So, I’m finding the second post harder to write than the first – go figure!
Four attempts later and I’ve scrapped all the gumph I had about sequels and trilogies and The Odyssey following The Iliad….. Starting again with a clean slate. And we’re back to “The Village” – in a way.
The concept of starting over from scratch is very attractive to us as screwed up human beings. And for those of us familiar with the Grace of God – a clean slate is not only attractive but very possible, and something I personally celebrate every day. And with God, there are third, fourth and forty fourth chances.
But is the clean slate really just about starting over? Is it really about running away and shutting ourselves off from “the big bad world” as the inhabitants of Shyamalan’s Village did. Can you restart without a dash of redemption and an essence of forgiveness? And there’s the rub – forgiveness, for some of us, feels far away and impossible – which is why we run away. We run away and shut ourselves down because we don’t think we deserve forgiveness, and we simply can’t forgive ourselves. And often, it’s not the forgiveness of God we find difficult to seek, that’s actually pretty easy. What’s more difficult to seek is the forgiveness of an injured individual.
Even popular and powerful people –when faced with something they have done, a stray word, an irresponsible riff in answer to a question – even they can flee into obscurity and oblivion. I’ve seen it in life, I’ve seen it in story – and I’ve seen it in a story of hope, forgiveness and atonement.
“The Fisher King” is a modern folk/morality tale about simple forgiveness, madness, oblivion and selfless love using Arthurian imagery and metaphor as a background. It’s no coincidence that the sitcom part that Jeff Bridges’ character is hoping for at the beginning of the film has the catchphrase of “Forgive Me!” He practices different ways to deliver the line, whilst at the height of his power, before tragedy strikes. He’s all style, the delivery of the words becoming more overblown and bombastic – and all along you know he has no understanding of what the words mean – why should he? He’s a popular radio talk host who’s about to hit the comedy big time. The words are just sounds. And for some people, words like Forgive and Sorry will always be just that – sounds.
Which kind of makes me sad. Sorry is only the hardest word if you actually are sorry. (Don’t bother apologising if you’re not sorry, it devalues the spirit of the word and will damage friendships rather than mend them)
And then when his world crumbles (an offhand comment he makes on his radio show “inspires” a psychopath to go into a restaurant and shoot as many people as possible inside – the network drops him) he runs away, chooses oblivion, is content to merely exist, courts obscurity. Until he meets another runaway. The brilliant Mediaeval literature professor whose wife was shot in the restaurant by the afformentioned “bad guy” completely shuts down mentally and has an utter break with reality as he retreats into the world of knights, Arthur, the Grail quest and fairies who speak to him. He creates his own clean slate in a fantasy world, where for him forgiveness is not needed, as “the event” has been totally removed. Except it really hasn’t. The fact that it’s the grail quest that he latches onto is again no coincidence. The Grail is the very essence of forgiveness, redemption and atonement – the cup that contains the actual Grace of God in physical form. What guilt can our “victim” feel? – survivor guilt is a very real and painful experience, as well as the “what could I have done to save her?” question that can hound any bereaved person. Even worse, for this man, when he feels himself falling in love with another woman he feels guilt that he’s somehow abandoning his old love. That in finally moving on he was somehow killing her over again. It’s this which forces him to once more face the truth, a truth he simply cannot face and so becomes catatonic.
Imagine, choosing entropy over movement, simply because you can’t forgive yourself. It is this moment, where the man who had been inspiring him to change, accept and seek forgiveness falls down, that Jeff’s character becomes the man of action, he becomes the knight on the quest, and he turns from his own slough of despond to help another soul. Is it this then, the desire to look beyond our own failings and step out of selfish indifference to the consideration of others, no matter how crazy or even selfish we think they are, that brings us the ability to forgive ourselves and to accept the forgiveness of God and those we have wronged. Oh and it’s a happy ending, I promise!
Because both characters get a true clean slate. Rather than oblivion, they have Joy. Rather than obscurity they know true friendship and love. And it’s community that has proven the key for both mens’ redemption and release into the real freedom of a second chance
The clean slate is there for us all – whether we choose the emptiness of running away and hiding, or the true freedom of forgiveness (both offering and accepting) – well, that’s up to each of you