Monday, December 09, 2019

how saving mr. banks has helped saved mr. cotton

Writing, like most everything in life, can be double-edged.

It can be edifying. Amusing. Hopeful. And, far too often, hurtful.

I ran across two examples of the latter this week. One was meant to be intentionally biting. The other, I truly believe was meant to be inspiring, but its result has been just as hurtful to some people as the former.

Several unrelated conversations over the last three days of the past week have disclosed that an old hurt in the community has been re-opened. Several Mexican friends and acquaintances have mentioned the incident with a certain sense of humiliation.

Appellate courts often avoid discussing the facts of a decision with the brush-off phrases like "a recitation of the facts would not be helpful to either the parties or the bar." I will take the same tack. What was written is not important. Though I doubt if I would have written that sentence on Saturday night.

A couple of my friends were hurt enough that they wanted me to contact the person who wrote the piece -- to convey their concern.

I was prepared to do just that until I ran the scenario through my head. No matter how I worded the concerns (some of which were now my own), I could not see anything but a perpetuation of the hurt cycle.*

Whenever the wife of a friend asks him if they need to talk out their disputes, he inevitably says: "No." Her response goes something like this: "So you are just going to let it fester in silence?" Him: "That sounds fine to me."

That is the road I was going to take -- until I just happened to run across a movie on Netflix I had seen once before: Saving Mr. Banks. It is a movie about Walt Disney's 20-year quest to acquire the rights to make Mary Poppins, and the baring of the underlying shared psyches of Disney and the author of the book, P.L. Travers.

The first time I saw the movie, I generally liked it until it drew near its climax. What had been a charming Winston Churchill-Lady Astor affair turned into another Disney exercise in cloying, sentimental manipulation.

On a second viewing, all of that was still there. But one line went right from Tom Hanks's mouth into my brain. Maybe even into my heart.

In trying to convince Mrs. Travers to release her story to him, the Disney-Hanks said:

George Banks [Mrs. Travers's father] will be honored. George Banks will be redeemed. George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.
I do not agree that all storytelling has the goal of restoring hope, though I suspect that is the objective of most Disney productions. And it is an admirable virtue to preserve.

But I have no objection to the notion that good storytellers restore order with imagination. The chaos of life, when filtered through the mind of an imaginative author, can restore a sense of order -- even if that sense is merely imagined.

At the start of the film, Mrs. Travers's father tells her younger self:

We share a Celtic soul, you and I.This world is just an illusion, Ginty old girl. As long as we hold that thought dear, they can’t break us. Money, money, money. Don’t you buy into it Ginty! All an illusion.
I rather like that notion. It may be my own Celtic genes or my Christian mysticism -- or I may have simply been seduced into the Disneyfication of the American mind. But I do believe both the illusion of reality and its cousin imagination can help us find our way through a world populated with both hope and despair.

That is why, rather than perpetuating what has turned into a bad situation, I am going to spend my time trying to comfort my offended friends and acquaintances.

Perhaps we should spend more of our time relaxing around the fire as a group telling tales of dead kings, rather than nurturing our hurts.

At least, that is what I intend -- and hope -- to do.

* -- And, yes, I am fully aware of the irony of writing about something I ha ve decided not to talk about. But, there you are.

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