I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Random Sunday morning thoughts


This portrait of very wet flower, taken a week or so ago, evokes the feeling I woke up with this morning. Tossing and turning during the night, I wondered what I would write about and considered skipping it altogether. I've gotten used to writing something here that I am proud of, that makes other people think, and that generates positive comments. In other words, I've become self-consciously aware of what I'm writing about, and my spontaneity is in danger of drying up in that environment. I'm just going to feel the raindrops and let them soak into me for a bit.

Yesterday my friend Judy and I went to the local art theater and saw The Tree of Life. I had heard all kinds of things about it, since it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Most of what I had heard was positive, but one of the reviews from someone I knew didn't like the film at all. The link above (from Wikipedia) tells you about it, what it is, and there is no danger at all in revealing the plot, because there really isn't one. From that link:
The film chronicles the origins and meaning of life through the eyes of a 1950s Texas family, while also featuring sci-fi and surrealist themes and imagery through space and the birth of life on Earth. ... It opened in limited release on May 27, 2011 to positive reviews on its technical and artistic merits, yet also received polarizing reactions in response to Malick's directorial style and, in particular, with the film's fragmented and non-linear narrative.
There were moments when I was absolutely overwhelmed with the film's imagery, and other moments when I wished the movie would end soon so I could be released from the theater. Brad Pitt is perfect as a stern father and evoked all kinds of emotions within me, as did the other performances. They were all pitch-perfect, but the death of one of the sons when he was nineteen, never explained but a central part of the story, is one of the reasons I spent last night in turmoil. It brought up all those thoughts of loss that dwell within me, within any person who has lost a loved one, and what it all means in the larger perspective of life.

We are such insignificant little specks in the vast universe, and no film I've seen before this one has ever brought that concept into such vivid focus. When the lights came on at the end of the movie, nobody said a word, and we, the audience, filed out of the theater in silence. Coming up from what seemed to be the bottom of a well into the bright late afternoon sunlight on a June day, we went our separate ways with our separate reactions.

Judy and I were planning to have dinner, and a sign strategically placed in front of the theater pointed us to the Mount Bakery restaurant right across the street, so we headed over there. Another couple who had seen the movie also came in for dinner, and I asked what they thought of it. It turned out that the wife knew from the reviews she wouldn't like it, so she sat in the car and read a book while hubby saw it. He was as confused about his feelings as I was. Judy was obviously disappointed in it, and I just didn't know what to think. But last night as I lay in bed, tired and ready for sleep, images and messages from the movie kept coming back to me. A sense of rightness about the love we carry for those who are gone before us, for those parts of ourselves who are no longer here but exist in our memories, kept entering my thoughts and somehow comforting me. That's the only way I can describe it.

I feel sometimes that I've spent way too much time here on this blog lamenting my losses, holding onto them as though they define me in some sense. The feeling I got from this movie is that in the very fact of being alive and conscious, we are all destined to experience loss and grief, as well as incredible beauty. Universal forces are so vast and so far beyond our understanding that it is truly an impossibility to make sense of it. Our world, our own private universes, are infinitesimal specks in the cosmos, but somehow this movie gave me the feeling that it doesn't matter, or that it all matters the same as the vast nebulae that we peer at through our telescopes. Or as the microbes we view through our microscopes.

In the final analysis, we are each one of us alone and separate from one another, but our activities bring us into community with those who matter to us. My electronic reaching out to you, dear reader, connects me to you in a way I don't pretend to understand. But you matter to me as we send out our thoughts to one another. The sharing of our hopes and dreams, our sense of loss and love, and acknowledging those connections is as real as any of the other magnificent facets of our lives.

21 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

This is an outstanding post. Isn't it wonderful when we let go and let the words flow? Just look at what you've shared! It's beautiful and meaningful.

I am beyond grateful for our connection. I believe we each have an identity that is a part of the whole, "a drop of water one with the ocean, a ray of light, one with the sun," and we are One, though we tend to perceive ourselves as separate. The universe and everything in it is connected and essential. Everything/everyone we believe we have lost, is still present, still connected to us, to all Life. IMHO.

I do not have answers, only a sense about things, and that is what feels Right, on a higher level. Right now. :) As my thought expands and becomes more aware, my ideas about Life will as well. It seems to be happening all around the Universe, starting with how much it has expanded due to the Hubble telescope and due to people willing to Look and Listen.

