November 2013

* Tolerance and Substance

"Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?"



The Weather Man | by Roger Ebert

We think of tragic heroes outlined against the horizon, tall and doomed, the victims of their vision and fate, who fall from a great height. This film is about a tragic hero whose fall is from a low height. David Spritz is a Chicago weatherman whose marriage has failed, whose children are troubled, whose father is disappointed, and whose self-esteem lies in ruins.

"All of the people I could be,"

He tells us,

"They got fewer and fewer until finally they got reduced to only one - and that's who I am. The weather man."

There is nothing ignoble about being a weatherman, especially in Chicago, where we need them. David's fatal flaw (all tragic heroes have one) is that he does not value his own work.

Perhaps his broadcast viewers sense that, which is why they throw fast food at him from passing cars. They sense that he has embraced victimhood, and are tempted. To feel inadequate is Dave Spritz's life sentence.

Robert has always been disappointed in his son - disappointed, we sense, at every stage of Dave's life, and by everything that he has done.

In Robert's mind, it's not that Dave is a weatherman, but that he is a bad one. He hasn't done the homework. He's not even a meteorologist. He gets the weather off the news service wires.

"Do you know,"

His father asks him,

"That the harder thing to do and the right
thing to do are usually the same thing?"

Dave has made life easy for himself, but Robert tells him,

"Easy doesn't enter into grown-up life."

Dave's life does indeed seem easy. He does the weather for two hours a day with hardly any preparation and makes the occasional personal appearance; we see him in costume as Abraham Lincoln.

This is one of those Nicolas Cage performances where he seems consumed by worry, depression, and misdirected anger.

One day Dave slaps Russ in the face with gloves. Now what in the hell kind of a thing is that to do? Something he saw in a movie? Even Dave's grand gestures are pathetic.

I find myself attracted to movies that are really about somebody. Dave Spritz, whatever his failings, is somebody, he is there, he suffers, he hopes.

But he exists, as far as he can see, for no purpose. If his father were cruel in an overt way, that would allow him some focus, but his father Robert is a man who wounds his son with a thousand little cuts.

That his father is dying makes it all the more poignant: His father will not only die, but die disappointed, and along the way will attend a "living funeral" in honor of himself.

Dave was probably fated to do something inappropriate at his father's funeral; how much more pathetic that he does it while his father is still alive to see him.

Dave's problem is that he is never able to find the right note, the appropriate gesture, and correct behavior, try as he does.

Perhaps he tries too hard.

Perhaps he is always trying,
and people sense it.



"The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream."
(William Shakespeare)

"Don't settle for style. Succeed in substance."
(Wynton Marsali)

"Can anything ever be truly lost? The forms of things are changing, hence utterly destroyed and reborn each instant. Forms change though the substance remains. Nothing can ever be truly created, as creation implies causelessness, which is an absurdity. Therefore a creative thought is an appearance only, and has necessarily existed since beginningless time."
(Poison for the Heart)

"The pure mind must have its foundation in the early years of life. The elderly man whose mind turns toward the philosophic and religious spheres can at best only become the shadow of the spiritual man. He may have all the form, but lacks the substance."
(Poison for the Heart)

"If one knows the underlying Substance of Truth, then one will see all its aspects quite automatically. It is impossible to be aware of only one, or several aspects of Truth, without being fully able to appreciate them all. Therefore, if someone claims to have realized an aspect of the Truth, but is unaware of all the ways of God, then they are not seeing an aspect at all, but a false construct of the imagination. Once you know fully about a whale, you will also know how it will appear from the countless different angles."
(Poison for the Heart)

"You must understand One before you can understand Two. See first the uselessness and emptiness of the myriad phenomena by penetrating their substance with the power of reason. Accept the unpalatable reality, then... behold the Truth! If you do not place your life in the hands of reason, passing through uselessness, your mind will remain useless."
(Poison for the Heart)

"The true man does not build, but just casts different types onto the eternal substance - pleasantly fishing. All aspects exist for him at once. He has nothing, yet gains everything. This is quality."
(Poison for the Heart)