The Day of RemembrancePosted: September 29, 2011
Today is Rosh Hashana. As I am no longer a member of “the fold,” I feel free to sit here and share some of my thoughts and feelings on this day. Though I am not observant, there is still a deeply rooted sense of reverence for this holiday. It always greets me with a sense of quiet. An inner contemplative mood. By not being subject to some ancient rule book, I can wax reflective in whatever form that appears to me.
The memorial candles burn bright in my kitchen. I keep them there as a safety measure. This custom still has meaning for me, so I try to remember to carry it out. The candles burn for those who gave me life (mom & dad), my brother, my father in-law, and two of my main spiritual mentors who passed on in the last 3 years. The light that emanates from the other room stands as a reminder that my existence has been determined by the existence of others. That their influence can still be felt, whether profound or mundane.
I recently posted a video clip on my facebook page of the Howard Beale “I’m mad as hell” speech from Network. Then coincidentally, the film showed up on our local library shelf. I had a chance to watch it again last night. I tend to draw through most films, and this was no exception. It does give me a chance to listen to the dialogue, which in this film, is brilliant.
The movie was very prescient for its time. It foretold the coming globalization and sublimation of our entire culture. Written by Paddy Chayefsky in 1976, it tells the story of a newscaster who begins to have a nervous breakdown on public television. Rather than retire him, the executives see him as a ratings boon and decide to exploit his madness, which borders on the visionary. As just about anything you can think of is on the internet, I decided to look up some of the dialogue. What I found with a very basic search is the ENTIRE script, online. I was particularly interested in the part where Howard (played by Peter Finch) tells his friend Max (played by William Holden) that he feels “plugged in.” But what gives rise to this is the broadcast where Howard begins to tell the audience what he really feels. I was able to extract the entire speech, keeping Howard’s talk in it’s entirety.
Good evening. Today is Wednesday, September the twenty-fourth, and this is my last broadcast. Yesterday,I announced on this program that I would commit public suicide, admittedly an act of madness. Well, I’ll tell you what happened — I just ran out of bullshit
Am I still on the air?
I don’t know any other way to say it except I just ran out of bull-shit …
Bullshit is all the reasons we give for living, and, if we can’t think up any reasons of our own, we always have the God bullshit —
We don’t know why the hell we’re going through all this pointless pain, humiliation and decay, so there better be someone somewhere who does know; that’s the God bullshit —
If you don’t like the God bullshit, how about the man bullshit? Man is a noble creature who can order his own world, who needs God?
Well, if there’s anybody out there who can look around this demented slaughterhouse of a world we live in and tell me man is a noble creature, that man is full of bullshit.
I don’t have any kids — and I was married for thirty-three years of shrill, shrieking fraud — I don’t have any bullshit left — I just ran out of it, you see.
Now how is this relevant to a holy day? Why is this day holy? Is it not true that every man is holy. Every day is reverent? And yet because there is a collective observance, there is an energy in the air. A feeling that calls forth the wish to connect to something larger. To dispense with the illusions and delusions and look at life for what it is. To unplug myself from collective fantasy. To allow the fact that “I do not know” be available to me. I no longer try to give that mysterious force a name. We will leave it as unknowable. By doing so, it gives me a fresh chance every day to open to it.
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; avoid him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student; teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep; wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man; follow him.
After Howards “bullshit” declaration, he is called into Max’s office where he is about to be fired. It is here that Howard gives one of his most enlightened declarations. I have left some of the script points in so that you visualize the scene.
MAX: Sit down, Howard. Howard, I’m taking you off the air. I called your psychiatrist.
HOWARD: (serene, sits behind his desk) What’s happening to me, Max, isn’t mensurate in psychiatric terms.
MAX: I think you’re having a breakdown, require treatment, and Dr. Sindell agrees.
HOWARD: This is not a psychotic episode. It is a cleansing moment of clarity. (stands, an imbued man) I am imbued, Max. I am imbued with some special spirit. It’s not a religious feeling at all. It is a shocking eruption of great electrical energy: I feel vivid and flashing as if suddenly I had been plugged into some great cosmic electromagnetic field. I feel connected to all living things, to flowers, birds, to all the animals of the world and even to some great unseen living force, what I think the Hindus call prana.
He stands rigidly erect, his eyes staring mindlessly out, his face revealing the anguish of so transcendental a state.
HOWARD: It is not a breakdown. I have never felt so orderly in my life! It is a shattering and beautiful sensation! It is the exalted flow of the space-time continuum, save that it is spaceless and timeless and of such loveliness! I feel on the verge of some great ultimate truth.
Maybe this is timely for me. The Jewish New Year has a way of bringing this out of me. The day stands quiet. There is a stillness that hangs over the neighborhood, and there is the promise of rain and cooler weather. There are no reflections on education today. Noah is home and sleeping soundly. It feels like a day of renewal.
Today’s post had to be personal. What else would I write on what I feel to be the true New Year. I could tell you all my reflections on God, religion, law, society and where we as a race have gone wrong. I will save that for another day. Like Howard, I feel imbued. Plugged in. A great cosmic force hovers above and below me. Here I am today, a vehicle for forces completely unknown and mysterious. Possibilities loom that are detached from any religious law, and yet, at their root, they still point to a form of truth. Inner truth. That is what today is for. Reflection. The original name for this day is Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) and that is what is at the heart of what I feel. That is why there are memorial candles burning in the other room.
With that I will say Happy New Year and L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu —”May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.”