Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Tribute to Something Better

Sure, as an eternal optimist, I get awfully discouraged. 9/11 about did me in in a psychological sense even if my life was not directly threatened. I often wonder what effect I can have to improve the world in a positive way. I certainly can't  prevent that kind of horror. I have a job with the federal government. I try to do some good in the world. I volunteer at church with young men (well, not entirely voluntarily). I write a blog. I have a few dozen people who read me now and then. I get discouraged.

There's a movie that I very much admire on my themes of idealism and good intentions in the face of life's horror. Maybe you can catch a TV version where the worst language and a very graphic scene of violence are toned down because I don't like recommending movies of certain ratings. The movie is The Fisher King. Yep - a modern version of Holy Grail mythology. Jeff Bridges is a radio shock-jock who falls drunken into gutters and near violent death after his irresponsible remark on the radio sends a guy over the edge to commit a mass slaughter. Bridges's character "Jack" is redeemed by taking on the quest of an insane and severely wounded "Parry" played by Robin Williams. The grail is obtained in a very odd way, and the Fisher King is healed. And all that in New York City.

There's a beautiful scene in the movie, long before the days of flash mobs. And, of course, it is entirely in Parry's deranged head:

Parry provides a summary of the story of the Fisher King:
It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. Now while he is spending the night alone he's visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the holy grail, symbol of God's divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, "You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men." But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn't love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn't see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, "What ails you friend?" The king replied, "I'm thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat". So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, "How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?" And the fool replied, "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty." 
The most important things in my life are not in the movies and not just in my head. I can and have had a real influence for good. The best thing I ever did in my life I had no real control over. I fell in love and led by divine influence or pure dumb luck, I married a very wonderful person. I simply couldn't help it. We have six children. They're all good and a positive contribution to society - already more than I could ever be. I even have some evidence if you can forgive the boasting of a father very pleased with his children.

My oldest child is up for a national science teacher's award. That's absolutely wonderful. But the most impressive thing to me was a quote from her in a newspaper article about the accomplishment in just being nominated:
I don't think every student should become a scientist, but if they can learn to work through problems, they will make good citizens. It will lead to their success.
She claims the reporter garbled the quote. I think it came out pretty well. The simple intent was certainly there.

My youngest child, fourteen years old, went to the Family History Library with me today. It looks like he found some of our ancestors. When we left he asked what time it was, he was surprised it had been as long as it had.

I may never achieve the Grail. My kids just might. And if they don't, I have two grandsons already.

As Parry explains in the movie, "The Holy Grail - symbol of God's Grace." 

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