Last weekend, as a little bit of an act of aggression towards my son who had gone with a friend (who was NOT ME!!!!) to the beach for 4 days (4 DAYS!!!!), I watched Wonder Woman 1984. We had not yet seen it and this is usually the type of movie we watch for the first time together. But he was away and it was available on a free trial of HBO, so… In case you haven’t seen it, if you Google it, the first result is the question “Is Wonder Woman 1984 the worst movie ever?” Ha! It wasn’t great, but it started me on a path that leads me here, with you.
But first, let me tell you we also watched Luca, a Pixar film on Disney+. This one was tremendous and my favorite part in a movie of favorite parts was Luca’s wide eyes.
Before we tie WW84 and Luca’s eyes into a tidy bow, there’s a song called ‘Roses’ by the Band Camino and here are some of the lyrics:
“Why you wanna be a sad boy, waste your time?/Lookin’ for something that was right here all along/I think we’re gettin’ it wrongIt’s too bad/When did it get cool to be so sad?/We’re spinnin’ backwards, did we all go mad?/Yeah, we’re only human but wе’ve got hands and hearts and noses/So stop and smеll the — roses.”
There’s a young man I coach who is so similar to me, he drives me crazy. He hated the Wonder Woman sequel, but he happens to be that certain wonderful age and disposition where every single thing is just horrible. I know the age well, hyper-critical, painted with elitism, sarcasm and a deep grouchiness.
The younger me thought it was super cool to be bored, jaded, sad and dismissive of most art, most everything actually, because I was so far above it all. It was awesome to make fun and pick apart anything. I was sooooo funny and disaffected. And I was totally miserable.
Luca left the water for land and was overwhelmed with wonder. There wasn’t anxiety or routine or a mountain of inadequacy. There wasn’t a hierarchy of people or things he ‘should’ like or not, no such thing as a “guilty pleasure” – just pleasure. Just beauty. Just roses.
Of course he would have to deal with the thorns, like we all do, but unlike many of us, he chose to not be overcome with those sharp points. There was the local bully and antagonist Ercole Visconti (there always is) but there was also the lovely Guilia. Luca had the same choice we do. Which one do we allow to color our experiences? To which do we give the keys to our heart? Which one gets to chose our perspective?
Wonder Woman probably wasn’t a great film, but so what? Not every film has to be Fight Club or Pulp Fiction.
Has there ever been a circumstance where tearing something down led to the teeniest bit of our own growth?
Another ‘Roses’ line goes, “Maybe you’re the person that you always wanted to be,” and after a lot of thought, the truth is, the person I want to be is one who likes stuff, who can see beauty wherever I look. I want to live a life of wonder and joy, so I do (mostly), and I think if we did more of that…
Well, you know how it is when you get a new car and it seems like those are the only cars on the road? Maybe it’s like that with love and wonder and Luca and positive energy. Maybe it’s like an electricity that each of us feel and absorb.
So, yes, I think if we did more of that, there would be more of that. We’ve got hands and hearts and noses, so let’s just try to stop and smell the — roses.
As you are probably very well aware, I care for youth sports a great deal and coach when I am qualified (which meant soccer and basketball when the kids were young and needed more of a babysitter than a coach and means only baseball now.) Every year there is a shortage of volunteers and that’s sometimes depressing even if it is predictable. The truth is, if I had an ounce of good sense, I wouldn’t do it either.
The most common guess is that nobody does it because of the time commitment, but that’s not true. Like everything else, we make time for what we value. If she says she doesn’t have time to call you back, it’s not because she doesn’t have time, it’s because she doesn’t have time to call you. Most parents who “don’t have time” are at all the games and always have time to write nasty texts about their future major leaguer’s playing time.
