Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Wisdom of Woody...
There's a great scene in the film "Hannah and Her Sisters" where Woody Allen's character, a classic hypochondriac, is relieved of the very real concern he might have cancer. He leaps for joy, then almost crumbles on his way back to earth, as the weight of the world is lifted, only to be replaced by the existential burden of eschatology: what is the point? Why bother?
The notion sends him on a spiritual quest. After he re-explores his abandoned Jewish heritage, he then seeks out Catholicism, including a brilliant scene where we see him unloading his shopping items for the day: a crucifix, a painting of Christ, and a loaf of Wonder Bread.
But, Woody can't get behind the papal traditions either. To him, it's a Catechism In the Rye. So, he walks the streets of Manhattan questioning why there is suffering, and what it all means. Then, exhausted and depressed, he wanders into a place that restores a glimmer of hope for him; not a synagogue or a cathedral, but an old movie house showing The Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup". As he watches Groucho, Harpo, and Chico defy their audience not to laugh at their antics, the corners of his mouth begin to rise. Finally, his spirit reluctantly embraces the notion of hope.
Most of us are likely reeling from the daily dire reports of financial woes, political divisiveness, and the accompanying feelings of fear and uncertainty. I'm quite blessed these days amid it all, and yet, I absorb the stress like Spongebob absorbs sea water. It's hard not to. I'd go back to see my chiropractor for a tension-reducing adjustment, but I just recently learned that she died of cancer a few months ago at the age of 39. This life will humble you quickly...and repeatedly. To quote another New Yorker, Lou Reed: "Life's good...but not fair at all."
We only have so much control over the affairs of the world, and the best we can do is keep our little portion of it as tidy as possible. That includes our spirits.
In terms of coping mechanisms for the rest of it - the monumental rest of it - I encourage everyone to realize the equally monumental power of humor. Mark Twain said it was mankind's only truly effective weapon. It got Hawkeye Pierce through the Korean War, and Kurt Vonnegut through the bombing of Dresden. If it weren't for "The Daily Show", "The Office", and my friends on Facebook who keep me in stitches, I think I'd go over my credit limit on therapy bills alone.
So, rely on your prayer beads and your business acumen, but also be sure to take some time out for an old stand-up comedy routine, a favorite movie clip, a sit-com on TV Land. It seems trite, but you don't realize how cathartic it is, how prayerful it is, to simply revel in the ridiculous, if only for a few moments a day.
Laughter is God's spiritual version of electrolytes. Replenish your spirit, and get back in the race.