An Artist Finds True Love in P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.” 

In this post about art-related films, I mentioned that I thought P.S. I Love You was “not a good love story, but a good art story.” After my traditional St. Patrick’s Day viewing of the film (more on that in a moment), I’ve decided that I may have made a hasty judgment, and that art and true love might be more closely related than they seem.

So once upon a time, Josh and I went to Ireland for Spring break and St. Patrick’s day. It was a wild ride and totally exhausting, but absolutely beautiful. It’s something we would love to do again. Spending time in the land of the shamrocks those years ago put me in an inexplicable mood to watch P.S. I Love You–inexplicable because when I last watched this flick as a single and hormonal teenager, I completely hated it. The critic in me thought it was depressing and cheesy as all get-out.

Relax, you swooning and now-irate Gerard Butler fans. Upon watching the film again as an adult in conjunction with Dear Frankie (Butler accent marathon!), I quite surprisingly found it among some of my favorite films of the decade. Not only this, but Josh was quick to second the motion–and it’s a chick flick, guys. Needless to say, it’s now a family favorite.

I’m pretty sure that where I went wrong when I first watched this movie was in watching it as a chick flick–as a cliche story of romantic love, romantic love lost, and romantic love rediscovered.

As a traditional love story, P.S. I Love You is mediocre at best; however, as a story about art, identity, intimacy, and true love it is quite touching and maybe even outstanding.

According to the quirky Holly’s quoting of William Blake in an attempt to impress roguish Irishman Gerry Kennedy, “My business is to create.”

As an art student with no idea what she wants to do with her life, the only thing of which she and (she believes) everyone else on the planet can be sure is that we each need to create something–not because we are obligated to offer something beautiful to the world, but because this something is an inescapable part of who we are, how we are unique, and how we communicate that.

“All I know is, if you don’t figure out this something, you’ll just stay ordinary, and it doesn’t matter if its a work of art or a taco or a pair of socks! Just create something . . . new, and there it is, and it’s you–out in the world, outside of you–and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it–and you know a little more about . . . you. A little bit more than anyone else does.” 

What do you know about you?

Not enough? Well, you don’t have to know everything, believe it or not. If you did, what would be the point in looking for yourself through the soul-searching act of pure creation–of pure art?

Which reminds me of another favorite P.S. quote . . .

Holly: “I see people buying bigger apartments and having babies. I get so afraid sometimes our life’s never gonna start.

Gerry: “No, baby. We’re already in our life. It’s already started. This is it. You have to stop waiting.

Man, this scene hits me like a ton of bricks every time.

I know that I and many others like me are constantly guilty of looking to the next milestone of graduation or getting our dream job or buying a house or having kids. We’re too busy looking ahead to inhabit our own lives in the moment.

As far as I’ve been able to figure out in my meager 22 years, life isn’t about scrambling to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life so that you can blissfully do it for the rest of your days ad infinitum.

The scrambling–the journey–the search is your life.

Personally, I believe as Holly does that creating is a big part of that search. It’s a part of the process of knowing and being known–or trying to. It’s reaching deep down inside yourself and and pulling out a piece of what you value or how you see the world, and it says out loud (even if only to you) “This is who I am.” When you appreciate the creations of others, you’re stepping into a bit of who they are and taking a walk around, willing to share that intimacy with them.

This ideology is how I try to approach every moment of each one of my days on this earth. It’s my goal–my mantra–

To know and to make known.

This is love to me. Self-love and love for others all wrapped up in one beautiful life mission. This mantra includes tolerance and acceptance but also challenge and discussion when it comes to really getting to the bottom of what makes a person tick. It sounds so over-simplified, but it’s really not simple. Sometimes what you know about yourself, your God, and your friends/family/etc don’t quite jive, and you have to reconcile that.

But somewhere in the process of constantly pursuing a depth of knowledge of yourself and the world around you, you encounter people who love and understand you for who you really are.

So make something. Make a poem. Make pasta. Make a mess. Make love. Make mistakes.

