Uncategorized Randomness


It’s been several months, readers! I apologize. It’s been a wild ride.

And really, it’s funny that my last post in September was about a DIY facial; the breakout I experienced at that time was due to a rush of progesterone, which was one of many biological clues (and one prove-it-all test) that led to this announcement to Boaz:

Baby announce collage

Can you read it? The moment was captured live on September 17 on my smartphone, so it’s a bit blurry at this size. My message next to the sticky bun says, “There’s a ‘bun’ in the ‘oven’!”

I’ve confided on this blog before that I (hence, we) have been using the Fertility Awareness Method for nearly two years – first, to avoid pregnancy naturally (successfully, too), and then, more recently in August, to reverse the pregnancy-avoidance method to attempt to conceive. I don’t know why I was so convinced that it would take us months and months to conceive on any method, but I was pretty darn wrong.

So, the last few months, I’ve been busy, busy, busy, in addition to being sleepy, nauseous, and hungry, to the point of coming home from work and making dinner, eating it, and falling asleep in my plate instead of writing blog posts.

The second trimester is definitely here now, though, so I’m feeling much more like myself . . .

. . . And at the same time, not myself. Because at the moment, I’m essentially two people in one body.

What a strange way to start off 2015.

As weird a body-space as I’m occupying now, the head-space of this change in state has been even stranger. Everyone has heard stories about the bizareness of pregnancy dreams and cravings and so forth, but no one warns you about the philosophical space you enter.

One of the more persistent thoughts I’ve had as I entered 2015 has been this:

I’m a soul, nurturing another soul. Whoa.

It’s thought-fodder enough to really shape my resolution this year:

I want to learn how to feed my soul so that I can ultimately nurture my child’s.

That gets into some tricky grounding, though. After all, what even is a soul? And why is it that nobody (not even in most churches, folks!) seems to ever talk about it, or seem care about it anymore?

We live in an era of history where the shape of the body and the accomplishments of the mind are EVERYTHING. Our society chases new fitness and diet regimes, running until we have to replace our knees, then spend tens of thousands on degrees to prove we know what we know in the hopes of getting hired, making money, and enjoying life.

But we forget that neither the body nor the mind (or the material gains we make from them) are guaranteed to last – just ask anyone in a hospital spending what thousands of dollars they once had in savings on cancer treatments, or chat up one of the pleasantly confused old citizens wandering around your local nursing home.

I want to give myself, and my child, the only kind of health and wealth that lasts beyond this life.  

So, in this post, I want to begin exploring what a soul is, and what a healthy versus an unhealthy soul does. There’s a lot of (older) literature written about the soul, and there’s a lot to pull out of it in an attempt to define something so ineffable. Please feel free to jump in with your own gleanings from what you’ve read and discovered!

Defining the “Soul”

When most of us think of the word soul, the mostly widely-recognized early Western-world definition of the soul springs to mind without our realizing it, simply because this early definition defined so much of our foundational thinkers’ philosophies. Rendered in Greek as ψυχή, or psychē, it is loosely translated as the “life, spirit, consciousness,” closely related to the verb for breathing or blowing, essential for life; more recently in human history, it has served as our root for the word psychology (the study of the soul). We owe the popularity of this root word to Plato’s Republic, in which Plato presents the soul in three parts: logos (logic, mind), thymos (emotion, spiritedness, our response to the action in our world, considered masculine) and eros (the desires and wishes, considered feminine), which all strive to rule the will of a person. In Plato’s view, in a balanced, spiritually healthy person, logos rules the other two elements, and so commands the psyche. Like his teacher, Socrates, Plato believed that the soul, though influencing the physical body, survived after death, unlike the physical body.

In Hebrew tradition, the word for the soul is nephesh, likewise meaning “vital breath,” and, similar to Plato’s view, is an entity somewhat distinct from the body, although it nevertheless imbues life to the physical form on Earth through the touch of the divine.

Due to Septuagint-based translations of the Hebrew scriptures, many Christians pass over the word nephesh without even realizing that it refers to the soul when they read the English versions of Genesis 2:7 (“The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [or soul, since this is nephesh].”), and the Psalms (such as Psalm 49:8, often translated as “The ransom for a life (nephesh) is costly; no payment is ever enough.”), and even the Torah-building law book of Deuteronomy (in Deut. 4:9a, the English Standard Version translates most correctly, “Only take care, and keep your soul (nephesh) diligently.”)

Other times, the Septuagint renders nephesh directly into the English word soul or spirit, most notably in the Psalms, which depict some behaviors of the soul: yearning for the divine (and in many places, responding to the sublime as a connection to the divine), feeling unrest, and enjoying celebratory praise and giving blessing, as well as enduring beyond life, leaving behind an empty body. Here are some examples:

Psalm 43:5a: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”

Psalm 63:1: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Psalm 103:1: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!”

Psalm 116:7: “Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.”

Psalm 146:4: “When their spirit (here, denoted as ruach, meaning “breath, wind, spirit”) departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.”

This last Psalm uses the word ruach, which also has a few other instances of use in the Old Testament canon, including uses that tell us more about the soul or spirit. I’ll summarize what I found: A person’s “spirit” has many characteristics, including unfaithfulness (Psalm 78:8), sincerity (Psalm 32:2), and humility (Isaiah 57:15). The “spirit” can also be unsettled, even crushed (Joshua 5:1), but it can also be restored and brought back to health (Isaiah 57:15).

In the Christian New Testament, the word psyche (sometimes rendered psuche) is predominantly used for the soul (this is presumably Koine Greek rather than Plato’s Classical Greek). Jesus’ teachings frequently mention the word, and it’s re-emphasized again in the apostolic writings. All these instances agree that the soul is eternal, valuable, and able to be damaged by darker forces and burdened by evil doings (this is remarkably similar to ancient Egyptian beliefs recorded in the Book of the Dead, by the by).

Here are just a few example verses:

Matthew 16: 26 –[Jesus speaking:] “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (psyche)? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Matthew 10:28- [Jesus speaking:] “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (psuche). Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23 – [Paul writes:] “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul* (psuche) and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of this is some heavy theology. But the point is pretty clear. The soul is important. We should care about it. But how do we figure out how to do that?  Maybe it’s best to look at what the unhealthy soul and the healthy soul look like for some clues.

What a soul so often lacks is the quiet needed for clarity. We live in a noisy, attention-seeking world.

How an Unhealthy Soul Behaves

 “Because my inner life is invisible, it is easy to neglect.” – John Ortberg

The soul seems to be a fragile thing in scripture and even in Platonic philosophy. Since it serves as the harbor for the complexity of our personal traits, spiritual energy, and competing desires as well as acting as the burden-bearer of our life experiences, it is prone to great unrest.

