Monday, March 12, 2012

An Interesting Lesson from the Academy Awards

So, we are not such “religious” movie-goers, that is to say, we rarely go. Last year, when the Academy Awards were on, we realized that we had no right to watch the Awards as we had not been to a single movie all year and didn’t even know what they were and who was in them. So, instead, while the show was airing, we elected to go watch The King’s Speech, about which he had heard so much. We returned home in time to see it win the best actor award and the best picture award among others. We loved the movie and its message, so were happy to see we chose well. This year, we improved a bit. Prior to the start of the show in which Oscar is the star, we had seen three movies, the third of which we caught at a 4:30 p.m. showing Sunday, a few hours before the start of the big Hollywood bash in which the awards are distributed. So, we spent Sunday afternoon watching and thinking about The Artist. Once again, we picked not a, but THE winner.

Soon after the announcement of this as the Best Movie of the Year, it occurred to me that the Academy chose films for two years in a row about trying to find one’s voice! I really think there is an important lesson here for all of us as human beings, as well as for the Jewish individual and collective soul. By the way, another excellent film we saw, The Help, fits into this thematic rubric as well.

With the concentration of text study that is just part of my life and the ongoing conversations about those texts between my students and myself, my friends and colleagues and myself and my family members and myself, I am fully aware of how much words and speech are an ongoing part of my life. This is even before we get to the technology formats that further enable the spreading of words (like what you are reading right now!), the bombardment of so many words and sounds and so forth.

One of the scenes in The Artist that just struck me as so poignant (which is I believe the intention of all involved with the film) was when the sounds of everything surrounding this silent film star turned into this deafening and painful cacophony of sound. During this sequence, I was thinking about how I always love to be one of the first to be in the Netilat Yadayim line at our Shabbat and Yom Tov meals, simply because I love (really, believe it or not) the permission to just be quiet for a while with no one expecting any words to come out of my mouth. I am left with my thoughts and I just smile. For me, who REFUSES to stand in line for food at a buffet, this is a line I will get in first if possible!

I DO feel the overwhelming sounds of words and am often struck by the degree to which people think (or not) before those words are sent out into the airwaves that then resound with sound for all of us. We in the United States are certainly experiencing this now, for example, with all of the misspoken comments and other problems going on in certain political posturing of candidates for President in the upcoming elections.

We are all aware of how VERBAL bullying has taken a more prominent place in our lists of concerns as being as dangerous, or even more so, than physical bullying. There are campaigns to get all of us to THINK BEFORE WE SPEAK, as the age old adage goes. There are days of intentional silence in various circles, and so on.

And now Hollywood comes to teach us that finding our voice in a thoughtful, intentional and deliberate way might not be so easy for a variety of reasons in many different situations. Black “help” in the South found their voice through the writing project of one of the more fringe members of the community, The Artist found his voice in his tap dancing feet, and King George VI finally was able to find his voice when it was so needed at a critical time in his country’s (and world) history.

Maybe if we all had more challenges that would require us to work harder to find our voice, we would value it more and use it appropriately to build, not to destroy; to improve, not to make things worse; and to validate and include all, not insult and exclude them. Otherwise, our voices screaming and fighting too often sounds to me like a cacophony of sounds that can be painful and harmful.

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