Every time you let that glimpse of who you really are and who you want to be out into the world, you are leaving yourself vulnerable–open to being known and loved fully, or fully rejected–and you are promising that same love to those who open themselves to you.

Okay, so I know that I waxed a bit philosophical in this post, but I hope that I’ve encouraged lonely people everywhere to let art lead them to every pure form of love.

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Why the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate Should Not Have Even Happened

I am a person of faith–a Christian, in fact. I believe in creation by a supreme being I call God. I may also believe that said supreme being used a process known as “evolution” to mature the world to its current state. I am, essentially, on both sides of a very contentious fence.

By all accounts, I should have been eager to watch the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate that was televised this past Tuesday.

I was not.

Not only was I happy to not take part in this cultural phenomenon, I wish that it had never occurred. I may be overly cynical, but I could not foresee any good that would come from it–and looking at the reactions that the debate has spurred, I can see that I wasn’t far from the truth. I am still seeing angry posts to news sources and social media almost a week after the fact. Friends and family members who have so much in common including years of history who are at each other’s throats because they disagreed about the outcome of this debate–it’s just not right.

Here is why I believe this debate should not have even happened.

1. Creation and evolution, like faith and science, are not mutually exclusive.

False dichotomies drive me crazy. “Either A is right or B is right! Hurry up and fight it out so the public can make up their mind!”

According to a survey by the Washington Post, 24% of adults believe that a supreme being facilitated a process of evolution. This theory is equal parts religious and scientific. It possesses elements of the tenets of creationism and elements of those of evolution. It is a well-balanced, faith-filled, reason-based response to a challenging question.

But this type of response is not sensational. The media is not interested in perpetuating this type of response or telling the stories of the people who believe it. The media wants a fight. Our society has created “sides” on this issue, and the media has jumped on it and refused to let it die because the fight is profitable and entertaining.

2. If an informative debate was the goal, it should have been between debaters with better credentials.

Obviously Nye is well-known in the science community. He’s the Science Guy, after all! But the fact is that his background suggests that he is an educator and entertainer moreso than a scientist. I’m curious as to why he was chosen as the representative in this “great debate.”

Ham may be the founder of Answers in Genesis, but how can one be a professional creationist? Shouldn’t he be an educated anthropologist or a theologian or (gasp!) a biologist before we consider him qualified to speak authoritatively on the evidence for creation?

Because of the (in my opinion) less than expert status of the people involved, this debate felt like little more than a battle of who believes in their worldview more.

3. This issue is absolutely beaten into the ground.

Tensions are so high on either side of this debate and have been for years. Continuing to argue this issue in the public sphere has further perpetuated a false dichotomy that creates a closed-minded “us” and “them” attitude. The animosity around the issue has caused people to be extremely stubborn about their current position to the point where I highly doubt that any debate could sway them. The vast majority of people who watch these debates walk away thinking that their “side” won! They hear and see what they want to hear and see.

Sadly, I think creationists are often more guilty of this than people who believe in atheistic evolution. When asked what could possibly change his mind, Ken Ham says “Nothing.” When asked the same question, Bill Nye says, “Evidence.”

What does that say about creationists? Nothing good. We/they certainly shouldn’t be debating with attitudes like that.

4. This issue simply does not matter.

I know I’m going to make some enemies (potentially on both sides of the debate) over this, but I am convinced that the origin of the world doesn’t matter a shred when it comes to our day-to-day and even eternal existences.

A friend of mine said it best when he posted something along these lines on Facebook:

“I don’t think there will be a ‘length of creation’ portion on the entrance exam to heaven.”

The truth shines brightly through his sarcasm. The state of our souls does not depend on our specific beliefs concerning the origins of the universe and/or the origins of our species. It does, however, depend on how we treat people. In the form that they have taken, public debates like this one are about being right, not about being righteous. They are about proving a point, not about communicating with a person.

I have a big problem with that, and I would like to see it stop.

Rochester: We Win Some & Lose Some

A message in the playing field at Fairport High School. From the Democrat & Chronicle.

