Friday, April 17, 2009

Words to Live By, Part I

Last evening, I got two pleasures I rarely enjoy.
First, I dug the first of my garden; if everything comes up that I planted last night, by August, I may be inviting you all over for strawberry shortcake.
Second, I sat down to watch a movie.


Yep. A whole movie, with no popping up for commercials, no pauses to go and do a quick cleanup of the supper dishes…just me and homemade meatloaf and the couch, for two solid hours.

Even without homemade meatloaf, that would have been good stuff. But I was also watching a movie I’ve seen once before and wanted to see again—to find out if my first impression had rung as true as I thought.



The movie was Stranger Than Fiction, a story with one of the great creative premises in the world, one I still wish I’d thought of and written down first.


I saw this movie originally in the theater (another rare pleasure) with my son and daughter, and I was most flattered when Matt told me that the author character reminded him of me. (!) Except for the chain smoking, I would love to be that character. Especially the skinny part…

But I digress.

I found the movie more affecting the second time around. More human. More touching. And I could, obviously, see the foreshadowing of crucial scenes now that I knew they were coming. (I still don’t buy the romantic relationship of our hero and a heroine I pretty much wanted to b***h slap the first time…but that’s a whole ‘nuther story, too.)

The pleasant surprise about this movie this time, for me, was a couple of good words of wisdom, especially nice to hear at a time when it can be hard to hold onto wisdom and perspective.

When Christian values are under attack on all sides; when the Constitution is pretty much being walked all over by our present leader of the free world, without challenge from the media and without the vocal criticism that came to his predecessor for “offenses” that are kindergarten-level by comparison; and when the world around us seems to have gone absolutely berserk in its lemming-like rush to oblivion, to nihilism and to the godless void that focuses on “feelings” as arbiters of good and evil…it’s hard to keep perspective.


It’s hard to have any faith that what you did today is going to have any impact tomorrow; it’s hard even to know, sometimes, what you should be doing versus what truly needs to be someone else’s fight. The fights are myriad and endless; every time you turn a corner, someone else is pleading for action on your part and screaming scary consequences of your failing to act strongly, right now, and this instant, whether you’ve ever felt called to act in those particular ways before or not.

At times like this, it’s good to remember things like what the heroine said in this movie. How she came to realize that, even though she was at Harvard Law School because she wanted to “make the world better”…that what she really loved to do was bake.
She finally relates that, after being on the verge of flunking out, she realized something: that she could “make the world better…with cookies.”

And I thought, ain’t that the truth.
As a writer, I can’t tell you how many times I day I wonder if what I do ever makes a dent. Even though I edit some pretty effective literature, it’s hard to see how our little books are going to make a dent in the prevailing mythology by which so many people live. And when I consider my little fiction stories…it’s harder yet to feel like they matter.

But then I sit back on the couch, and I drain my wineglass, and I realize—a movie has just made my life better. It’s just given me both insight and comfort, in a line that was probably put in more for whimsy, maybe even for laughs, than for any statement about the profound nature of little things in life

That statement is, in fact, made at the end of the movie, in a way that makes it impossible to miss. Just in case the moviegoer was too dense to catch it the first time. But if you weren’t…if you were paying attention…you got the message of the movie way earlier than the narrator “told” you it.

Which made it all the sweeter.
Especially since I, too, love to bake. :-)

So here’s to making a difference with cookies. Or novels. Or movies.
Or “merely” by raising kids with aforementioned Christian values, with enough smarts to know when they’re being had and enough energy to fight for future generations if they have to.

And never, ever forgetting that with one cup of cold water, we can and do change the world.

This movie also has another great line in it…which I’ll blog about in Part II, for the sheer fun and the sheer uplift it’ll give us all (I hope).
Stay tuned!

Thoughts?
Janny

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