Day 17

Hang with me past the first paragraph on this one.  I am actually going somewhere with this.

For Christmas, my wife gave me an awesome book that I’ve been reading in my free time.  It’s basically an extended criticism (not in a bad way) of one of my favorite filmmakers, Paul Thomas Anderson.  Early in the book the author (Jason Sperb) identifies what he sees as one of PTA’s primary themes in his work:  the arbitrariness of life.  He thinks that Anderson’s films give off the sense that things happen in life without reason or cause and, perhaps, that life is not fair.  Sperb (the author) critiques this theme.  Many of Anderson’s characters are fairly well-off, middle-class Americans.  Sperb seems to think that it is too convenient for characters who are, in comparison to most of the world, very wealthy to believe that life can be arbitrary or unfair.  He seems to imply that people who have all their material needs met (food, shelter, etc.) have no legitimate gripe about life’s fairness and, in this way, doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for the ways in which Anderson’s work has explored this theme.

Somehow, this has got me thinking about my own life.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the arbitrariness and, at times, perhaps the unfairness of life.  I do not personally feel that I have been the victim of much that is either arbitrary or unfair, but I do see it in the lives of others.  I know a lot of people who have suffered great losses in a large variety of ways.  However, after reading this passage in this book, it makes me wonder, do these people I love and care about have a legitimate gripe?  Are we so privileged in this country that we’ve lost all perspective?  Does having food, shelter, and safety make us greedy for wanting more?  For wanting family to live?  For wanting the addicted to be free?  For wanting people to have a way out of abuse or trauma?

Maybe it is a kind of greed.  I don’t know.  I want to give that thought a fair shot and spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about it.  Perhaps it will give me a different perspective on life.

What are your initial thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Day 17

  1. To state that you have seen arbitrariness or unfairness implies that you perfectly understand the standard as well as the facts. Something may seem arbitrary and unfair, but perhaps you are assuming you are certain of what is fair and that the alleged subject of unfairness has not transgressed that standard. Often something looks unfair, but if we knew the facts, the subject would be getting a clearly forseeable result. Perhaps it is unfair to hold an individual responsible in a world where one cannot perfectly know the standard. But then that would justify all manner of bad behavior. (This is why ignorance of the law is no excuse.) Perhaps we should spend less time in imperfect judging and more time in imperfect loving. The former just gets in the way of the latter. For example, there do seem to be situations that almost all would agree are unfair, i.e., Will Sompayrac. I’m certain that you spent your time more wisely loving him and his family than ruminating on the fairness of his situation. Properly motivated, this is not greed; it is compassion.

  2. Arbitrary – unfair. Trying to wrap myself around that. Why I process math fairly quick and concepts slow- I do not know. I process all of this soooo slowly – it barely can start a conversation in my mind. But something is stirring.

    Sunday I received a message that someone, a relative, was trying to contact me for the first time since she and her sis lived with us for what I think was a couple years back in elementary school. In my talking to her -boy did a lot of stuff roll out. Seems like my parents were mean to her on many levels- knocked me out of my seat talking to her. This after 50 years. She could not get over the fact that my parents were singling her out and permitted zero conversation at our dinner table. I told her that was always the way at our table. Rigidity. I so often have been so quiet with my spouse. So mean to her.

    Much to think about here. Thanks for the start of conversation here. Thank you Teresa for working hard to teach me about shame.

    Love you guys

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