December 26, 2007

Splash Redux

Caught the 20+ year old movie Splash on Saturday. Haven't seen it in at least fifteen years. My reaction to it changed a bit. Single then, married now, I'm more cynical of the instantaneous love between them, perhaps in part because of the celebrity culture in which someone is always divorcing months after professing their undying love.

I now see God instead of just sex appeal in Madison, Daryl Hannah's character. She's guileless, tenderhearted, unspoiled and simple. Love wasn't as complicated for her as it was the Hanks character, who stewed mightily over how and when to say "I love you" and whether to ask her to marry him.

Sentiment looms larger when young; it is, after all, the engine oil of youth. And emotion and action, like it or not, are linked with the latter typically flowing from the former. It does no good to be contemptuous of feelings just because they can be seen as merely a means to an end. Since only actions matter, there's a tendency to see feelings as undependable props, as means to a God-ordained end. But whenever something becomes merely a means to an end it’s hard not to see that something lose all its value, which is why it’s so pernicious in the human sphere and part of the reason embryonic stem cell research is so chilling: humans become a parts warehouse for other humans. But feelings, for all their irrationality and flightiness, are a part of what makes us human and thus it is part of the necessity we become as little children in humbly accepting them.

On this, the feast of St. Stephen, his heroic martrydom was amazing not merely for the fact of it, but the way of it. He went willingly, smilingly as it were, with positive feelings. It's easy to mistake grace for feelings and feelings for grace, but that is false since that would mean we could blame God for our sins: "I was not given the grace (i.e. feeling) to do good."

But I digress. Back to the plot at hand. Would she give up the sea for a life on land with him? Yes. But when that became impossible, would he give up land for a life in the sea with her?

It was more disconcerting than I'd remembered it, that is how freely Daryl Hannah would accept his decision. She understood how difficult for him to give up all he knew for she had just faced the same decision. She proved resistable for some period of time on the pier until, finally, he took the plunge. Literally and figuratively.

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