To retreat from the depressing, gory news and to turn my back on this presidency of hate I cannot watch and the violence to innocents that deserve no such violence at which I cannot look, I take leave of it for an hour, a day or maybe even days and direct my attention to other things that will comfort my sadness and disappointment of the harshness of our awful time where we speak at each other and not with each other each hating the other that solves, in the end, nothing. I plead guilty to that. I needed something to speak to me in softer tones about the questions we all have and the rationale we seek for our own life.
As I yearned for this I came upon in our 52 million channel search the Robert Redford directed and Brad Pitt staring film "A River Runs Through It." I had seen it before and knew it said so much to me about things I think on often speaking to the eternal question we all have trying to give answer to the rationale for life despite the almost incomprehensible vicissitudes of it and the the incredulity of man's inhumanity to his fellow man's contribution to it.
It tells the story set in the early 20th century of a Montana family composed of two brothers different in every way but, though different and incomprehensible one to the other, loving each other nonetheless despite those differences. I urge you to watch it if you can. In my opinion it is a beautiful film worthy of thought.
There is a poem within the film that is quoted. "Ode, Imitations of Immortality" written by William Wordsworth (1779-1850) which speaks to the drama of the film. It happens to be one of my favorite poems that gives credence and reality to life.
Norman Maclean the writer of the semi-autobiographical book "A River Runs Through It" writes two of the most revelatory soliloquies of the father Reverend Maclean in one of his sermons after the death of his youngest son and of the surviving son Norman's summary at the end of the film pictured as an aged man fishing in the river both he and his sons had experienced in their youth. They say:
Reverend: “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.”
Norman: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs [his father and brother]. I am haunted by waters.”
We, as I understand the film, go through life only to see at the end, if we live long enough, most those whom we knew die, and so, how do we give credence to this if all that we ever knew and loved leaves us and in time we, too, leave the earth. Our works, who we are, I think the film says, live on as eventually every living thing passes out of this earth but the reality of one's existence lives on as Norman says "in the basement of time" and a river runs through it carrying the words spoken indelible in the sands of time.
Ode, Intimations of Immortality (in pertinent part)
Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound! 175
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright 180
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind; 185
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death, 190
In years that bring the philosophic mind.