Two things have been in my head all weekend: Devotion, and the line “funny how falling feels like flying, for a little while” (from Crazy Heart – a wonderful movie). I’m still reflecting on Dani Shapiro’s luminous, beautiful memoir, and will write a longer review. But for now, I am thinking of how the book and the movie are about the process of asking questions, the process of an adult continuing to grow. And of how in both cases the person asking ends up with at least as many questions as he or she started out with.
At Dani’s reading in Boston, people kept asking her what the answer was. I felt like over and over she called on raised hands to a version of the same question: “you had all these questions. What did you find for an answer? What do you tell your son now?” And Dani was frank when she responded that there wasn’t a single answer. The thing she said that stuck with me was that even at the outset of her search, she was less interested in an answer than in living deeply in the questions for a while. I was struck by the audience’s persistent desire for a single answer, for resolution, for the closure that Dani posits so humorously and wisely may not actually exist.
Crazy Heart is likewise ambiguous, and ambitious, in its denial of a simple conclusion. Of course there is the beautiful rendering of a woman’s redemptive love, but then there is the end, which is undeniably complicated. A man’s life saved, returned to him. But oh, at what cost! As he watches the dust of one of his closely-held dreams fall through his fingers, he sees the big questions that remain in his palms. The ending, though happy, is laced with loss and echoes with the lack of resolution.
I needed to hear both of these messages right now. I’ve written before about my profound discomfort with uncertainty, but I am starting to believe that living through the unknown is the only way to truth. It is actually much more difficult for me to sit with the ambiguous and unknown, to peer over the edge of the precipice into the future and not know what it holds. I have, many times, grabbed at the nearest firm answer, regardless of whether it was the right one. I’m determined not to do that now.
It is harder for me to live with maybe than to jump to yes or no, but I must. I need to give myself permission to sit and feel this discomfort. I need to remember that both falling and flying involve a loss of control, the thing I fear most, and they may be indistinguishable for a while. And to remember that beyond the questions there are just more questions. Paul Farmer’s voice comes to my head: beyond mountains there are mountains. Certainty has been my crutch for far too long. Off into the murky gray yonder.
(thanks to Ronna for the thought-provoking – dare I say renegade! – conversation)