Theologian Dallas Willard devoted a great portion of his life to understanding the behaviors of the soul; one of his students, John Ortberg, boiled down some of the behavioral patterns of souls in poor health using one of the parables of Jesus from Matthew 13: 3-9, the Parable of the Sower (Ortberg, 54-60). This parable outlines three unfulfilling attitudes of various “states of soil” (which the reader understands as representing the states of various people’s souls) as they respond to a generously given “seed” (a message from God or the divine):

Hardened: This is a soil (soul) that has surrounded itself with a protective shell of bitter cynicism or suspicion after bearing the burdens of a life made difficult through sources of continual, overwhelming fear. Good things that try to grow here never even get the chance to take root.

Shallow: This is a soil (soul) that has a very shallow level of growthful depth, caused by a preoccupation with immediate gratification and comfort that leaves no room for “staying power” or capacity for commitment beyond that initial gratification. This is a soil that won’t give the best of itself to nurture anything. What good things try to grow here unfortunately die quickly.

Thorny/Cluttered: This is a soil (soul) whose focus is entangled with externals that seem important – the pursuit of a material lifestyle, awesome reputation, or unique and exciting experiences— that choke out its desires for the more valuable, simple, less glamorous blessings that come from the divine. Good things that try to grow in this soil have to constantly compete and do battle with the myriad pleasures and status-boosters that this soul desires.

Sad thing is, none of us choose to have souls in these conditions, but they do happen—to all of us, I think, just at various times of life. And when they do, they alter our psychological (our psyche’s) mindset completely, blinding us to the deeper truth of our circumstances. It can lead to our isolation or alienation from friends, cause rifts in relationships, or set us up for disappointment and heartache in other ways. Often, we look back on these periods of poor soul-health later in life with regret, recognizing at last the many missed opportunities or the time-wasting pursuits (or even relationships!) that we were too blind to see for what they really were while we were rolling around in our bad soul-dirt.

I’d love to try to protect myself in the future from having more of those regrets, and teach my child to keep him or herself balanced to avoid these spiritual pitfalls . . . but life, it seems, can really throw us all for a loop.

How a Healthy Soul Behaves

“A soul,” explains John Ortberg in Soul Keeping, “is what integrates your will (your intentions), your mind (your thoughts and feelings, your values and conscience) and your body (your face, body language, and actions) into a single life. A soul is healthy – well-ordered – when there is harmony between these three entities and God’s intent for all creation. When you are connected with God and other people in life, you have a healthy soul” (43).

Keeping this in mind, there are a few specific ways that a healthy soul then behaves:

A Healthy Soul Stays in Alignment with What It Values.

I think it’s hard to feel settled within ourselves when we observe occasional hypocrisy in our own behavior. Worse, inconsistency within our actions can become even a little pathological, leading to disordered thinking and behavior over time. But when our souls are consistently aligned with what we most deeply value, we gain a deep spiritual contentment and true sense of being where we are meant to be. One of the prayers I’ve learned at my job at a Jesuit high school comes from Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., and it goes like this,

“Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in Love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”

This kind of empowering commitment gets our butts off the couch and out there with other people who need us. It’s a powerful, meaningful way to live and to see life.

A Healthy Soul Finds Contentment.

. . . But not by going out the door looking for something/someone to give it contentment, but by practicing the art of gratitude for what is already present.

How often do we forget how blessed we truly are? Friends, family, even our abilities, all of it is really a gift. We forget that, sometimes! But when we remember to be grateful, we no longer feel the need to go restlessly searching on, seeking that one other thing we need to make us happy. We find happiness in the moment.

We remember, too, that God is a part of that happiness, when we see how little of what we had was actually earned by our actions. “Praise the Lord, my soul,” writes the Psalmist in Psalm 103, “and forget not all His benefits . . . who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things . . .”

A Healthy Soul Draws Sustenance from Something Other than the Self.

We live in an age where even well-meaning people say, “Take care of yourself!” when we feel run-down or are faced with a difficult trial. While it’s sensible to care for our bodies with adequate rest and nourishment, a soul finds its sustenance beyond the bounds of our bed and board, and certainly finds better food for growth and thought when we aren’t too focused on ourselves.

When we’re run down by the demands of our draining, self-filled lives, our souls miss the replenishing focus and direction provided by the divine. We often forget the power of prayer in this regard, but as Francois Fenelon, an erstwhile royal tutor to King Louis XIV (who fell out of favor when he stood up to the monarch) discovered while in a very stressful exile, “In order to make your prayer life more profitable, it would be well from the beginning to picture yourself as a poor, naked, miserable wretch, perishing of hunger. . . These are true pictures of our condition before God . . . and God alone can heal you” (qtd. Ortberg, 87).

A Healthy Soul Has No Need to Become Anything Else.

A balanced, well-nourished soul that is connected to others, content with its own resources, and is connected to God is virtually unstoppable. It gives the soul-bearer an oddly glowing, resilient, hard-to-drag-down quality, even in tough times. It also grants the soul-bearer the kind of un-self-concerned freedom, inner strength, and courage that’s needed to reach out to others in need in ways that are deeply meaningful and life-changing. There is a ton of value in having a soul that’s in this state, because this in itself is extraordinary in terms of its spiritual potential.

In the words of Dallas Willard, “You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe . . . The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.”

But of course, getting to this point can really take some work. Join me in the coming weeks as I come around to this topic again in a mini-series of posts called “Workouts for the Soul.

In the meantime, happy, soul-nurturing New Year to you all!

Ruth

NOTES:

* There are some disagreements about the role of the soul versus the spirit among Christian theologians; some view them as interchangeable, as “spirit” (rendered pneúma or ruach in Greek ) closely resembles the meaning of nephesh in Hebrew (both referring to breath, as in breath of life of the divine). But there’s also a lot out there about whether the soul and the spirit are separate entities, as it appears sometimes that they are used interchangeably, and at times, as separate and defined entities.

My take on this debate rests on Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, bone and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” From this metaphoric phrasing I (admittedly simplistically) extract that soul and spirit are loosely both a part of the same spiritual force, although with defined functions, like a bone contains marrow, with the ossified tissue of bone playing a different, but supporting role to marrow tissue. To me, though, this whole argument really isn’t terribly important; regardless of the roles of each, both spirit and soul point to the deepest, most essential and spiritually-enduring parts of us.

Non-linkable Citation:

Ortberg, John. Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. Print.

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Update post!  It’s been a long week of blessings.

First, the job search process came to an end.  On Monday night last week, at around 5:15 p.m., I received a call from the preparatory school that I applied to in response to their need for an event coordinator/scholarship steward.  They offered me the job.  Feeling underprepared, overwhelmed, and very grateful, I accepted.

