Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Do you have more than prepared remarks to share? (Thank you Jacqueline Bisset)

The award shows have begun – the Golden Globes, the People’s Choice Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild have already been held. The Grammys are next with the Oscars coming up in March. Award winners who expect to win often pull out a card with their prepared comments – usually a lot easier to do for a man in a tuxedo jacket than a woman with a strapless gown. The words are often mundane and predictable: “I want to thank my spouse and my publicist and all who stood by me when others said that this kind of movie could never be made.” Blah, blah, blah. But sometimes, the award winner (especially if they didn’t expect to win) is flummoxed and virtually speechless or launches into a stream of conscious monologue that makes everyone wonder what words will come out next. The viewer wants to turn away but is transfixed. And the censors occasionally miss a word or two as well. Such was the case when Jacqueline Bisset climbed the stage at the Golden Globes to accept her best supporting actress statue. Actors make a living by channeling a scriptwriter’s words and by faking a director’s intended emotions. But when Ms. Bisset began her ramble on January 12 she was on her own – she had no card, no direction, no one to say “Cut.” And she (like many others) spoke over the music intended to stop her. One of the highlights for me was when she quoted her mother who used to say: “Go to hell and don’t come back.” I am sure that isn’t future sermon material, but I am also sure that most of us have felt that way one time or another, haven’t we? But Bisset contrasted herself with her mother when she said: “My mother was not entirely me. I believe that if you want to look good, you’ve got to forgive everybody. You have to forgive everybody. It’s the best beauty treatment. Forgiveness for yourself and for the others.” I am not sure whether she had a little card of remarks or not, but I appreciated Bisset’s off the cuff speech so much more than any she would have read. There was some wisdom there. Yes, they were a bit scary, but they were also a truer reflection of what she was really experiencing at the time. With the exception of worship services, I don’t carry around a printed text of prepared remarks. But if I was honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I probably carry around a bunch of tiny speeches in my head all the time – the “right thing” to say at the bank, at the grocery store, or in any number of weekly encounters with people. People don’t expect or want a Jacqueline Bisset ramble when they ask: “What’s up, Reverend?” But I hope that my interactions with people aren’t completely scripted. And I hope that my communication with others – especially those whom I love – is more than a series of file cards that we each read from. It would be both predictable and horrible at the same time. I often long for a soundtrack for my life – a song here or there that would tell me and those around me just how we should be feeling. It would just make things simpler, wouldn’t it? We would laugh together or cry together until the next song came on or the director called: “Cut.” There would be a lot less confusion or misunderstanding. The truth, as I see it anyway, is that sometimes things happen to us and to those we love that we just can’t predict or script in advance. We review our mental file cards and we have no speech to share. And the music just won’t come – we don’t know whether what we are experiencing should make us joyful or devastate us. All we can do is be present, take it in, and hang on to one another. The words and the music will come to us later. I am sure that our prepared remarks will serve us just fine in some of the coming events of 2014. But they will also fail us in many other circumstances. It is those unscripted events and how we react to them that will give us the potential for growth and wisdom. (Clue the exit music. It is time to move on.)