Friday, January 17, 2014

Feature Creature

Now that the bottleneck of The Nun’s Story is out of the way, with its paralyzing-to-contemplate 149-minute running time, I’ve been able to embark on a long-delayed movie binge. One night I watched Compliance (based on a true story about a prank caller who persuades the manager of a fast-food restaurant to grossly violate a young employee’s civil rights and worse), The Kid with a Bike (about a young French boy adopted by a hairdresser after his father abandons him), and The Big Picture (Romain Duris as a French lawyer whose wife begins an affair with a photographer, leading to a dark series of events).

The next evening, I saw Prince Avalanche (I love Emile Hirsch; he’s perfectly cast in this tale of two hapless Texas road workers and really made me laugh) and Lay the Favorite (a colorful Las Vegas confection with Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Zeta-Jones). The night after that, I saw Hadewijch, the third French film of the week, this one about a worryingly devout young Catholic girl.

A couple of nights later, I watched An Invisible Sign, with Jessica Alba, which is goofy and charmingly lightweight in some respects, but quite heavy in others. The night after that, I saw Mud, with Matthew McConaughey, about two young boys who help a drifter who is an aspiring knight in gleaming armor.

In the free minutes between movies, I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which was extremely absorbing. She was just 22 when her mother died after a brief bout with cancer, and she herself went astray for a handful of years, and then, after spotting a guidebook in a bookstore, decided she would hike 1100 miles, from the Mojave Desert to Portland, Oregon, all by herself.

Before she started this trek, though she had a lot of camping and outdoors experience, she had never done any backpacking, and quite a number of things went wrong. It’s an astonishing story of perseverance, vividly told. (I’m done with it, so if you want to read it and know my email address, send me a note and I’ll mail it to you.)

Wild made me think I should undertake some bravery-requiring feat. What, though, now that she already did the most remarkable thing ever? But maybe going without a shower for weeks on end isn’t necessary; maybe keeping one’s eyes open wherever one happens to be will show us what we need to see. I think what Cheryl Strayed learned from her incredible adventure was that her life was real, it was as it was, and she was in charge of it.

This week I received a couple of copies of San Francisco Insight’s newsletter in the mail, kindly sent by the author of a remembrance of Carlos. A couple of his poems accompanied the article, including one that is a favorite of mine, plus a couple of poems about him. I appreciate that so many are remembering Carlos with me.  Practically every time I mention his name to anyone who knew him, that person says, “I was just thinking about him today.”

There was another superb piece in this newsletter, by a member of Eugene Cash’s sangha named Cathi Murphy, about Martin Aylward’s rethinking of Buddhism’s basic greed, hatred and aversion as “demand, defense and distraction.”

One afternoon I walked to OfficeMax for padded envelopes and to Papalote for a burrito, which tasted unusually good, since I ate it without reading a magazine at the same time, which is an extreme rarity. It’s OK if I overeat—it has to be, since I’ve done it approximately 36,500 times and will do so many more times—and it’s also OK if I overeat while reading, but I would like to be more aware of the thoughts that occur before and during. I mean, what really is going on? This is my true life, even if I’m not hiking the Pacific Crest Trail—what is actually happening?
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