Thank you, DJan for this Sunday morning Food for Thought, and for sharing your thoughts around this provocative movie. I look forward to it every much. It is Malick's unorthodox directing and vision of life that makes him stand out from among all the rest. He never leaves us where we started. That's film making as art. It transforms us, if we're willing.

I'm so grateful for You.

James said...

"We are such insignificant little specks in the vast universe" True, yet paradoxically we are irrevocably interconnected within it. As we transition from the delusion of duality and become one with the all, death becomes birth, and we realize it has always been this way.

Whitney Lee said...

I wouldn't say you've held on too long to your losses. It has sounded to me that you have been exploring them after maybe avoiding them for many years. Don't forget why you began this blog. I haven't.

"My life has been filled with edges. I debated about the title of this blog for awhile, but I truly feel myself on the edge, often. Not only when I'm getting ready to exit an airplane (I've got a few jumps), or when I'm about to try something new, like this, but when life deals me with a real whammy. (I've had a few of those, too.) I want to write without boundaries about the edges in my life."

We do not grow through smooth sailing but through adversity. You've been delving through the layers of loss to see who you were and who you've become. You started this blog to write for yourself, not for us. Of course, it's lovely to have followers, but I don't think you're going to get much out of this if you are writing for us. And if you're not getting anything out of this, what's the point?

Loss is a common thread in your life. But we can't be thankful for what we have until we either don't have it anymore or until we are shown how fortunate we are because we still have something/one and we have seen that others do not. Perhaps because you've become so used to seeing the loss side of the coin you've become a bit myopic and cannot see how much gratitude you both display and inspire. For all the 'edges' in your life you show thanks for the people and experiences that have supported you and balanced your life. You've also shown me that there is so very much to be thankful for, including the communication found here in the blogworld.

Happy Sunday. As always, thank you for your honesty.

Mel said...

DJan, what a beautiful, honest and thoughtful post. I've been aching to see Tree of Life, knowing that it is dense and deep and not everyone's cup of tea. I read a post about an art theater posting a notice about the movie so people wouldn't complain and ask for their money back, isn't that strange? Wish I could find the link for you...
I could reread and quote lines you wrote here for hours. I don't think you spend too much time dwelling on your loss here, but I think that when you do, it is cathartic and helpful to those of us who struggle in our own ways as well. And I agree that while we are insignificant specks, we are as valid and real as any other speck in the universe. I believe that it takes a brave soul to understand this and still carry on with love and honesty and a desire for meaningful connections in the brief lives we are gifted with. I believe too in the rightness of love and the threads that connect us all, past present and future. Whenever reality and being thoughts start to panic me, I think about my Dad, how he always chose hope and laughter over fear and worry, and he was ever grateful to be here, and so in love with the wonders of this world. I can feel that energy somedays, and it helps me stay right.
Thanks for posting such heart felt thoughts. I can't wait to see the movie to discover what feelings it will pluck from me. Terrence Malick is deep, deep. It's a wonder movies like his can get made. It's also a wonder that the magic of the internet lets random specks such as ourselves connect and share in such a nurturing way. Have a great day.

TechnoBabe said...

DJan, you speak of having the knowledge that you have grown past the place you were when you began this blog. I too have been understanding that my hopes for my blog have been happening every month and each year till I am at a place of release now and find myself moving on to the joys and interests in the present. I wish you well in this new discovery for you and for all the happiness still to experience in your life here.

Buz said...

It's funny that you should mention "insignificant little specks" because lately I haven't been able to get these George Harrison lyrics out of my head:

Try to realize it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you

gigihawaii said...

It is true that we are mere specks in the universe, but so difficult to comprehend when we are so consumed by me, myself, and I.

As for your weekly blog, I always look forward to reading it, DJan. Don't stop!

Kimberly said...

Thank you for writing this post. We are alone and separate from one another, but I am thankful for the "community". I think the movie and your tossing and turning sparked your brain to think at a wonderfully reflective level.

Linda Myers said...

This is a great, thoughtful post. I've got a couple of thoughts:

First, the kingdom of God is within us. I believe we're all part of the vast, not separate from it.

Second, we are who we are partly because of our losses. Once we incorporate them, we're free to grow and become more. I remember a time right after my husband left me for another woman that I thought the rest of my life would be leftovers. I was 37 then. Now, at 63, I see it all much, much differently.

