Home » The Write Stuff » Living the Braveheart Life

Living the Braveheart Life

Living the Braveheart Life

Finding the Courage to Follow Your Heart

By Randall Wallace

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

– Declaration of Arbroath

1320 Scotland

“Fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live … at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take … OUR FREEDOM!”

– Braveheart

– Screenplay written by Randall Wallace

It’s difficult to watch a film like Braveheart, hear a speech like that, and not be at least a bit thrilled. And while, as most readers of my book reviews will know, my first choice genre isn’t self-help, it was definitely intriguing to be given a book written by the man who wrote those stirring words, and who now undertook to write a book on living a
better, nobler, more courageous life.

I tend to read such books with a bit of dismissal: oh yeah? Show me how well you lived your life before telling me how I should live mine! And the writer doesn’t shy away from admitting that his own life, while in some ways enchanted (he got to write Braveheart, didn’t he?) was in most other ways ordinary (a small town Tennessee boy with a divorce in his future) and full of the heartaches we generally experience.

But if you examine some of the rest of his oeuvre: We Were Soldiers, Pearl Harbor,
Secretariat and Heaven is for Real, you’ll see a couple of themes running through them – heroes, faith, spirit and inspiration. And because he has clearly spent so much time dwelling upon the people who challenged those qualities, perhaps, I thought, he’d picked up some wisdom.

It’s also fair to say that for end-of-the-day reading, the book is simple, and a chapter or two won’t put you to sleep but won’t keep you up all night pondering, either. It’s gentle, never silly, and doesn’t take itself too seriously – for all that it’s about the most serious things in life.

Mel Gibson as William Wallace.

The conceit of the book is that the life lessons Randall Wallace offers us are all drawn from his insights (real or imagined) into William Wallace – with whom he shares a surname, if not a traceable kinship.

Before the film project is even a twinkle in Mel Gibson’s eye, Randall travels to Scotland where he quickly learns that Wallace is considered by many as one of the greatest, if not the greatest legendary hero of the nation. He also notes that Wallace and Robert the Bruce —first and much revered King of the Scots— appeared to have lived at the same time. The story also goes that The Bruce betrayed Wallace, yet he goes on to become a great king. Was there something, he wonders, about Wallace that inspired transformation? How do we become better people, he asks, and what, who, can bring out the best in us? This “best” is what Wallace calls “the Braveheart life.”

In Randall Wallace’s telling of it, William’s story begins with a father who dies when William is just a boy. But his uncle becomes the mentor, the parent, that William loses while still young. Someone, writes the author, must teach us – be the parents, the concerned elders who show us “How to use this” (our head) and “this” (our swords, which is to say our talents). With these weapons, we’ll be prepared to handle the inevitable: our wounds.

Another telling event for each of us is what Randall Wallace calls The Moment, or the Calling. The time when we figure out what it is we were meant to do, to be. It may be great, it may be humble, it may be something we would never have expected.

Sometimes, he adds, it is our friends —our brothers and sisters— who help us reach our
understanding of who we are and what we are meant to do, to be, to become. They may come to us as literal brothers and sisters, or as companions for a time, but whomever they are – they are there for us, and we are there for them. If you saw the film, you know that William Wallace had several friends of different kinds, each helped shape him into the man he needed to be, and he in turn, helped them along their path. Friends, then, are another essential part of living the Braveheart life.

Much of what Randall Wallace offers isn’t new, precisely, but because he has embodied it in the study of an historic, and heroic, figure, it is easier to actually see the challenges, the risks, the virtues, playing out. So honor, self-knowledge, failure and recovery, faithfulness, purpose, even humor – these things have been displayed for us many times and in many ways as qualities and experiences we should seek to live our lives to the fullest.

But it never hurts to revisit them from time to time – and this time, with a Scottish accent.

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.