of our Passage through the Wilderness.