Monday, February 27, 2012

The Tree of Life

Some thoughts about The Tree of Life.

The Father: The embodiment of a certain type of man from the 50s. He's not exactly the abusive authoritarian but he's surrounded by a culture that tells him he should be the ruler of his home. That he should demand respect and obedience from those whom he protects under his strong wings. So he lashes out, reaching for those things but all the while what he wants most is to be loved by his boys. But that love is tainted by the oppressive demanding style by which he asks for it, the only way he knows how to ask for it. I am your father, so it must be. The movie hints at the softer side of him, the side that wants to love for love's sake, that loves beauty as shown by his love and talent with music. He himself regrets after his sons death that he could never love the boys like their mother did. This is a man in a sad state, a state most often overlooked when appraising what men were back then. Sensitive men existed, but they were meant for another time.

The Mother: An angel practically. As much a child as the boys in some ways. An innocents, the father would call it naivety (more so out of jealousy than any actual spite). She forms a unit with the three boys. Something foreign and all but impenetrable to the father. She lets us know that there are two paths. The path of grace, to love everything. And the natural path, the path to struggle, the path to make other things as you want them.

The Boy: A dark storm. Learning from his father exactly that which he never wished to teach him. To be cold, to be hard. To be distant with his future wife. To lean hard upon his younger siblings. To require forgiveness out of them at such a young age. To reach for glory in money and power. To know regret. To forget all that his mother taught him.

The story as I understood it was a study between the natural path and that of grace. The father and the mother. The mother's struggle begins with the notion that if you follow the path of grace you'll be spared hardships. A misinterpretation of grace, as we find out. The father's journey is more overt. His hardness is like a beacon of light that only fall always upon the death of his child. When he realizes so much time and energy was wasted on the constant struggle to shape life, to make it just what he thought it should be.

At church the only sermon we hear is that on Job. The righteous man who still suffers greatly. Pain and hardship is meant for all. The father is pious in the church but steps outside and concerns himself with his reputation and his connections, with prospects of money. The wife meanwhile appears much the same in church and out. I suspect the scene is not only meant to inform us of where the mother is off-base on her understanding of grace but also to show that religion and grace are not the same thing. The father, however sincere he is in the building forgets to take the important parts outside with him, to apply them to his life, to his family's life.

The mother eventually sees that grace doesn't protect her from loss and pain. It protects her from devastation and permanent sorrow and suffering. To love everything one must must even love the loss. To accept it. To return her child to God.

I've heard people complain about the beginning and the end, but without both the middle is just pretty scenery. The beginning and the end give that story a destination, some where to go and a purpose. Personally the movie is one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed. I could probably watch the mother return her child to God for hours without growing bored of that imagery.

While watching the movie I was shocked. I thought, to dislike this movie someone would have to have a very different interaction with the world, with life, than I do. It romanticized life! But if we can't romanticize life then, well, then there is nothing worth romanticizing, so I'll keep doing it.

Granted, the dinosaurs were too much. I get what was going on there but I still think it was a little unnecessary in the bigger scope and I think it lost people that needn't be lost. Which isn't to say the creation scene wasn't glorious. I truly loved it, I just think it could have skipped over the dinosaurs and been more powerful, less distracting.

When I struggle to create art, usually in writing, in my head it looks like this movie. In practice it rarely turns out anywhere near this, but I think similar goals were imagined. This wasn't always the case but shortly after Berkeley was born I went to a funeral. And as terrible as it sounds somehow sitting there, grieving for people I barely knew, surrounded by those greatly affected, I discovered something. I remember sitting there thinking, feeling, knowing, that THIS is life. Somewhere in the tragedy is the work and the glory. Those grieving people were so filled with life, I could see it spilling from the pews and out the windows, sweeping across hills and water. Here was human connectedness. Here was humanity. And somewhere in that is God too and the ever present struggle with grace. It was the most profound experience I've ever had at church and this movie brought it back to life for me sitting in the dark on the couch next to my wife while my baby slept upstairs and above her the stars crossed the sky and we were (are) all but the most important specks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love Stumbled Upon

Some thoughts have been floating around my head lately that I've been wanting to articulate, but feel like I lack the proper words.

It mostly started with the first song in this video (Sorry Jeff if you're reading this).

In particular let's focus on these lines:
Stall your mother
Disregard your father's words

Two years ago those words would have meant something incredibly different to me. They would have been me pleading with my love to give me just that one more minute of her time. It would have been a look back at the past, of those great moments that encompass falling in love. But no longer [not entirely true]. My eyes turn toward the future now. One day I'll be the father whose words are disregarded and Robyn will be the stalled mother. These are songs that no longer belong to me in the same way they use to.

I suspect the cliche feeling I should be having, especially with these particular lyrics, is to be "Not with my daughter!" Maybe when she's sixteen and not one and half I'll change my mind, but as of now I look forward to her having these sorts of experiences. I look forward to meeting her future and all the people she brings into it. I look forward to her future love as much as I look forward to anything in life.

Of course, I don't think for a second I'll ever be witness to these events, but I hope some day she gets her late night shooting star and I hope some boy (or girl) writes her songs (regardless of how asinine and terrible they are). I can't wait for the day we stumble into each other walking down the hallway--she's oblivious to the world, beaming--and I get to ask, "What's up?" And she gets to grin and claim, "Nothing." That will likely do.