After a hectic half-week of orientation at the school and evenings spent finishing projects at my marketing internship at the hospital, on Thursday, I officially closed out my marketing internship with all requisite exit interviews–and, of course, with a luncheon with my department there. I’m going to miss them, and their safe, lovely nest from which I flew. 

Now, I’m starting the slightly-less scary job transition process. I’m learning the history of the school, the fundraising software, the names and faces that I’ll be working with every day from now on, and researching (today) all of the previous events held there so that I’ll have an idea of where to put my feet before I can even move them.

And by the way, my neighbor rocks for helping me put my car back together. My replacement bumper cover arrived on Tuesday night, and I had my “butt” back on my car by Friday night, thanks to the amazing semi-retired metal worker/engineer living next door.  I made him brownies, a little compensatory check, and a funny thank-you card with a picture of a car with a bandaid on it for his troubles.  And I missed my dad more than a little while I was getting all dirty and sweaty working with him to get my tail lights off and back on around the installation process.

I’m convinced, after too many days of having things handed to me this week, that there’s a lot of God and only a little bit of your pal Ruth involved in this whole process. So I’m going to watch what happens next. Wish me luck!  I’ll be back to update when I can.  Right now, I’m off to write thank-you notes to my old nesters and to study up on my new digs.

I’m in that job-searching place again (and how apt that it’s almost been exactly a year, and I’m once again staring at my own writing on the subject in print here). I’ve filled out at least half a dozen applications in the past two weeks to various jobs, from my home here in the Indiana boondocks to Lexington, KY.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of job applications to you older folks, who used to go out driving and dropping off résumés, but consider the fact that today’s job searching is all done online. And consider, too, that hospital and university HR departments (where I’m mostly applying) want more than just a résumé and brief cover letter. They want writing samples, recommendation letters, and a complete online career history profile—including your high school jobs, your references, and your ethnic/sexual/relationship/police record history status.  It takes about six hours for me to apply to a single job, but about two weeks and thirty seconds to get a stock email back telling me my hours were wasted.  The current way of doing things—online applications only, please, no personal calls—sucks.

So, I’m still applying, but I’m also taking a slightly passive stance. I’m finding that acquaintances of mine who are aware of my internship-ending-soon-with-no-openings-in-sight position are very helpful and are doing some networking for me.  I’ve been getting emails from these helpful saints about job leads, and I’d like to say ‘thank you.’

The reason why I’m being “lazy” (to some minds) has something to do with my tendency to trust the things I see in nature as being facets of God’s original design. At my old volunteer gig at the Zoo, I watched a tiger hunt–stalking a bit towards the potential target, waiting, sneaking a little closer, waiting again–and this practice is, and has always been, efficient enough to feed and sustain the tiger.  Moreover, to quote God himself in Job 38, the situation is really out of my hands/paws:

“Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” v. 39-41

I, maybe foolishly, see God’s providence in this job-hunting process, too: in one supportive networker friend at a time, flushing the career field bushes for me, or passing by with an easy opening in their hands and a personal insider in the company to boot.  All I have to do is wait . . . and pounce.

Meantime, I’ll sharpen my newly learned marketing skills, and I’ll try—try not to freak out about all the life transitions I’m facing once again this summer as I re-enter the job market feeling only slightly prepared for a real career and very uncertain about where I’ll wind up if I miraculously land one.  Breathe. Be calm.

After all, when tigers wait for a meal and get anxious or nervous about it, their tails start to move, and they give themselves away. That’s when the opportunities suddenly vanish.

One more thought: a bit of wisdom from the eminent Bill Watterson and my favorite tiger of his.

Hobbes' Wisdom

Calvin and Hobbes (c) Universal Press Syndicate

I love my Wenders. She’s hilarious. Original. Slightly wild—okay, sometimes very wild–with views that run across the knap of mine in the best, fun-inducing way.  She’s got the soul of a wide-eyed child and the brain of a fifty-year old college professor who sits up sipping wine and reading something much cooler than Steinbeck.  She’s a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal who is happiest when she’s surrounded by a club of boys (which is not uncommon)–and occassionally, her skirt-wearing gal pals like Ruth.

Recently, she moved to Washington, D.C. to live closer to her sister (whose baby’s due soon–and it needs an Aunt Dub-Jay [Wendy Jane]).  She also just moved back in with her old college roommate, Beth, who is working near D.C.   In her new situation, Wendy’s now looking for work, stability, and a way around the public transportation system as she settles into her new town, the aptly named “Chocolate City.”  She probably spends her time looking for chocolate, too–in more than the literal sense.

Read her blog here, which will run the hilarious/insightful gamut of topics from social issues like illegal drugs and dating to deep thoughts on theology.  She might also throw in some of her kickass creative works of poetry and prose (please?).  I’ve added the link to the sidebar on the right, but I’ll post it here, too:  http://www.wjhollenbeck.wordpress.com

Visit today and show Wendy some love.  You’ll probably wind up on the floor laughing until you’re stuck lying there thinking about the things she said. . .

Miss you, Wendy!

Love,

Ruth

I’ve written a post or two about how I feel about dating in the past (See my post on why current dating practices suck by clicking here.)  But I think you can tell that this new series aims to be a little less academic.  Random poetry written late at night is often more expressive than a five-paragraph essay, in my opinion.  And I’m glad you’re enjoying it, even if you don’t quite know what to make of it (and I don’t always, either). 

 I’m now one week out from that first date I wrote about in the last Dating Files post.   In the aftermath, I called Mr. J back once about a day later, and he was gracious enough not to press for feedback or ask for date two quite yet.  I think he could tell I was still stewing.  However, he did call/text at least twice a day throughout this week, which was making me a bit antsy (stalker, much?). 

Part of this, I understand, comes from our cultural differences.   I am Anglo in heritage, primarily, and he is Hispanic.   His tendencies, to me and my English courtesy-based-wait-at-least-18-hours-before-calling for-the-second-date-rule, seemed invasive.  To him, they were complimentary and meant to express continued interest.   He’s just now figuring out that he’d made me feel flighty and cornered, since I only just this afternoon called him back.

But to my feminine intuition’s credit, I was right to take some time and distance to consider the things I’d learned about him on our date and during our conversations before and after.  