Having said that, parents are usually the biggest obstacle. As a parent of 2 athletes, I am comfortable saying that we are the absolute worst. We think our kids are the most talented, sweetest, hardest working people who have ever graced a field or laced up a pair of sneakers. Sure, we’re wrong, but that hardly matters. It only matters when you are the coach, like I am, and you’re honest that your son will get all of the preferential treatment possible.
Players are next in line. I find myself saying “nowadays,” “when I was young,” and “we used to ___” more than I ever thought I could. Yes, kids are different, probably because of the last paragraph, but they’re not monsters. They’re not all monsters.
You should know that I’m writing because, late last week, all of the coaches got an email detailing the myriad of ways we were misbehaving and the consequences we would face if we were to continue acting like petulant babies overflowing with insecurity and bad judgment. At that moment it became obvious that coaching wasn’t the most thankless position, it’s league president. Now why would anybody want to do that???
But I know why. And I know why I continue to choose to ignore my own good sense. It’s precisely because of all of the reasons not to engage.
We give our time to kids who need someone to trust, to count on, who will look at them, see them and to trust them back. To the kids who need fresh words and new stories believed and spoken about them. That is a far superior use of our moments than Netflix or scrolling through social media or even more hours of overtime. By giving our most valuable resource, these kids see that time isn’t our most valuable resource after all, they are.
We serve the parents (or the coaches serve us) because more people loving our children is muuuuch better than less.
But it’s the kids that give us our real why. I see a boy in my weight room who comes in every day. I ask everyone to do 7 sets of everything because it’s the number of completion, of wholeness. 7 because of Genesis 1. I sometimes ask him to do 8, because in John’s gospel, he gives 7 “signs” and then continues with an 8th (which is the resurrection of Jesus), signifying a new week (!!!!) and a new creation. I ask him to do 8 because he’s becoming a new person. He listens, or pretends to. And today after the 7th, he looks me in the eye and says, “I’m doing 8.” He is why we do any of it.
It’s how we love and it’s how, in whatever small or gigantic way we can, tell stories of a whole new world, one practice at a time.
(I have nothing to say about the miserable behavior in the email. There’s always one or two, isn’t there? 😉
At a baseball game last night, we lost. That’s ok. I don’t ever mind wins and losses. (Well, I do a little…sometimes more than a little.) What I do mind is the how. How did we play? How did we compete? How did we show up? How did we carry ourselves? How was our mindset? How how how.
So last night our how was rough. I saw it in their eyes, their countenance, their posture, and just as a positive how elicits a favorable result (not always a win, but always something good), our loss was a direct translation of our how. It’s mostly that way in our careers, marriages, homes, our lives, right? We often sleep-walk through the ruts & routines of our days. We’re tired, uninspired, listless, frustrated, passive and the tapes in our head keep us firmly stuck in that loop. Maybe it’s settling for less, or maybe it’s just a lack of vision. Maybe it’s just that our eyes are closed to the opportunities, the beauty, the glory of God crackling all around us desperately trying to jar us from our despair.
In an weekly email I subscribe to, Caitlin Winkley writes, “Are your thoughts contributing to the type of woman you want to be, the type of life you’d like to live and how you want to feel?
Or, are your thoughts fueling your old story, leading you to feel worry, doubt, unsurety, powerless and fearful?”
(I don’t know why she assumes everyone on her email list is a woman, but I really don’t care. She’s awesome and this is wisdom for everybody, regardless of any demographic category. This might be a very good time to discuss the things that offend us, but we’re discussing other things today…I DID read once that we get offended by small things when we don’t have big things to think/care about and give our energies to, so that’s all we’ll say about that here, now.)
Do we need a renewal of the mind? Did each of my players last night live into a picture of the “type of woman” he wants to be? Did they give what they had to give and feel how they want to feel? Did I?
Are we doing that today at work or school or wherever?
OR are we feeling doubt, worry, unsurety, powerlessness? Are we overrun by fear?
