Banish Misfortune

I’m becoming self-protective…or selfish. Well, I’ve always been selfish, but learning how to actively protect myself is another story entirely.

I have gathered unto myself a rather significant collection of movies, TV series, opera broadcasts, even jazz. It enables me to hide somewhere other than myself.

What do I love? Anthony Minghella’s film of Cold Mountain, a beautiful, sad, and deeply cathartic film of life in the mountains of North Carolina during the late days of the Civil War. I can watch it endlessly because the end, as deeply sad as it is, shows me hope and rebirth, new life nine years after a tragedy that tears apart several Carolinian lives late in the War. I cry every time. Yeah, me, who would cry at Bugs Bunny cartoons (“I’m gonna get that kwazy wabbit!”). A child conceived in the one night of love and passion given to the protagonists, W. P. Inman and Ada Monroe, is the embodiment of hope and new life. If we’re allowed to project beyond fiction, their daughter Grace Inman will live well into the 20th century, knowing what of her history? We can’t know for certain, but I have to believe she will grow up to gentleness and her mother’s example of faith with a steel spine, and her father’s example of courage and a relentless love of home.

Sometimes I need to block some things.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to watch Midnight Cowboy again, for example: a harsh Boschian vision of life in New York in the late Sixties, a time when I was very much a part of what I beheld.

The English Patient, another Minghella film–an illicit love that never dies. I can’t watch it. I’ve been to that place, and it still hurts.

Death in Venice. Dirk Bogarde was luminous in a journey into self-confrontation that was truly frightening because the poor stiff never saw it coming.

There are so many. And I need to monitor myself. Movies can make me deeply sad. Sad movies can cheer me up. Go figure. I need to enjoy, but I also need to be on the alert to guard against things that can hurt me to no good end.

Music is exceptional. Even moments like the scene in Halevy’s La Juive–in which the goldsmith Eleazar contemplates sacrificing his adopted daughter Rachel–carry me along because it’s all about the music. Heard through the great tenor voice of Neil Shicoff, even terrible tragedy and (in this case) the fruits of anti-Semitism, can be raised to something glorious.

Music is indeed therapy. It’s a cliche, yes? Yes. So what? It gives us peace even in moments of seemingly unbearable turmoil.



About Ken Wolman

Sit still, shut up, and listen. We might both learn something.
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