For starters, I was able to accurately relay to him this afternoon that I felt that our cultural differences, when combined with our age difference, were hard for me to overcome at this life stage. He is over thirty, and he spent most of his childhood and adolescence in Mexico. His knowledge and experience of modern American popular culture, dating culture, politics, language, and even technology all reflect this.   Needless to say, it was hard to feel like we had more in common than an interest in salsa dancing and a shared love of Johnny Depp’s films  (We went to go see “Alice in Wonderland” last week).  It also forced me to stretch and focus really, really hard on my Spanish, which is rusty, to the point that his hour-long conversations gave me headaches from simply trying to keep up.  He was having to stretch to understand my theological perspective (which, admittedly, is complicated, even when I discuss it in his own language), my aspirations for love (no, I’m not your typical postmodern female who will accept dating/shaking up for several years before even considering marriage), and even my references to rather common books and films (at least, in English).   

I think you get the picture: I was struggling to keep up and struggling to drag him along with me, in every encounter. We just didn’t fit. 

He accepted this graciously, remembering that I was young, and conceding that I was the first American girl he’d dated. And then he decided, while we were being honest with each other, to tell me that he was divorced, and that he had two children here in Indianapolis  (ages 10 and 14) that he neglected to mention on our first date or in any of our eight phone discussions. Huh.

I know, realistically, that since I didn’t find my mate in college (or, because I was a depressive psycho in college while my dad was dying, I ruined those chances I might have had), I am now entering a wider and less-polished dating pool, full of minnows, sharks, and slimy eels who have various degrees of education, sexual experience, and relational expectations.  I have even accepted that I might, like my mother, wind up marrying closer to age 30 than to 20, and marry a man with some baggage (my dad was previously married for a few years, with no children, before he had his divorce). 

 But a divorced expatriate with two children, an actively meddlesome ex-wife, no desire to pursue better English or education, and no plans to (re)marry any time soon?  No, God, no.

So here’s my early evening poetry.

A Decent Man

“Dear, God,” I said, “I need a seasoned Jewish matchmaker double-quick

because I am tired of the finding/chasing/dating/dumping/hurting/waiting schtick.

The record shows that I clearly seem to stink at choosing my own mate,

and at $50 a month for aliterate (yes, a-literate) goonies, eHarmony isn’t so great.

My matchmaker friends are quickly running out of stock and luck,

so I’m begging here, God: please,  please,  just send me a guy who doesn’t suck.”

God smiled a Cheshire grin at me, then winked, and then he said,

“Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres, m’ija.  Así encontraremos tus errores.”

And I answered, “I’ve been hanging with my friends, mis amigas–las mejores–

who accept who I am, but don’t reflect my values, or my belief in you,

but I would have thought these men who met me knew–”

And God raised a hand to interrupt me, smiling still, and sad.

He didn’t speak, but I understood.  And, briefly, I was mad.

“Are you saying this is my fault? For chilling with my friends?

Drinking a little, dancing a lot– all these things are just trends,

things I enjoy innocently. Are you saying they give the wrong idea to men?”

He said, “Like in appearance attracts like in substance, child.

The players, the slicksters, they see only a girl being wild.

You can’t expect them to know that you want quiet,

solid character, and goodness when you’re standing in a riot.

Go where there is good work, and peace, and kindness, and then,

You’ll be surprised to be surrounded by so many decent men…”

Ah, good advice.  Good advice.  But then, that’s God talking, so don’t be surprised. That about wraps up this post.  But before I go, I am going to up my flagging hit counts for the blog with a dash of Robert Pattinson news that’s all over the web this week. In light of Rob’s obvious humility, and Obama’s obvious hubris in the form of the recently-forced passage of a bill that conflagrates our Constiutional rights, I thought this news was pretty. damn. funny:

Robert Pattinson tops Obama in Time‘s list of influential people

New Statesman

Published 02 April 2010

Time Magazine has released the preliminary results of its poll on the 100 most influential people in America.

The final list, based on the votes of the American public, features several Hollywood actors at the top.

According to the preliminary findings of the poll, conducted by the American news magazine every year, the US public seem to find English actor Robert Pattinson, known for his role in the Twilight trilogy, and the US talk show host, Conan O’Brien, more influential than President Barack Obama.

The initial results were based on the first 5,000 votes counted.

The poll asks votes for leaders, artists, innovators and icons who they think merit spots on 2010’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The poll has nominated 200 individuals and calls for votes before it finalises the list.

From Fablife.com's report of the TIME poll. I thought it was clever. See link below to their article. Hail to the---er, God save the---Oh, what the hell. America, let's just go back to being ruled by the British, so long as it's Rob on the throne. 🙂

There’s a more detailed article on the subject here, as well as this clever bit of Photoshoppage (above, which looks great except for the fact that Rob is equally as tall as Obama in real life. Tru fax!).

I’m still processing it.  I loved it. I adored Ruby Jerins, the 11-year-old wonder-girl actress who plays Tyler Hawkins’ (Rob Pattinson) little sister, Caroline.  I thought Emilie de Ravin, who played Aly, Tyler’s love interest, was fiesty, sportive, fun, and tender in all the ways a good woman should be.  I hated how sad the ending was—but thought it was neat how all those tiny little details added up in the end to make it sensible, if not still shocking (I won’t tell you what happened, but let’s just say, I wasn’t expecting them to make a movie with the fact of this event tucked so realistically and emotionally inside the plot).

View in HD (non-embeddable): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMBfTdm9ALk

And, hell yes, I adored Rob.   I’m not going to gush, though–much.  So here’s me, trying to review a work by someone I obviously find attractive and respect a great deal. Don’t expect me to be impartial.  Like Fox News Channel, I’m only going to make a pretense at being “fair and balanced,” since you all know what I’m actually rooting for.

Here’s a not-too-brief, and not-too-spoilery, synopsis:  Tyler Hawkins (Rob Pattinson) is a nearly 22 year-old living in New York who is not, in fact, actually living —at least, not for himself.  Since the suicide of his brother, Michael,  Tyler’s been living for everyone else around him, even fighting their battles, and ignoring his own life (he suffers from guilt for living, we think, maybe).  He’s rather aimless, lost, and “desireless,” as Rob has called him, but he has one focus that does guide his behavior:  he really, really wants to fix his divorced, broken, grieving family, and to make a happier childhood possible for his adorable little sister, precocious 11 year-old Caroline (played by the amazing Ruby Jerins). 

Tyler (Rob) responds to Caroline (Ruby Jerins) as she chastises him for smoking in the kids' area of Central Park. In this outtake not put into the film, Rob pouts, and Ruby laughs.

Tyler lives with his roommate, Aidan (Tate Ellington), who is your typical party-going manwhore who occassionally frets over the fact that Tyler seems depressed in spite of his ability to attract women like cats to cream (I mean, come on, Me-ow!).  One night, in an attempt to get Tyler to come out of his depressive cave, Tyler and Aidan head out to the bar scene, only to find themselves witness to a nasty, unprovoked attack in the street that Tyler, in an act of righteous, self-destructive impulsivity, rushes into to put to rights.  Aidan faithfully comes to help, and the bloody fistfight is broken up by one Sgt. Craig, a tough NYPD cop who throws everyone involved in jail despite the protest of several witnesses who can avow Tyler and Aidan’s innocence. Tyler and Aidan make bail with the help of Tyler’s workaholic Wallstreet-lawyer of a father, with whom Tyler has a strained and emotionally distant relationship. 

