No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Ms. Georgia Byrd and a Life so Grand
My favorite movies, it turns out, share a common feature. Their main character erupts out of his or her (usually her) boxed in life to discover a fuller expression of his or her self. To be clear up front, even with my great interest in aesthetics, my love for art and design, my passion for literature, and my interest in human experience, I do not watch either art films or high drama. It turns out, my compulsion to each of these things in my real life, means being bombarded with them in a two-hour intensive study through cinema is too much for me. Of course, it doesn't help that I find moving pictures over-stimulating, and no longer go to the movie theatre.
Having confessed my deep dark secret that I won't be writing a thesis on the philosophical genuius revealed through Terrence Malick films (I do know people that do this), nor a critical analysis of French film (and this as well), I'll reveal something further. Currently, my favorite movie is "Last Holiday", featuring both Queen Latifah, and LL Cool J. This movie is hardly "The Thin Red Line", or "La Femme Nikita." But, did you see who the two main characters are played by--two classic, still cool, major hip-hop stars? Honestly, who couldn't love that combination? Queen Latifah's character, Georgia Byrd, goes through a transformation of the above description that is so complete, it instigates others in the movie doing the same. And LL Cool J is so serene in his character, he practically glows. One of the things I appreciate about the movie, truth be told, is how incredibly *good* Georgia Byrd is, but that in being good she's not boring. True, she must suffer the surprise that shocks her out of her daily routine, before she pops out of boring, but such transformation does not alter her golden heart. She simply becomes even better. For her character, what becoming better turns out to mean is embracing both the opportunities that present themselves to her, and also creating (vivaciously) the opportunities she wants for herself. In her realization that she must change as a person, she chooses to step into her well-rounded potential as a human being--experiencing life richly, performing the skills she has talent for, engaging with those around her honestly. And she knows that what it means to be a well-rounded person is not only to pursue moral goods such as communion with god and soul searching, but also to experience the aesthetic riches of everyday life--good food, comfortable and beautiful clothing, honest conversation.
But, Ms. Georgia Byrd not only lives her life to the fullest, she is also unwilling to accept that others cannot do the same. She engages with those around her in a manner that acknowledges not only what they are doing currently, but in a way that expects them to express fully who they are. Short of that, and she's pointing it out to them. It is not a mistaken bossiness, or know-it-all character that I see in such behavior. Instead, what such interaction reveals, I believe, is that Georgia Byrd is pursuing a life she believes anyone can have their own version of. She is a person that quickly charms those around her, as they become convinced she is not only enjoyable to be around, but also empassioned in a way rarely seen, with luck unlike others. But from her own perspective, even as she knows she celebrates a life full of luck and joy, it is also clear that she believes she is no greater than anyone else. She is doing what anyone can do--live more fully, pursue with greater love and passion, engage with others and the moment more completely. In this way her gift is exactly what makes her unique, but simultaneously makes her a model of what others also can be. A sort of guide for fulfilling our own potential.
A friend of mine characterizes such a perspective as the perfect combination of knowing how awesome you are, while believing anyone can be so grand. The beauty of this balance is that it need not contain humility, because it isn't about arrogance. It's simply about enlivening the gorgeous breadth of individual potential. That is, of course what I might be good at won't be the same as what any other person might be. But together we can thrive at loving what we do, and enthusiastically supporting each other in not only what we do well, but also in what we can do better.
Queen Latifah was interviewed after completing this film. While I'll admit the interview itself isn't that great, you can see what an awesome, interesting woman Queen Latifah herself is. She talks about how because of playing the character of Georgia Byrd her own life is changed. But she also admits that while she is striving to live her own life to the fullest, it can be hard; the implication being, that sort of choice is an ongoing commitment. What this also reveals to me is the importance in surrounding ourselves with the people that inspire us to be better, to shine more brightly, to love more fully. But too that doing so comes from our commitment to care for ourselves through the life we care to live. Georgia Byrd's interactions with others, however, because of her own commitment to live that honest, fully-engaged life, also brought out the best in them. And that tells us something more, it is when we take up this commitment to love ourselves and to engage our lives completely that those people that inspire us appear, sometimes to already be right beside us. Our love for ourselves reveals itself to us too through the love of those around us. So, in being certain others too can live their lives more fully engaged, we open the space for them to do so, and reciprocally for ourselves to further brighten.