Monday, February 19, 2007

On Character, Honesty, & Advice about Sunscreen

In my last post I included a 7 minute clip from the movie The Big Kahuna. The clip ends with Phil saying:
"[Larry] is honest Bob. He’s blunt as well. That sometimes is part of being honest, because there are a lot of people who are blunt, but not honest. Larry is not one of those. Larry is an honest man. You too are an honest man, Bob. I believe that -- that somewhere down deep inside you is something that strives to be honest. The question you have to ask yourself is, has it touched the whole of my life?"

Bob asks "What does that mean?"

and Phil continues: "That means that you preaching Jesus is no different than Larry or anybody else preaching lubricants. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or 'how to make money in real estate with no money down'. That doesn’t make you a human being. It makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to someone honestly, as a human being… ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are. Just to find out. For no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it. It’s not a conversation anymore. It’s a pitch, and you’re not a human being, you’re a marketing rep.
The clip ends there but Phil's speech does not. He goes on to say this:
We were talking before about character. You were asking me about character. And we were speaking of faces. But the question is much deeper than that. The question is, do you have any character at all? And if you want my honest opinion Bob, you do not. For the simple reason that you don’t regret anything yet. You’ve already done plenty of things to regret. You just don't know what they are. It's when you discover them; when you see the folly in something you've done, and you wish you had it to do over, but you know you can't because it's too late. So you pick that thing up and you carry it with you. To remind you that life goes on: the world will spin without you; you really don't matter in the end. Then you will attain character because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself all across your face. Until that day however, you cannot expect to go beyond a certain point.
I want to go beyond that certain point, and live a life that is fulfilling and imaginative and inspiring and fun; valuable to others and valuable to myself.

Phil's comments about the requisite baggage it will be healthy for me to carry through life so it shows on my character-tattooed face remind me of two other quotes. The first is said by Roland of Gilead, Stephen King's Gunslinger character in The Dark Tower series. When someone acts falsely he says to them a deeply-healthy-shame-inducing phrase:
You have forgotten the face of your father.
The second quote is from Disney's The Lion King. It is an interchange between Mufasa & Simba, after Mufasa's death, as Simba is facing his own identity:
[Simba looks into a pool of water]
Simba: That's not my father, that's just my reflection.
Rafiki: No, look harder.
[Simba's reflection changes to that of his father, and Simba is startled]
Rafiki: You see? He lives in you.
Mufasa: Simba.
Simba: Father?
Mufasa: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.
Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa: Remember who you are.
To add even more wisdom, as The Big Kahuna ends, even before the credits roll, a narration begins. This narration, as it turns out, is read verbatim by Lee Perry from a July 1, 1997 column written in the Chicago Trbune by Mary Schmich, and is mixed and put to a beat by none other than Baz Lurhmann (of Moulin Rouge! and Romeo+Juliet fame). The result is a song called Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen). The article itself begins with these words:
Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who'd rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there's no reason we can't entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.
The portion used for the end of the movie dishes out advice that is sometimes cheesy, sometimes poignant, sometimes powerful, and it goes like this:
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.
That's good advice. Every last word of it.

~ Keith

1 comment:

skidmarksontheside said...

wow. that's awesome Keith. I want to cut and paste parts of that and tattoo it in reverse on my forehead so I can read it in the mirror every morning...

of course I wont...

but I will try to do something that scares me every day.

and I'll try to remember the sunscreen.