Tyler and Aidan (Tate Ellington) discuss beer and women in a moment of male bonding.

Some weeks later, Aidan discovers that Sgt. Craig’s daughter is actually an NYU student in Tyler’s sociology class, and Aidan gleefully tells Tyler that he now has a chance to get back at the jackass cop: Tyler can date his daughter—then dump her.  Tyler is too sensitive a soul to agree to use the girl as a pawn in a petty revenge scheme, but is intrigued by Alyssa Craig’s (Emilie de Ravin’s character’s) wit when he banters with her in a café.  They wind up dating. And they wind up discovering that they’ve both been witness to the worst tragedies a child can have: for Tyler, it is the discovery of his brother’s body after his suicide six years ago;  for Aly, it is watching her mother get murdered on a subway before her very eyes when she was only eleven.    They form an emotional bond that, coupled with their playful natures and obvious physical chemistry, becomes romantic.  Things seem to go well until Aly’s father discovers whom Aly is dating…and Aly finds out that Tyler was originally setting her up for heartbreak. Trusts,  collarbones, and hearts, get broken.

Meantime, Tyler’s little sister undergoes her own social tragedies at school that put Tyler, the ever-attentive elder brother, at vicious odds with their seemingly uncaring, absentee father.  It is only after Tyler stands up for the painful truth of his father’s behavior–and his own mistakes with Aly–that all the brokenness resolves and gains an overwhelmingly wonderful fullness.  And then it takes only one event for that perfection to get shattered again.  

The moral?  Most members of the audience learned the lesson that your family, your lover, and even your capacity to love, are extremely precious, and not to be wasted.  That a life that’s lived entirely for your own pleasure is not ultimately fulfilling unless that pleasure lies in helping others find contentment.  It sounds corny, but the film is so sincere, and the characters so well-grounded in reality, that even grown men were crying in the theatre.  Kid you not. 

But what has me, a recently bereaved person, sitting here writing about it, is the bravery of this little film.  The script is superb; primarily a work of Will Fetters, the script underwent many rounds of revision from Jenny Lumet and Robert Pattinson himself before it reached the stage where it felt real.  At any moment, the tragedies discussed could have turned hokey, if not for the good writing and–yes–some surprisingly stellar acting. Not that I’m surprised by Rob (unlike most of the gaping-mouthed reviewers now raving about him, I’m not shocked because I’ve seen him do some really complex stuff pre-Twilight), but by the entire cast.  

And why was the acting stellar?  Because the actors all portrayed grief as it is:  ugly, difficult, and oftentimes, paralyzingly stupefying. They didn’t try to pretty it up.  But the story balanced the darkness of grief with the natural brightness from occurences of everyday humor, and even the supernaturally sublime moments of intense love.

Tyler:" . . . I love you." Aly, smiling, half asleep: "Good. I'm glad. And I love you, too." Together again at last with Aly (played by one of the luckiest women on earth, Emilie de Ravin), Tyler steals a morning moment before heading to court with his father.

I sound like I’m gushing—but I really don’t feel like I’m exaggerating. I’ll give you examples of some of the moments that had me blinking back tears of laughter, joy, and empathy…

The laughter bits:  Aidan is a hoot, and Tyler’s wry responses to him are better, especially during those realistic moments when Aidan’s humor is interjected in an innappropriate moment. At one point, Aidan shows up wearing very little aside from an Irish flag and a beer bottle and interrupts a romantic moment between Tyler and Aly; Tyler is gracious, but has a good time flinging the now-drunk Aidan’s own words back at him with his witty tongue-in-cheek. When the two roomies boy-fight and rag on eachother at work in the bookstore, it’s macho-ly cute, even when Tyler gets shoved off a ladder (Rob  falls twice in the film, and his colt-legged physical awkwardness lends itself to some great laughs).  Other humorous notes sound between Tyler and his baby sister, Caroline, when he teases her for having a pretentious teacher who goes by “Frauline (something-Frenchie-I-can’t-pronounce)” and launches into a slew of mixed German and French in a hoity-toity tone that borders on Kermit-the-Froggishness. No wonder Caroline quits worrying about the girls in class that pick on her and giggles away with her big, lanky, gorgeous, multilingual brother.

And that right there is what really makes up a great deal of the joyful parts of the film: the wellspriing of good siblingship displayed between Tyler and his ten-years-younger baby sister, Caroline.  They have some fabulous moments of the sort that my brother and I didn’t have until we, like Caroline and Tyler, no longer lived under the same roof.  I’m going to talk about a few, so pardon the SPOILERAGE:

First, a comraderie.  They tease each other, and Caroline nags him to quit smoking (atta girl!  And Rob really should quit). They’ve also been through a lot of family grief together, and they acknowledge it and talk about it. Tyler, although he’s ten years older, recognizes that Caroline is precociously intelligent and has her own unique perspective on the situation, since she is still at home in the nest.  Tyler listens to her anxieties, and even when he has no answers to her troubles, he has her back, even going so far as to openly and aggressively rebuke  his father in the presence of family members–and even his father’s business associates–for being unfeeling towards Caroline,who is at a very tender age and needs attention, quality time, and her father’s ear.

Oh, and did I mention?  Tyler dives in headfirst when Caroline’s in a crisis.  And her crisis is heinous:  Imagine being an eleven year-old girl at an all-girls private school. Now imagine that among all the matching plaid skirts and spoiled brats, you have a premature understanding of the hardness of life, a touch of Aspberger’s Syndrome, and a virtuostic gift for the arts that garners the praise and attention of your teachers–who then launch your artwork at a student exhibition at the Met.  Now imagine how all those other girls at school treat you: like the plague. They detest you to the point that one of those girls invites you to a birthday party under polite-seeming pretenses, and then gets all the girls there to grab scissors and cut off your hair. For an eleven year-old, that’s the equivalent of gang rape because it steals your sense of burgeoning feminity and robs your sense of belonging to the world of females.

You come home in tears, but don’t want to listen to what your mother says about this kind of thing passing.  Then your brother rushes over.  And what does he do?  He pulls out a book he gave you about Greek myths when you were having a bad day a few weeks back (and when he did, he told you that even the Greek gods were spiteful, jealous, and nasty to each other).  But instead of lecturing you, he plops you down on your bed, curls up next to you, and reads to you in a restful tone until your sniffles give way to sleepy yawns and snores and his voice takes on a scratchy, over-used sound.  That’s Tyler and Caroline.

