You're looking at all the TV remotes I currently have in my house. Do you think I need a "Universal"? Yes, our TV viewing has changed over the years and I think it has had an effect on our lives...probably not for the best. Tivo is mostly to blame. It is true that we don't have to watch our favorite show on "their schedule". That's good. However, we now can "pause", "fast-forward" and "rewind". This is especially good for skipping the commercials which seem to be increasing in number and length. It is also handy to replay something you missed especially if you didn't hear it distinctly which is also becoming more of our problem. The problem is...lately we have caught ourselves thinking and even wishing we could do the same...with "real life" situations and especially movies. Now this could be scary. Lately, we have even wished that we could "fast-forward" through some really challenging parts of our life. Let's get the pain and discomfort over with. Let's see a real "tragic" situation better itself. Is this wrong? Is it mephistophilline?(?)
This is the topic of the last movie we saw, "Click". It is barely more than a sitcom and not one of Adam Sandler's best. (not like Spanglish) It has its cute/funny parts and is very predictable. He is an overworked dad who is so frustrated that he can't spend more time with his son and family that he wishes for (dreams up) a "universal remote" for his life. You can imagine what follows, all the special-effects etc. He eventually learns a lesson about the importance of living his life as it comes and trying to cope and understand it with compassion and kindness. There were times during the movie that I even wanted to "fast-forward" the action and get to the point. But I was stuck in his process and predicament. I couldn't even "Bob".
The same was true for Karen Armstrong whose autobiography I just finished. It was fascinating and I could hardly put it down. A National Bestseller in 2004, I read the paperback my sister sent me for my birthday. She is so thoughtful, considerate and knows me...like a book. It was just what I needed at this time in my life. "The Spiral Staircase" - My Climb Out of Darkness. The title and organization (chapters) of the book refer to t.s.elliot's poem "Ash Wednesday I" as a metaphor for "life's journey":
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because i do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renouce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
I pray to God to have mercy upon us
And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still...
This is only one part of the poem where we watch the poet painfully climb a spiral staircase. This image is reflected in the twisting sentences of verse, which often revolves upon itself, repeating the same words and phrases, apparently making little headway, but pushing steadily forward nevertheless.
This is from Karen's preface and introduces her extraordinary life so far. She put herself in a convent at 17 hoping to "find God, her faith". After 7 years and many shocking incidents she left the "habit" behind and went on her own search, losing her faith and belief in "God", Christianity and herself. She studied at Oxford but her thesis was rejected. She found out she had been suffering from a form of epilepsy. She tutored an epileptic. She taught high school English Lit. She starred in several TV series about St. Paul and the Middle East. She wrote "The History of God" and several other bestsellers (which I have ordered) I just saw her on one of the recent PBS programs on religion. Out from all of this she remains rather solitary and on her own. She is learning compassion and stillness as suggested by the poem above. Her recent works are very cogent to the currently tragic situation of the Middle East, ie. Israel vs. Hezbola, Lebanon etc. She is inspired and inspiring to many I am sure and especially me at this time in my life.
Interestingly enough, the last spiral staircase I saw was in the Vatican Museums from one floor to the next. It is more of a ramp that curves back on itself with historic pictures along the sides. We took the elevator. Bob!