I'm having a hard time dealing with the events of this week and while I don't think it's appropriate to "just cheer up already and get on with it"--it's important to take a step back and realize that all of our lives have changed due to these recent violent incidents; some quite a bit more than others. While I try to make sense of it all (and there is no real way to do that), I think about this odd little movie that I stumbled across a while ago. The Answer Man starring Lauren Graham and Jeff Bridges makes a valiant attempt to explain life while making it clear that it cannot be explained.
Jeff Bridges plays Arlen Faber, an author who wrote a book entitled "Me and God", where he claims to have had a conversation with the higher power and relates snippets of enlightenment from the exchange. The book is very popular, making him famous, which causes him to become a complete recluse. He is as confused about his own life as everyone of his fans who are constantly asking him for messages from the divine. He encounters Kris Lucas (above right), a recovering alcoholic who owns a local bookstore. Arlen tries to sell back self help books that he has not found helpful and since Kris has been in rehab for the last month, he cannot afford to buy them. They come to an agreement that Kris can ask Arlen questions about life and Arlen will answer them in exchange for Kris taking the books. Some of the exchanges they have are so simple, yet profoundly brilliant at the same time, I was shocked when I heard them. For example:
Kris Lucas: If God made everything, then why are some things bad? Like the whole pain and suffering thing?
Arlen Faber: Opposites. Without things that suck, you would have no idea what good was, and therefore be directionless. You smell shit, you walk the other way.
And this one is my personal favorite:
Kris Lucas: Why can't I do the things I want to do? There is so much I know I'm capable of that I never actually do. Why is that?
Arlen Faber: The trick is to realize that you're always doing what you want to do...always. Nobody's making you do anything. Once you get that, you see that you're free and that life is really just a series of choices. Nothing happens to you. You choose.
Arlen's personal life is a complete mess, mostly because he is socially awkward (among other things), but there are clearly some basics about life that he does get. He meets the Lauren Graham character "Elizabeth" who is a struggling single mother with a new chiropractic office. She fixes Arlen when he throws his back out and literally crawls into her office. In a way, they fix each other. Some of the exchanges with him and her son Alexander, are really cute.
It was filmed in Philadelphia and some of the local neighborhood eye candy is really fun to watch. We have a beautiful city that most people don't even give a second thought.
All in all, this is a great little film. While it doesn't exactly explain life's mysteries, it does give some insight (as well as some great quips) into why it isn't all as confusing as it sometimes seems to be. Whenever I'm feeling a little lost, I come back to it to gain some perspective. Just because we are placed on this earth does not guarantee that we will have a good life. Everyone has struggles and sometimes things go terribly wrong. We should do what we can to be sane and treat each other well and make the world as good as we can make it. It's really just that simple.