A close friend is running a series of independent art films at the local library, and thought I might be interested. That's a reasonable assumption; I'm active in the arts community, and I'm originally from New York. You'd be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't) at how many people assume all city dwellers have intellectual leanings. My friend knows me better than that, but apparently not as well as she thought. I have no interest in independent art films, especially ones that require me to read subtitles.
It wasn't always this way. Growing up, I was drawn to foreign film festivals. New York is a great place for film, including Lincoln Center, where I worked. I read some pretty heavy stuff, too, including a lot of plays. Camus' "Caligula" was a favorite—don't ask me why. I read it on the subway. But somewhere along the line, things changed. Today, instead of Sartre I'd rather read Robert B. Parker. (The rhyme is unintentional. Sort of.) And my taste in movies is, well, light.
So at the library a group of about a dozen watches a movie and then discusses it. This week's movie is said to be "fraught with love, passion, despair and religious animosity." Somehow, this doesn't sound light. The word "fraught" alone gives it away.
No doubt the group will spend some time on symbolism. Even back in my Lincoln Center days, I wasn't crazy about symbols. I rarely seemed to get them right. In college, symbols could put me in a bad mood. I remember giving an oral interpretation of a poem by Emily Dickinson, a poet who—at least according to the experts—made liberal use of symbols. When I finished my presentation, the professor told me I was wrong. "How do you know?" I said to her. "Emily's dead. It's possible that I'm wrong, but it's also possible the 'experts' are wrong."
If I'm going to sit in a group and talk about something, I'd rather discuss firewood. Firewood is relevant to my life, especially right now, when I've gone through my stash of the perfectly dry stuff and am dipping in to the pile that can best be described as "seasoned but somewhat wet." I could share what I know about firewood, which isn't much, but could possibly help someone less experienced than I. And undoubtedly I would find others in the group who could give me advice to improve my woodstove and my heating bill.
Sure, I'd like to talk about movies. But my contributions would go something like this: "Didn't you love the line where Steve Carell goes, 'All of this may be premature. We don't even know if you can bowl.'"? And, "My favorite scene was where they all get trapped in the blues club, and aren't allowed to leave until they sing the blues." That would be a fun discussion. We would laugh a lot. It's hard to laugh when you're discussing despair.
Maybe the difference between the youthful, intellectual me and the mature, silly me is that in between the two I lived through love, passion, and despair. Not religious animosity, though. There are advantages to not attaching oneself to a particular religion. And thank God for that.