Saturday, October 29, 2011

pick your scripture

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Last night I stayed up past my usual bedtime watching a somewhat cardboard movie called "G.I. Jane," a film directed by Ridley Scott and therefore a bit less cardboard than the directorial competition. The movie tells the mostly-predictable tale of a woman chosen for political purposes to go through Navy SEAL training... a woman, like other women, excluded from manly adventures and dangers ... a woman with a glass ceiling ... a woman discriminated against in part by the cotton-candy adulation of a male society... etc. etc.

In one way, the movie is a set piece, an argument that can bore me because I have heard it and agree with it and am bored by my own agreements. In another way, I do like rooting for the underdog, especially when the story line has a bit of honest salt and pepper ... the kind of stuff that Ridley Scott can inject lightly here and there.

And one of the things that I realized as I stayed up past my bedtime was that I am content to take whatever wisdoms I enjoy from wherever they may occur ... and a lot of those wisdoms come not so much from revered texts like the Tripitaka or the Bible or the Koran, but from movies. Movies are good enough for me when something honest and human and truly useful and even 'wise' is offered up. Tripitaka and Bible and Koran are a bit cardboard for me... set pieces that win my agreement but make me recognize that my own agreements are just a bit stale and, on occasion, boring.

And thinking lazily in this way, I thought perhaps everyone was the same, cherry picking the adventures from which to extract wisdom worth acting on, worth nourishing, worth husbanding in action. Pick your holy text, whatever the source, and see it through -- something like that. Movies, as one example, do it for me in the same way an honest story from another human being can. Here is a Tripitaka or Bible or Koran worth crediting for me.

This is not to disdain others' reverence or praising of Tripitaka or Bible or Koran. It's just that I choose to find those things a bit too cardboard. "G.I. Jane," which was a bit too cardboard, tickled my ivories and felt like music to me. Maybe the Tripitaka or Bible or Koran will do the same tomorrow ... feel alive and worth heeding and become something I honestly am willing to take to heart. I'm not counting anything out.

Maybe it's like this: Everyone chooses their scripture and the scripture that really means anything is the scripture that leads any man or woman beyond the cardboard nature of scripture and into a singing and open heart. It has nothing to do with good or bad, wise or deluded, holy or unholy ... it's just what (somehow) fits. Fits and flows easy in the blood.

Ridley Scott may or may not have been responsible, but somehow I imagine he was -- responsible for including in his "G.I. Jane" bits of salt and pepper that included the following, somewhat-strained poem by D.H. Lawrence:

Self-Pity
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
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