Friday, March 25, 2005

My so-called reality

Endless conversation by Tony Evans


Tony Evans

My kid sister in New Jersey once asked me, "Do you remember when it was black and white?" I tried to explain to her that those old movies looked the way they did because of cameras and film technology and that the world has always been in color. She looked at me suspiciously. The television had already become her keyhole upon reality. Within a few years there would be a hundred more channels to choose from. How could I save us from the onslaught? I'd read some books that suggested that only a loyalty to "the facts" would restore the world to reason.

Of course, I went into movie theaters every chance I got in order to find answers to life's deeper riddles. Spike Lee showed me what life was like in Brooklyn. Swedish filmmakers brought me to their idyllic Scandinavian childhoods. Pow Wow Highway helped me to understand what it was to be Indian, and when "Bull Durham" came out I appropriated Kevin Costner's laugh for a few weeks with the unconscious desire that it might attract a woman like Susan Sarandon. No luck.

As all the facts I'd collected in college began to grow musty, I kept watching movies to keep up with reality. The actors seemed always two steps ahead of me on the road of life. Each movie was so well edited and organized; beside which, my own life seemed to suffer from bad lighting, poor production values and a weak script. How was I ever to get it together enough to place my shining stone in the temple of knowledge, thereby setting the record of reality straight, when there were so many good movies out?

Movies can change lives. And yet life suddenly demands our attention even more than stories. Looking back, I realize that life's script is only written after the fact and that facts have never spoken very well for themselves. What every kid knows is that they need a narrative, some plausible wholeness, in order to make any real sense of things. The best storytellers have a reach far beyond the so-called facts.

Shakespeare once wrote, "There is more in heaven and on earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy."

He wasn't speaking about extra DVD features and alternate endings. He was appealing to the broadest perspectives of the human imagination. The world may no longer be in black and white, and we may have 300 channels to choose from, but the need for a good story lies behind all the noise.




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