It seems like lately time has been swirling around and through the city I call home. So much has happened to remind us of our humanity and even our mortality.

Perhaps most jarring is the well-known fact that beloved actor and father of three Philip Seymour Hoffman has passed away presumably from a drug overdose. Some of you may not know this, but Hoffman was originally from a beautiful suburb of Rochester, NY called Fairport. It’s a community I visit often. In fact, it’s the community to which Josh and I are hoping to move when we start our family. Even though I never met or came close to meeting Hoffman, it seems that the physical proximity of places he would have known and loved makes his passing seem more haunting. Also, a mere matter of days ago I briefly mentioned him in my blog post about Hollywood directors and their muses, pointing to his relationship with director P.T. Anderson.

I never think about Hoffman . . . and I was talking about him just this week. It feels so strange. Too convenient or something like that.

Relevant magazine posted a wonderful article praising some of his finest roles. I’m happy to link to it here to honor the memory of great actor, but I would also like to direct readers’ thoughts and prayers to the children and ex-partner he has left behind and to the tragic drug addiction and mental illness that contributed to his death.

He will be missed by those closest to him who loved him, by aspiring actors who admired him, by film fans whom he touched, and by Rochester natives whom he made proud. His death is a loss in every sense of the word.

More Losses

Rochester has had some other rough breaks recently in terms of our celebrity denizens making the news. It’s not like anybody knows or particularly cares that Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis went to college at my alma mater here in the Roc, but I can’t help thinking about it when he says things like his recent public comments about gay people being “more pervert.” As someone who speaks a second language, I’m sympathetic of the fact that he might not have been able to express himself well in English. I hope it was just a slip-up. Let’s face it. A homophobic statement like this during an interview doesn’t help anybody.

Then there was the more recent Bachelor scandal involving what many are calling the show’s first nationally-televised “slut-shaming.” Juan Pablo apparently made some promiscuous sexual decisions with contestant Clare and then proceeded to blame her and make her feel guilty about what he now sees to be a “wrong” action. There’s a whole other post there somewhere, but the beginning and end of the story is that JP is basically the most childish Bachelor to ever walk the earth. Go Roberts!

And such is life. No city always gets into the news for exclusively good reasons.

Just this week I learned that a mother here lost two of her sons to gun violence a mere 19 days apart.

A psychiatrist down the road from one of my husband’s coworkers was found to have a body buried in his yard.

Have you heard of the serial murders of the Alphabet Killer? Guys, that dude was from Rochester.

Wins

Of course, good things happen because of people with ties to Rochester, too.

Rochesterian Renee Fleming brought down the house with her rendition of the national anthem at the Superbowl this past Sunday. I have good friends who go to Eastman School of Music downtown who sing and play in the practice rooms where she would have studied. Perhaps I’m biased, but this matchless contributor to the beautiful Lord of the Rings soundtrack (y’all know how I feel about Lord of the Rings) delivered what I believe to be the best performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” I have ever personally witnessed. What a difference classical training can make! Not that pop covers of the song aren’t great, too. That was just incredibly powerful.

Then there are successful Olympian athletes Ryan Lochte and Jenn Suhr, Travie McCoy and Matt McGinley of Gym Class Heroes, and the incomparable Kristen Wiig.

These are people who have put us on the map for good reasons–just like Phil did. (I know being from the same area where he went to high school doesn’t mean I get to call him Phil. It just felt right.)

Moving On

Weeks like this remind me of the circle of life not just as it pertains to me, but as it pertains to one’s city or one’s sense of place.

Right now, Rochester is the city in New York state most affected by the economic recession. The devastating bankruptcy of Kodak alone is enough to imply that financially our town is not doing well.

By some standards, we are dying.

But then I talk to my friends and I browse my Facebook feed and I see people opening restaurants, teaching photography classes, publishing articles, dancing on stages, building sculptures, meeting to discuss social issues, volunteering in homeless shelters, and sledding down hills–

And I realize that we are also very much alive.