Enough of my retirement activity. There is plenty of news in the world, a lot of it not good, but if I waited for a week of good news to not talk about the news we might be waiting a long time. So let’s talk about films. Actually I wanted to boast about Broadway shows, since Gail and I saw but two this past year – one was Hamilton and one was The Humans – and they won the Tony’s for, respectively, best musical and best play of the year. But I do want to talk about my favorite films, which turn out to be almost always of the same genre and from which we may learn some theology.
In the last few weeks, with retirement freezing up some time, Gail and I watched two excellent films On Demand – “East Side Sushi” and “Spare Parts.” Each pictures people with very little likelihood of success in life who figure out how to succeed. Then I watched (for the nth time) “Rudy” with my grandson; it’s about a young man with minimal natural gifts who leaves the steel mill where all his relatives work to try to realize two impossible dreams, not only to be admitted to Notre Dame but to play football for the Irish. “Cool Runnings.” “Mighty Ducks.” “Hoosiers.” All are tear producing dramas about human achievement against all odds.
I am not sure why I love this movie genre but here are some thoughts that actually go in two opposite directions. One possibility is that these movies take us out of the real world for a little while. They enable us to take shelter in the world of fantasy where there is always a happy ending, where good people finish first not last, where nobody is stuck with their limitations, where impossible dreams become possible. But Jews are realists, what choice do we have, so that doesn’t work so well.
The other possibility is more Jewish, along the lines of “im tirtzu ein zo aggadah” – “if you really want it, it doesn’t have to be just a dream.” We were created in such a great way: with so much potential and with the free will that enables us to choose how much of that potential we want to realize and with role models to teach us the range of what is possible. So, when Rudy suits up and leads his team onto the field for the last game of the season we are not shocked because we know there is some Rudy in us too, and when his All American teammates basically refuse to play unless he is allowed suit up we are not shocked because we know that altruistic behavior is part of our DNA and we are most human when we let it come forth. So, for me, not being bound by what can bind us is so very possible, and seeing it on the big screen just reaffirms my sense of wonder at the creation.
Why do you love this kind of film – assuming you do? Write back if you wish. Do take note: I am about to take a few weeks of vacation so don’t sit by your Inbox waiting for the next blog anytime soon. Thanks for reading and for understanding the need for a break. I hope you are getting one too. Shabbat Shalom and best regards, Bill Rudolph