It's not just Tyler and Caroline; It's Rob and Ruby. In a moment when the cameras weren't rolling, Ruby's shoe fell off the bench. Rob rescued it. Paps and fans tittered about how darn cute they were together. Rob later commented that, after acting with Ruby, he suddenly felt like he wanted "to be a father." Ruth controls her hormones and withholds come-hither comments.

But then, Tyler gets to perform what Rob has called “the fantasy of almost every good big brother”: he gets to get back at the prissy little birthday bitch who set his sister up.  Tyler takes Caroline, now scrubbed free of her tears and given a very expensive, modern-looking bob of a haircut to hide the damage, back to school the following week. And he doesn’t drop her off at the curb. He walks with her into the classroom, sets her books down, fusses with her notebooks, and ignores the children’s stares to ask her if she’s going to “be okay?”.  When he overhears the little harpy in the front row turn around and sneer, “Ooh, Caroline! Did you get a new haircut?”  he snaps in the least responsible, but most instinctive way. 

He strides to the harpy’s desk, whips it ’round to face the other wall, grabs the fire extinguisher on the wall next to her head, yanks it free, and throws it through the glass pane of the window, showering glass everywhere. Then he whips the girl’s desk back ’round, he gives her terrified eyes one long, hard (crazy sanpaku!) stare that says, “What you say has consequences; you won’t always be a little girl forever”, and….he winds up in jail (for the second time in the film. The audience laughs and cheers to see this happening to Tyler again).   Their father, the high-powered lawyer, bails him out.  And Tyler is still grinning as he leaves the gate. So. Worth. It.

It made me remember the time when my brother, after overhearing that I was getting teased on the bus-ride home by an eighth grade boy (I was a new seventh grader, and still  in my fat stage), stepped up on the bus when it pulled up to our house to let me off.  He didn’t throw things or come close to assaulting small children; he just greeted his old bus driver, walked back to where the little shit who was picking on me sat, and said, “Quit messing with my sister.”  Or something to that effect. I’m sure all that Jared (said shithead) noticed was the fact that Caleb was a freshman in high school and obviously farther along in puberty than he.  He never messed with me again–and I knew that he wouldn’t; I felt it to be true when I trailed after Caleb down the bus’s steps, floating halfway.

So that, right there, is the biggest, sweetest hunk of the joyful pie.  But then there’s the romance…

The romantic relationship between Tyler and Alyssa was a  teensy bit rushed. Not like Twilight rushed it (Geez, did I blink and miss the talking?), but just…rushed. I wish some of those conversations that were implied to have happened actuallly did between Tyler and Aly.  The conversations that we did witness were witty, intellectual back-and-forth banter (stichomythia, if you want the literary term) that throws back to Jane Austen’s version of sitting-room foreplay. Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy barely tangled wits better—and they sure as heck didn’t have the societally-endorsed physical permissiveness to make good on their parliance and tangle naked limbs the way these two lovers can.

The sex scene, even fuzzy-framed and fade-to-black enough for the PG-13 rating, was satisfying. And that’s saying something in an era where audiences demand more and more bare, fleshy eroticism.  This union was tender and soulful, complete with some wondering, open-eyed sanpaku stares during kissing that spoke volumes of silent dialogue, and, of course, heralded an afterglow snugglefest to die for–but would have been even more meaningful if the build-up to the bedroom (i.e. the  actual talking!) left nothing to the imagination.

And, while I’m on the negatives:  dammit, Rob! Hire yourself a dialect coach, por favor.  Your supposedly-Bronxian accent headed towards Chicago, Kentucky, Louisiana, and the Barristers’ brogue before it started hitting central Midwestern.  I know you can’t hear the difference yet, because you haven’t actually been to Kentucky or Louisiana or the Midwest, but honey, it shows.  And it takes away the veil of the character just a teensy bit. Luckily, I, and my darling friends, have a good imagination, so we all  just pretended Tyler Hawkins moved around a ton as a kid and had some Barrister blood in him.  That way, it kept the character solid in our heads when the accent went whhhaaa’dyousayyy? Still, it was cute to watch Rob flatten his vowels and work his head around American phraseology. It was just hard to watch him struggle. There were spots where the rhythm of accent was off in terms of where the downbeat falls in certain American pronounciations, though I can’t think of an example right now.  

Pierce Brosnan, a native Irishman, was guilty of this, too, if I’m being fair. And, as happens when you’re not quite sure of yourself while acting in a different accent, Tyler’s dialogue was sometimes missing the natural musicality of Rob’s real speech (which, in  his native accent, is actually musical. Listen to any interview and you’ll here him cross octaves in his pitch range as he searches up and down his soul for answers).  Buuuut, even that flatness can be explained away: Tyler is still actively grieving, and often distracted. It’s easy to deliver a toneless line when you’re only mentally halfway inside a conversation. I’ve done it myself. I’m not sure if Rob did this consciously or not, but it was hard for me to decide, and sometimes distracting because it forced me to think about it.  Of the non-Americans in the cast, only Emile (a native Aussie girl) could boast an American accent that was realistic enough not to draw your notice.

Other than that, the positives were numerous.  Once I allowed myself to relax and adjust to being inside the story, it was easy to forget that Rob was playing Tyler, or that Emilie was playing Aly. They just became their characters in that marvelous way that happens when the actors feel themselves becoming subsumed to the point that the audience becomes connected to the soul of the plot. I think I can pinpoint the moment it happened for me:  It was the scene when Tyler picks a water-fight with Aly (played by the “feisty” Emilie de Ravin–Rob’s words, not mine) at the dingy sink in his apartment with the sprayer while they’re washing dishes, and Aly saucily overturns a pot of pasta-water over his head. Rob, playing Tyler, does not physically give this away by showing signs of anticipation—no flinching, no tensing, no mental over-preparedness for the oncoming onslaught. He simply lets it happen, and then, naturally, reacts. The surprise is natural and unforced.  Suddenly, the script, the stage directions, and Rob’s knowledge of what will happen next in the overarching plot and all its difficulties for him as an actor disappears, and he’s simply in the moment. As Tyler.  And Tyler, in my mind, took over from there, making Rob’s own personality disappear.  And then the movie seemed to live and breathe in its own skin. Below, you can see a clip from the scene.  (Note: 0:37 makes me giggle like mad. What a face!)

