Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

All That Remains...

I recently watched one of my favorite movies, The Remains of the Day, for the third time. I remember seeing it for the first time with my mother in 1993 in the theatre. As the final music played on and the credits rolled, we each sat silently in our seats in the dark for the longest time unable to emit anything vocal except a sigh, virtually paralyzed from the emotional impact. The feeling was not watered down, seeing this movie for the third time.

The story is about a man who lives his life quite perfunctorily, sadly devoid of anything but his day-to-day routine. "Stevens" is head butler at the estate of the politically engaged Lord Darlington during pre-WWII England. So rigid is he (Stevens) that he is not moved by a request for friendship, the tragic death of his father, his master's misguided Nazi sympathies or the pleadings of his own heart. Unfortunately, in his attempt to avoid pain, he has also avoided life. The movie ends, many years later, with Stevens regretting his life as a "spectator", and his attempt to amend, perhaps counteract what his actions--or lack thereof--had wrought. Through Stevens (and his determination to bring justice to the world by simply serving his master and humanity) we are nudged into thoughts of our own moral responsibility. Is it enough to just do our duty, to follow rules, to do what is expected of us? Is this what life is about?

This is the story of us all, in that we can sometimes go through life without any enjoyment, any involvement or connection with what truly matters, leaving us to ask "Is that all there is?". Are we afraid to even say "hello" to another person, to make eye contact, to let people into our lives? Do we take the time to actually engage another person, to listen and respond, or do we say "Hi, how are you" as if it was part of a script and simply walk away without expecting or wanting an answer? Sometimes all it takes is one word, one smile, one gesture to change someone's life--and maybe your own.

Too often we let our preconceived notions about people dictate whether we will acknowledge them. And we certainly don't like to become involved in anything if there is the slightest chance we will be inconvenienced, or might get hurt. It's sad, really, because we can miss out on so much because of our fears and misguided judgments.

Some years ago, one of my sons had attended a concert and was outside mingling with people afterward. A woman came up to him and began rattling on about nothing really discernible. She smelled odd and looked dirty and went on and on about nothing in particular. But he listened, nodded, smiled and talked with her. This went on for a few minutes and then she left. But before walking away, she turned to him and said "Thank you for saving my life.".

If, indeed "all the world's a stage" as Shakespeare said, (As You Like It) I, for one, certainly always walk on stage heart in hand. This does not always bring about applause immediately--maybe not at all. And sometimes my role causes more pain than anything else. Suffice it to say that I may never win the award for best actress, but I can honestly say that being a player is much more gratifying than just watching the show.

So Cold the Winter

so cold the winter
so cold
the hearts of some
the ice will melt

so cold are some
so frightened
to offer love
of giving too much

so protected are they
so sad
the hearts of some
and empty without love

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