Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Circumstances and Circumspection

"This is the life we chose.
This is the life we lead.
And there is only one Guarantee.
None of us will see Heaven."
John Rooney (Paul Newman) 
"The Road to Perdition"

Having zero interest in the Chargers v. Bengals AFC Wild-Card Game at 1:00 PM Sunday afternoon, which unfortunately for the folks who are fans of the Bengals their team appeared to mimic, I spent an otherwise dreary January afternoon watching one of my favorite movies of the past ten to fifteen years, Sam Mendes' The Road to Perdition.  By 2002, when this film came out there were not many opportunities left to watch Paul Newman ply his craft and he did so quite expertly here opposite Tom Hanks.  Those two plus Stanley Tucci, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Dylan Baker and (in a part short on screen time but long on significance) Jennifer Jason-Leigh made it a fairly easy way to pass a couple of hours.

Rooney's declaration - dramatic as it is in what is rather dark, somber piece of film-making - has always struck me as containing more than a kernel of truth.  One can quibble I reckon on the whole business of Heaven but the rest of it is unmistakably spot-on.  Too much time is spent - and it is spent by human beings of all ages, sexes, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds - assigning responsibility and in some cases blame to life for what befalls us in our day-to-day.  Truth be told, no time should be spent doing so. The great John Hiatt once observed, "We get to choose.  You know we ain't no amoebas."   As he often is, Hiatt was entirely correct.

As a general rule, things do not happen to us.  They happen because of us.  They happen because of a decision we made.  Or perhaps they happen because of a decision we opted not to make...or failed to make.  It may help us - in our deepest, dankest moments of self-pity - to envision ourselves as the pinata getting the innards beaten out of us by the whooping stick of Life.  But it is self-delusional.  We are not the pinata. We are the stick.  Every swing we take, every contact we make impacts not only us but also the world around us and those who occupy it right alongside of us.

We lead the life we have chosen.  As soon as we accept that and reject the self-created role of victim we will be far better off.  When you do something, own it - for better or for worse.  It belongs to you.  You might as well accept responsibility for it. 


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