And suddenly, I was allowed to just think and react to the story, rather than get distracted by the gratuitous amounts of Robbage. I got to thinking about my relationships to my family, and thought specifically with gratitude on the relationship that I now have with my brother and his wife, my sister-in-law, as I discussed earlier. And then I thought about how easily our anger and disappointment at the ones who we loved that left us in death (my dad) can be turned against ourselves and our surviving, struggling family (my mom), and I had a good, cleansing sob-fest. 

Those brainless preteens in the front row who whined until Rob took his shirt off probably had no idea what was wrong with me.  And they were missing what was so infinitely right about the whole lovely picture. 

So if you want a film that’s not just a romantic drama, but a drama about life, death, family, friends, and even enemies, go see Remember Me.  It’s so packed full of good stuff that, if the dialogue were written in iambic pentameter, it might get passed off as a shaky Shakespearean production.  There’s that much symbolic punch to it. That’s why Film.com’s reviewer called the film “challenging in all the right ways.” But be prepared for a very, very dramatic and unexpected ending that throws it sharply into the realm of the dark Postmodern.  This is not set in Elizabethan England afterall; it’s in nearly modern-day NYC.

And now, I’m off to bed, and finally ready to post this almost week-long work.  If you’ve hung in there and read the whole thing, I congratulate you. 🙂

Sweet Dreams,

Ruth

I should be sleeping. I’m now working full-time, and my days start early.  But, beavers-dammit, the creative juices have always been a late-night flow for me.  My head is full of all kinds of weirdness that I thought was interesting, if not important, so I might as well get it out.

So, an old gal pal of mine came over on Feb. 4 (my first day off of orientation at my new job), to watch “The Silence of the Lambs” with me. It was her first time watching it all the way through, and for a first-timer, she handled the freakiness of the psychopaths pretty well; heck, we even ate some crackers with hummus and Laughing Cow cheese during the movie (ironic, because if you know anything about it, it involves gore, cannibalism, and more gore)!  As is usually the case after watching/reading a Hannibal Lecter movie/book, we both got to thinking, and we started talking about the nature of human depravity.

Have you seen “The Silence of the Lambs”?  If you haven’t, you might be under the impression that Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) is a Ted-Bundy-like figure, only useful in a two-dimensional sense to create a bit of gory drama in an otherwise boring cinematic rendition of “CSI” made worse by the absence of an attractive male cast (not that Anthony Hopkins doesn’t have his charms. He does, they’re just the intangible, intellectual kind).  Actually, Dr. Lecter is uniquely scary; and that frightening feature is the fact that, while he’s violent and crazy, he’s also brilliant beyond human boundaries—to the degree that he doesn’t think he has to follow any of our rules.

That’s why he’s a fascinating character, and that has a lot to say about the nature of our own evil.  In one tête-à-tête between the incarcerated psycho/psychiatrist Dr. Lecter and the young FBI trainee, Clarice Starling (the ingenue-heroine played by Foster), Lecter helps Clarice to identify the motives of a serial killer using the Socratic method of teaching (i.e., asking questions and drawing out answers).  I’m going somewhere with this, but to do so, I’ll need to quote as directly as I can from the film, interpolating both from Anthony Hopkins’ performance and the directions from Ted Tally’s Oscar-winning screenplay where necessary.  In this scene, Clarice attempts to get Lecter to reveal to her the identity of the serial killer the FBI are currently pursuing. She believes Lecter may have known his identity because of a murder connected to one of Dr. Lecter’s old patients.

Dr. Lecter and Clarice have an intense interaction in "The Silence of the Lambs."

DR. LECTER (gesturing to the case file):  I have read the case files, Clarice. Have you? Everything you need to find him[the serial killer]  is right there in those pages.

CLARICE: Then tell me how.

DR. LECTER:  First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it, in itself, what is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

CLARICE (thinking only of the facts): He kills women.

DR. LECTER (sharply, stopping her): No! That is incidental. 

DR. LECTER (cont’d, as he collects himself, pained by her ignorance):What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing?

CLARICE (flailing, and falling back to reciting an FBI psych textbook as she paces outside Lecter’s cell): Anger, social acceptance, sexual frust-

DR. LECTER (saving her):  No, he covets. That’s his nature.  And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer.

CLARICE: No. We just –

DR. LECTER (encouraging her):  “No” (he nods)–we begin by coveting what we see every day.

Ah, simplicity. Here, Lecter boils down the evil of a psychopath into one of the ten most basic human temptations. 

Ten?  Where’d I get that number?  Exodus, chapter 20, I think:  coveting is the tenth of the “thou shalt nots” in the Ten Commandments. 

Either Lecter’s Lithuanian Catholic roots are showing, or he’s onto something.  Josh Bales (the Tennessee singer/songwriter) would think so, or he did, back when he kept a blog.  I remember him writing something about Augustine (I think??) talking about how all of man’s temptations—the basic motivating desire behind the taboos in the Commandments—derive from one simple hunger:  We want what God has, and we don’t want to have to be holy and to patiently wait to die to get our instinctive sense of divinity fulfilled. 

Typical, isn’t it? We’re still taunted by the Forbidden Fruit.  Created in the image of the Almighty, we want to be “as God,”  just as that slithery Satan once promised our forebears in Parseltongue in Genesis.  We want power over the truth, so we lie and make up our own. We want that beautiful creature God made to be ours, so we seduce or succumb. We want to be parentless–unruled by a creator’s ties, so we dishonor our mothers and fathers. And we want to have things, have power, be powerful, and rule. So we dominate and control.  We make idols of ourselves and kill our fellow men with hatred or spite or actual weapons, ruling life and death.

But we do it, because we want to wear the crown of our universe. It’s awful.  We make pitiful gods by trying to be God.

Just my thought for the night: Do we, by failing to acknowledge this hunger to be God as a thing of reality, fall into sin?  And how the hell do we avoid Hell if that’s the case?

Anyone have an answer?

God does, and as we all know, he sometimes talks through people, especially people he’s obsessively blessing at the moment.

Can you feel it coming?  It’s that moment when I mention Robert Pattinson in a blog post. It’s finally here. I’m not just tagging him to drum up some extra hit counts for the blog during the short month of February here. I think the guy just said something profound in an interview with his writer friend, Jenny Lumet, in Details Magazine recently.  Actually, he said a lot of profound things between giggling about about flesh-eating bacteria and taboo terminology (it was a very interesting interview, to say the least).   But most importantly, he works up an answer for us that we lesser mortals somehow miss on a daily basis.

So here’s my little spin on a summary of the best bits of the article.   Let’s see if you can spot the answer to our question about curing our own hunger for God’s power…

Jenny Lumet, bless her, knew she’d hit pay dirt when she realized that behind the pretty, Rob’s actually got a brain. This is the moment when she realized it–when she started really watching him:

“Rob’s face is constantly busy—especially his kaleidoscopic eyes, which are continually rolling and dilating, because he is always thinking. Over the course of that latte, he contemplates Jimi Hendrix, French fries, girls, art, beer, his cousin the philosopher, girls, truth, God, his dog, girls, and whether this week’s stalker has followed him from L.A. I don’t think he could turn his brain off if he wanted to.”

