Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lord Jim

I find it interesting to be tested. It is in-ter-est-ing to discover what you would do or how you would react when you don't have a lot of time to analyze a situation and mull various options over in your mind. Because when you don't have time to grab some paper and draw a line down the middle to write down the pros and cons of your possible outcomes, then you discover what is really there inside of you. And I find that interesting.

Joseph Conrad explored that idea in his novel Lord Jim. And yes, Joseph Conrad was also the man who brought us Heart of Darkness, the secret origin of Apocalypse Now. I had to read Lord Jim but I actually chose to read Heart of Darkness. Jim felt a positive sense of destiny about himself, he was going to do something and be someone. But when he was confronted with one of those immediate situations I spoke about, he failed himself, the people in his charge and everyone else who walks or crawls. And he had to spend the rest of his life making up for it, or trying to do so. I found out later, there was a movie made from this story, it was called Lord Jim and starred one of my favorite actors, Peter O'Toole.
I can't recommend the movie, I haven't seen it in thirty years but the book was very thought provoking and I'm sure the movie was a showcase for Peter O'Toole's talent. But the question remains, when tested. . . when a serious situation presents itself. . . what will you make of it?

And before you answer, "Well, I can make a hat or I can make a brooch" try to be serious for a minute. I recall once when I was riding with my brother-in-law Steve in his pretty souped up 1969 Chevy that we drove by an officer of the law. Steve wasn't speeding or anything, but the policeman pulled us over anyway. He leaned in the window and looked past Steve at me and said, "I saw ya eyeballing me when you went by, you got somethin' to say?" Well, without drawing up a list of possible replies or relying on the list that the computer chip in my head drew on the inside of my vision like the Terminator got to see, I got all aggressive and squinted at him and said, "What are you talking about!!!?? I was trying to see what that film was that was developing on the inside of his back window!! It had nothing to do with you!!!" You see, we were twenty-one years old, innocent of any crime and there was no way he was going to make us feel any differently.

I like to think that's what Peter O'Toole would have done except he probably would have been drunk at the time. Between Peter and Richard Burton and Richard Harris, I believe they drank more than the whole of England and Wales combined.

So I enjoy seeing how I'll react under pressing circumstances. Sometimes I'm pleased with the result and sometimes I'm not. There was a time when I was pressured like the pressure felt at the center of the sun to compromise my principles at work. And everyone around me, save one, was crushed by that pressure and gave in. I did not and I can always look back at that as a positive thing. Then there were other times when I folded like a cheap tent. That's the nature of human nature, I imagine.

So, keep the tests coming, each time I take one, I find out a little more about myself.

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