One of my all time favorite filmmakers is Woody Allen. I get how he thinks, I like the way he writes his movies, how he treats human behavior and human nature, and how his imagination takes us places where no one thought to go before him. In his movie, the Purple Rose of Cairo, which I have watched a few times for its originality, a character (Jeff Daniels) leaves the movie from inside the screen and goes to meet one of the spectators (Mia Farrow), who has been watching the movie and dreaming about him over and over. She is in an unhappy marriage and he is her dream love. I won’t tell you how it ends (I wouldn’t have ended it that way, it left me wanting a different ending), or what happens, I think you should watch it, it has hilarious moments as you would expect from a Woody Allen movie. What I am interested in is the stepping out of a written script, a planned life, what we think we know, what we hold to be true, just because of our preconceived ideas about what we think we should. A love affair, marriage, relationship, a job, is most times like a scripted, shot, edited and projected movie. You go through the moves, you know your part, you don’t dare change as you feel you’re not supposed to. But how many times have you watched a movie more than once wishing it would have a different ending, that they would end up together (Casablanca), that he wouldn’t leave (Gone with the Wind), that the stupid girl won’t go down to the dark basement (most horror movies), that the moronic family would start understanding the smart dog already (Lassie).
We often get stuck in scripts, in our role, and it takes guts, or an almighty power that has a Woody Allen way of doing things to break us out of the ordinary, the ordained, the happy endings that we build in our heads based on our imagined feelings, or the ordinary endings we have internalized as true, or as inevitable. When is it that we start thinking that there are higher purposes to our lives, that maybe settling for what is there, the not so great, the mediocre is not for everyone, it’s not for us, and maybe we are not meant to just accept things as they are, maybe we should be striving for the extraordinary, in feeling, in love, in self-realization, creativity, brilliant art, in writing words that really move people, inspire them, make them change their beliefs, step out of the script and be the best they can be, and do the best they can do, achieve something meaningful, live their dreams.
I am not sure everyone is meant to create great art, work on brilliant inventions, write inspiring words, dance like a dream, sing like a nightingale, make films that move us, yet there is one truth, one thing that all of us can do, and that is to be the best that we can be, as people, as friends, as lovers, as members of humanity striving to be good to each other and to our future. Everyone can love someone or something to the full extent of oneself, to a point where it hurts to breathe, to the absolute maximum, to love and adore with abandon, to just feel that tide, of emotions, of happy pain, that comes from dedicating ourselves to love, for what we do, for our family, for our loved one, for our art, for our deity if we have one, for whatever it is that makes us dream, come alive, be the us that we are meant to be when we were created.
Why do we allow ourselves to be stuck in our familiar, our comfort zone, not daring to step out. Why don’t you do a breakdance move, a hop and skip in the middle of your square dance of life. Dare to get out of your ordinary, and think hard about your preconceived ideas about who you should be and what you should be doing with your life. I have worked with people who loathe what they do, yet they do it day in and day out, convincing themselves it is for the comfort of their families that they stay in a dead end job, for the financial security, I know friends locked in loveless marriages, in dead end relationships that they don’t like to be in anymore, but that they are scared to leave without the guarantee of the viable alternative. When were there any guarantees in life? Any of us can be hit by a bus tomorrow, have that dreaded disease, our lives are the most fragile things we have, yet we plan as if we would be living to the age of Methuselah. Is it worth it? Would living the mediocre and ordinary replace the beauty and passion of the extraordinary? For what purpose are we willing to give up on what we can be and we could achieve? Why do we settle?
In the movie, Mia Farrow’s character struggles with a love triangle between herself, the character of the actor (Jeff Daniels) and the actor in movie real life (Jeff Daniels). It is a debate of choosing between the dream life, going to the world of the actor’s archeologist character in Cairo by entering the movie in black and white, and staying with the actor in real-life and living the real life in color. I won’t tell you what she chose or what happens, but the dilemma is real, at least for us, do we settle for what we know or do we strive to discover what we can be and how we can live life to the fullest?
What will it take for us to step out of that script and morph across the screen we erected around our lives, when will we dare do the unscripted, the unusual, because we deserve it, and because it is worth it? Will we ever break out of our preconceived ideas of what love should be, ideas we got from movies and love songs, that boxed us in with expectations that limit our view of what’s real, and maybe, just maybe there is something else out there that we never experienced and that we should know what it’s about. We might be surprised at what we find on the other side. “Because, hey, you never know”. (borrowed from the NY lottery ads)