Unsure is the perfect word, isn’t it? Because those adjectives she uses are paralyzing, making our feet heavy and still, holding us tightly to the ground when we have always been meant to fly. And then the tapes: Really??? Are you really meant to fly? You??? What if you fall? What if you are wrong? What if you don’t have what it takes?
What I have learned, even as I too often listen to those familiar tapes in my head, is that those questions aren’t that far removed from, “Did God really tell you…” from Genesis 3. They were lies then and they are lies now.
What if you swing and miss? What if you don’t catch it? What if you make a bad throw? What if you give all you have and still lose? What if you fall? What if you’re wrong?
What if if you don’t have what it takes?
And the obvious answer is, to paraphrase a famous parable, “Oh but my darling, what if you do?”
Sports might not always be the perfect metaphor for everything (I guess), but they are very close.
I have 2 teen-aged boys, so one of my favorite experiences is to introduce them to the art that moved me during my life. One cannot live on Marvel movies alone, you know? Almost, but not quite. We’ve watched The Money Pit, Predator, Naked Gun, and Lord of the Rings, listened to Nevermind and The Joshua Tree, and the younger one has started to dip his toes into Kurt Vonnegut. They don’t always get it, but I certainly do. I remember why I loved these things and most of the time, love them even more with the benefit of the extra 10 (or 20 or 30) years on this spinning ball.
Saturday we watched The Truman Show. It’s about a guy who’s been the unwitting subject of a reality show since he was born, 24 hours a day, everything and everyone a production. Except for him. When Truman asks, “Was any of it real?” Christof (the creator) answers, “You were.” It’s beautiful and even more perfect today than it was in 1998, when it was released.
I thought then that it was a pretty sharp commentary on reality tv, like Running Man, a prophesy warning of the dangers of the path ahead of us. And maybe more importantly, a vehicle for Jim Carrey to explore something other than broad stretch-faced comedy. Both of those are still there, true, and very successful, but the film is bigger than that.
(It’s funny how something can be obvious to some and hidden to others until precisely the time when it would make the most profound, thunderous impact. This ‘new’ insight into this film surely isn’t new to everyone, but Saturday and still today, it’s crackling with the electricity of discovery in my mind and heart.)
In Rogue One, a character named Chirrut says, “There is more than one sort of prison, Captain, I sense that you carry yours wherever you go.”
That describes so many of us. We decide what we are and are not capable of, live lives as if “it is what it is” and “they are what they are” and worse, “we are who we are.” We build the walls that define our limits, and never test them. It’s like Truman. When asked why he never questions this artifice, Christof answers, “We accept the reality of the world that we are presented,” and there might not be a more accurate statement in the entire film. We accept a wide variety of settling simply because it’s been presented to us as reality. The dome that encircles Truman’s world isn’t unbreakable, it’s really fear – of water, or death, of the unknown – that keeps him inside.
I often think about my fear and the steel bars that make up my own cage. What are they and what would it mean if I were to tear them down? These 2 questions are absolutely vital to explore, and like this pretend town, very nearly impossible to notice until we do, then it’s all we see.
Maybe it’s time to stop accepting so much. Stop carrying our prisons around wherever we go. Stop settling. Stop relying on old habits that didn’t work then and don’t work now. And stop calling it reality.
Just because it happens to be true today doesn’t mean it’s true tomorrow. I’ve heard it said that we move, transform, start, leave, risk, jump only when the fear of staying the same outweighs the fear of change. Truman found that space, sailed that boat into the vicious mouth of his fear and walked through the door into a new reality. Yes, it was a reality that would be missing predictability and safety, but the old one was missing honesty, authenticity, love. It was missing the things that make life so wonderful. It was missing life. And as he chose life, I could no longer hold back my tears because it’s not just Truman, it’s you and me, too.
Because all discussions about new creations are really just discussions about the resurrection, aren’t they? We often live Saturday lives that are caged in by the belief that what we see is all there is…but Sunday came then, and it can come now. Here. For us.
So now what?