Before Rob’s musings concerning the Almighty comes this long, but lovely, angsty rant about his own God-desire for control over his own life that I think a lot of us can identify with (Warning: remember that he’s British and believes in God-honest speech, so if you’re squeamish of the occassional expletive, just get over it now, or you’ll miss some of the gold in the dross):

“When I was 17 until, I don’t know, 20, I had this massive, baseless confidence. This very clear idea of myself and how I would achieve success, which involved making decisions. I saw myself picking up the phone and saying ‘Absolutely not’ or ‘Definitely, yes’. Having control. Except you have to figure out whether the way you think at 19 or 20 has any value. And eventually I understood, with all that control, which was probably illusory, I wasn’t progressing. So now I’m relinquishing a bit. I’ll be a tiny bit naked. Except tonight I won’t, because it’s f*cking freezing . . . Seriously, you eventually realize you can’t make every single decision. I was always building, always protecting something. At the same time, I seemed to be losing the ability to move. I’d protected myself into checkmate. Even mentally. . . Before [my fame came and my life fell out of my hands], I felt like I couldn’t break through anything, including myself. And now it feels a bit as though I’ve climbed along the side of my brain and am at least looking in. But I know it will take me at least another 10 years before I’m remotely satisfied with anything I do. But with acting you keep trying in the hopes you might be… great. But then I think, does wanting to be good or even great, or even just wanting to make art, cheapen the experience?”

Jenny cuts in here as the writer and adds, “I worry his head is going to explode. He answers questions with questions. Doors open onto more doors.  . . .Some people can have the ocean in front of them and just put their big toe in. Rob wants to swim until he drowns, and he’s going to try to drink it all up before he goes under. His striving is a source of worry because he can’t really tell anybody he wants more.”

 Rob interrupts, “Please don’t make this about me complaining. Please. I’m the luckiest bastard on the planet.”

Jenny adds in her journalist voice,  “He worries he might be selfish. He worries maybe he’s a nonhumanist-separatist-weirdo because his most profound moments have been with his dog. And he worries about whether he can be an actor who can reach the masses and still ask for anything.”
That’s when Rob pulls out the big guns and talks God.

“If it exists out there—this invisible-creative-spirit-idea [he’s called it God elsewhere in other interviews] thing—then you’re the medium through which it travels so everybody can touch it. But … what gives you the right to be the medium? What gives you the right to claim it–and then get an agent and say, ‘I want $20 million and a fruit basket to be the medium, thank you very much’? As an actor, you can elevate the human condition or cheapen it. I would assume it’s the same with anything you do—you try to elevate and maybe someday you will.”

Did you catch it?  Did you?  Rob’s answer is actually a question–which is usually how God answers people (see Job 38, and read the gospels to hear how often Jesus answers a question with another question). He says his question twice, in the context of  discussing our desire to “channel” God’s creative force for ourselves.

“What gives you the right to be…to claim it?”

What gives us the right, indeed?  Apparently, the only thing that is keeping Rob’s head from exploding is his own humility, his own anxiety over the fact that he knows he isn’t perfect and isn’t in control. It’s his internal sense of reality of the “human condition” that he talks about that keeps him in-check. It keeps him from being too in love with himself and his circumstances.  It keeps him from becoming his fame–and keeps his matinee idol status from distilling into idleness and self-satisfaction, and nothing more.

Rob owns his reality–and his focal point of sanity–up-front, and acknowledges the double-blessing:

 “I’m lucky.  Thank God.  And I’m conflicted.  Thank God.”

Jenny writes, “He tells me about a book he read called Eat the Rich, by P.J. O’Rourke …. He was drawn to a part that says something like: One man’s wealth does not mean another man’s poverty—and vice versa. Rob’s slightly embarrassed to voice this idea.
He is unsure whether to feel guilty [about his fame], to bask in it all, or both. Thing is, there aren’t any rules for a life as extraordinary as his is right now.”

That’s when Rob tells a metaphorically deep story about a circus elephant that picked him up with its trunk, turned him upside down inside its mouth, and started going through his pockets to find peppermints.  He talks about just letting it happen–and the experience being amazing–“beautiful.” And then he marvels over how elephants are designed:

“Did you know elephants purr? It’s completely scary if you don’t know what it is. They purr like cats, but their heads are so deep they sound like velociraptors. You feel it in the ground under your feet…Do you know how they die? The elephant guy told me their molars get ground down from eating wood but regenerate, like, six times. And after that they slowly starve to death. Which is poignant, but that must also be what gives them time to get to the elephant graveyard. They’re incredibly designed creatures. I mean, people hang on way too f*cking long [to this life]. If I knew that when my teeth fell out, that was it… Wow.”

It’s all about relinquishing control, and letting nature be nature, and God be God.  And it’s about being human and being out of your depth when the elephants of life swing you over their mouths.  It’s about worrying about wanting too much–and about that worry being a tool that keeps you from becoming a monster that doesn’t care. 

That’s all Rob’s saying. Bless his easily-distracted little heart.

Rob presenting at the BAFTA Awards last night on BBC. This is his impression of a kitten. No, actually, he was shyly giving a shout-out congratulations to a makeup artist friend who'd just won an award. Still a cute little face.

And I guess that’s all I’m saying. Today is now tomorrow…  So, goodnight.  Now dream of elephants.

Notes:

*Rob’s interview is from this month’s Details Magazine.  It’s not safe for work, image-wise, because that magazine loves to surround celebrities with naked women to the point of the grotesque. Even Rob talked about being uncomfortable and even slightly sickened–his word implied developing an allergy–to all the female nudity by the end of the 12-hour shoot. The interview transcript, however, is divine.  Again, gold from dross. http://www.details.com/

*I should put up a citation for Demme’s film version of “The Silence of the Lambs”, but I’m too freaking tired.  Go to Imdb.com for more details on it.  Also, the novel was written by Thomas Harris, who incidentallly is a kick-ass writer.

* Re: St. Augustine. Help. I can’t find the actual quote from our ancient African theologian. Nor can I find Josh Bales’ old blog–because, dammit, he’s changed his website to something commercial and I’m scared he’s forgetting himself inside his quest for a good record deal.  Go visit some elephants, Josh!  Or at least, go fishing. You were happy when you fished, and God was closer. I still adore you and the fact that you can out-eat that wandering apologist giant, Mark Cahill.  Maybe you should have supper with him again.

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