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You may ask yourself, “How did I get here?”

December 29, 2009

“If a man wants to be of the greatest possible value to his fellow-creatures, let him begin the long, solitary task of perfecting himself.”

——Robertson Davies

 

I enjoy the movies and I have plans to spend some time in this suite expounding on why I like them so much. But this morning I just want to briefly illustrate the way my recollection of the meaning of a scene from a popular but critically “meh”-ed movie, 1987’s The Untouchables helped shine some light on the workings of my confused little psyche.

"Well, Mr. Ness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster hates a coward."

It’s deliciously ironic that just Sunday right here, I made (what I was told by a person whose opinion I value) an adequate attempt to compare my brain to a religiously compromised computer; one that I was proud to have managed to clean up and humanize; yet simultaneously I actually wrestled with the hurt and collateral damage caused by a few selfish decisions I had recently thoughtlessly made. My mind clearly demonstrated to me that the debugging is not complete and a high self-regard is unwarranted at this time. But I was muddled and did not sufficiently grasp all the varied reasons I did what I did until I recalled, just now, this scene from that movie.

We are looking into the apartment of Sean Connery’s character Jimmy Malone, a Chicago cop Al Capone’s crew is out to cap. He hears a noise and senses something is amiss. He cautiously moves from room to room checking the windows then seemingly satisfied with his security, he heads out of sight toward the living room. An intruder enters the kitchen window; he has a switchblade and advances down the hall after Jimmy who is preoccupied with cranking up a Victrola.  But just as the assassin gets within wet work range, Jimmy turns and brandishes a previously concealed sawed-off shotgun and we see the tables have been turned.  Jimmy, brimming with a slight smug confidence for having outmaneuvered and outwitted assumingly one of the mafia’s finest, utters this sardonic evaluation of his opponent’s preparedness, complete with a contemptuous ethnic slur for good measure, “Isn’t that just like a wop?  Brings a knife to a gunfight.”  He doesn’t shoot though; he just slowly backs the guy out the kitchen door and follows him onto the stoop to add a last triumphant insult. That’s where he looks up to see top Capone button man Frank Nitti just above him across the alley with a fully automatic Thompson machine gun aimed very confidently at Jimmy’s chest, and the realization is shown to strike him, just ahead of a hail of bullets; the realization he was the one ultimately outmaneuvered and was now hopelessly outgunned.

Jimmy thought he was winning at a game of checkers while Nitti had all along been playing chess. And to pull an appropriate phrase used later in the movie; “thus endeth the lesson.”

I woke up to the reality recently that I was much like the guy with the knife at a gunfight or better still the over-confident guy with a shotgun who finds himself in a machine gunfight. I bumbled arrogantly into a situation I was clearly unprepared to be in, and I reflexively made matters worse with actions that were what I could sufficiently describe with the Draperism, “ineptitude with insufficient cover”.*  Then to comprehend how this particular situation is even weirder and more surreal to me, you must understand, the gunfight was all of my own staging and all in my own head. It was never ever real. No one was a threat to me nor provoked any adverse showdown with me. I acted poorly and insensitively (in this real, temporal world), to an imaginary psychological confrontation of my own design and engineering, if that makes any sense at all. And real people were hurt and suffered because of it. And I am very sorry.

My seemingly free and clear, efficient mind had found its way into some overlooked and unquarantined knuckle-dragging primitive viral loop process and I myself, and people I care about are dealing with the consequences. It is apparent to me, I have much work still to do.

My grand existence: same as it ever was.

I rhetorically ask you and the indifferent universe, just how fucked up is that?

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 * bonus points for wedging a Don Draper phrase into a cryptic personal post though, am I right? 

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In the near future, expect to see my opinions and interpretations of these fine flicks among others: A Beautiful Mind, Lost in Translation and Jaws.

 

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