Ginger and I went to see No Country for Old Men a couple of days ago. I’ve been a huge Coen Brothers fan since a friend in Fort Worth took me to see Blood Simple. I can also quote most of Raising Arizona and Fargo. I knew I wasn’t going to the feel good movie of the season and I knew I was going to something that would keep me thinking for several days. I wasn’t disappointed. The movie is bound to win a few Oscars.
I haven’t read Cormac McCarthy’s novel on which the book is based, but the reviews say the film is very true to the book, so I assume it’s worth the time as well. The story is stark and dark and challenging. In a world full of violence, the characters make choices and deal with the consequences along with the parts of life that just happen. As Ellis, the father of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, says:
You can’t stop what’s comin’. It ain’t all waitin’ on you. That’s vanity.
You can’t stop it and you can’t see it. As this year rolls into the next, however arbitrary our calendars might be, we don’t know what’s coming and so we have choices to make about how we prepare for the uncertainty. What jumped first to my mind is one of my favorite borrowed prayers, by Dag Hammarskjöld, the former Secretary General of the United Nations:
For all that has been, thanks; for all that will be, yes.
How we choose to embrace what lies ahead is, in large part, determined by how we find meaning in what has already come and gone. Thanks comes before Yes.
In one of my favorite movies – also an Oscar winner, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are looking off the cliff into the water below as their pursuers are gaining ground. Sundance hesitates:
Sundance: I can’t swim!
Butch: (laughs) Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you!
They jump – and live – and before long B. J. Thomas is singing “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.”
Another gem comes from Tripper Harrison in Meatballs (not nominated for any Oscars):
And even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we play so far above our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if God in Heaven above points his hand at our side of the field; even if every man woman and child joined hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn’t matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they’ve got all the money! It just doesn’t matter if we win or if we lose. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! Rest of group: IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER…
With theologians like Paul Newman and Bill Murray doing such good work, how can we lose? The truth is the fall is going to kill us; we don’t get to hang out here forever. The truth is most of the stuff we think we have to have or do to make us matter isn’t going to be enough. Knowing that we’re going to die and come up short (not necessarily in that order), how can we choose to live in something other than a posture of fear and self-centeredness?
The answer for me is in saying, “Thanks.”
Gratitude gives birth to courage and hope. Gratitude lifts my eyes up beyond my little life. Gratitude opens my heart to love.
The year ahead doesn’t promise to be any less harrowing or hopeless than the one we are completing. There is much in our world that is dangerous, difficult, and wrong. We are in desperate need of leaders who don’t appear to be stepping forward. We have set things in motion we don’t know how to control in many different arenas. And – and – none of that gets the last word.
For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God.
Thanks and Yes.
P. S. – There’s a new recipe.