‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’ together with ‘Monty Python’s and the Holy Grail’ are two great and timely cult comedies made in the 1970s, from which we can still learn a lot today.
‘Life of Brian’ shows very vividly how people misunderstood the words of Jesus and changed the meaning of what he had said. It happened at the origin of every religion but here it illustrates how Jesus’ teachings concluded in the existence of various christian faiths. When he speaks from the top of a mountain, people who are far away cannot hear what he says. So the ones who stand closer repeat his words to them. The problem is, they don’t hear him very well either and twist his words around. So the further his message goes, the more distorted it gets.
Later we see that even if people do hear the words of the speaker, they still can change the meaning according to their own agenda. When Brian tells his followers to leave him alone and go away, they do not listen. They follow him and some of them want to become leaders by telling others what his words mean. They try to explain things, the real meaning of his sign, but come to contrary conclusions. This way the group of followers gets divided. They all believe they are the chosen ones and know the truth. They decide who is a heretic and who should die for being one.
The same situation we observe with the prophets, who are prophesying different things. Each of them receives a message and feels the call to share it. Maybe they are all just parts of the same truth? Or maybe there are various truths and they are all right in their own way? But at least they do not tell others what to do or think. They only pass the message they received. As Brian explains to the crowd: ‘You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody.’ But not all people want to think for themselves. As one of the soldiers replies to Brian: ‘I like orders’. Life is easier that way.
In the middle of the film we see Brian flying on a spaceship with a pair of aliens. They do not seem to be much more advanced than humans. They crush their ship and most likely do not survive the crush. Brian seems not to be too surprised by the encounter. Maybe he does know more than we suspected him to know? He is surely a thinker – he likes asking questions which drives his poor mother mad. Maybe asking questions is the most important thing? And maybe we are not supposed to find the answers in this life? As we hear at the end of the film: ‘You’ll see it’s all a show.’
Lastly, in ‘The Holy Grail’ God tells Arthur that his purpose is the quest for the Holy Grail. I am still looking for mine but maybe it’s also the journey that counts more, and not the destination? Maybe we are just supposed to keep on looking for our purpose and not to find it?