Give me a call the next time you're in Snohomish. I'd like to get together again.

Trish said...

Please don't ever stop doing these weekly posts!
They're absolutely beautiful, thought-provoking, and so insightful that I always come away comforted and astonished by what you have written. And now I must see this movie!

Grandmother said...

It's all a mystery, isn't it? We reach out to each other and touch each other in ways that we can't know simply by our opening our hearts. It gives courage to say what's real for us when others speak their truth. Thanks.

Arkansas Patti said...

What a thoughtful and moving post but then I expect no less from you. Please keep them coming. There is usually a paragraph, sentence, or even the whole post that touches each of us in different ways.

EcoRover said...

Hi DJan, great review and I look forward to seeing this film (warts and all). Saw your note over at TroutBirder's where you raised an interesting point: indeed it's hard for those who do not actively connect with nature (flyfishing, birdwatching, hiking/backpacking etc) to understand the emotional attachment that outdoorsy folks have to particular places. For the Maclean (RiverRunsThroughIt) family, that emotional attachment to the BigBlackfoot encompassed all the emotions they could not express about each other, all the things they could not say to each other. And that just scratched the surface. Dinesen's OutOfAfrica and Redford's film of the book capture that sense of place, too,

Rita said...

What a wonderful post!! I have to go back and read it again. I'm waiting for that movie to come out on DVD so I can rent it.

We are each alone and separate--yet we are all together and connected at the same time. This is a world of connected opposites. You can never know the true brightness of light if you have not experienced the depths of darkness. Life is absolutely amazing! Painful, joyous, dull, frightening, and so glorious it will make your soul sing!

Yes! Speak from your heart, Lady! Your blog is for you, but we hear you. From one speck to another--I am honored to listen. :):)

Redd said...

Coming back to the issue of your losses is a very positive activity in your life. It may be a bit of a shock when a movie brings up the topic.
We cannot ignore our losses. It's healthy to deal withthemby discussing and writing.
I'll never forget a young man who had lost his first child when he gave me a piece of writing about the loss . I felt inadequate to respond to him but I think it helped him go on with his life.
My Dad lost an eleven year old daughter. I don't think he ever came to terms with his loss. I understand more now what he experienced and why it was so difficult.
Keep on writing about your losses. It helps others to see the world with more clarity.
As always I enjoy your posts.

Retired English Teacher said...

You've written of much here. I try never to read other comments before I respond to what you have written, so I won't be distracted by what others say. So, here goes...

I look forward to your posts on Sunday. Sometimes I think of you as my mentor. I think about you and what you say. I have learned much from you. The connection that is made through this blogsphere are sometimes hard to understand. Those who don't blog would most likely not understand at all. Serious bloggers such as yourself have created a certain vulnerability by sharing their stories as honestly and deeply as you have. This vulnerability is scary. It also creates a tension when we think of our readers. I see what Rita is saying in her last line. She is tell you to write from your heart. I agree with her.

As far as loss goes, I am reminded of Billy Collins saying that poets only write about death. There is some truth to that. In life, we all have loss. Those who have suffered great loss can know that the irony of all of this is that our souls are expanded and deepened by the depth of our loss.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you dwell on loss. Your experiences are what made you who you are, so of course you write about your losses.

I like the idea of connectedness. I have a sense that I grow in wisdom as I grow older and I wonder if one day I will have a flash of understanding where everything becomes clear...and then I'm gone. Pity we can't understand all while we're here, isn't it?

I see Google doesn't recognize me today...Jann

Robert the Skeptic said...

Still in recovery from my heart surgery, I am very aware that I am alive after my second brush with death. That film, Tree of Life sounds very interesting, I will watch for it.

Nancy said...

Well, for someone who wasn't sure about their post, you did an excellent job of leaving us with something to think about. I have watched the trailer for that movie, but I don't think it's playing here yet. I agree with your assessement on life with the codicil that although we live in a vast Universe and we are very small, we add to energy by merely living. It is in our struggle, and in our joys, that the Universe expands. So in that light we are very important. Great post.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I just heard a story on NPR about people who have been walking out of Tree of Life at the theater, even some asking for their money back. The film apparently is not what they expected (no car crash chase scenes, apparently??!!) Anyway, the NPR story now has motivated me to want to see it.

Star said...
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