making the weather

Cold Mountain, a movie from 2003 starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renee Zellweger ranks near the top of my list of all-time favorites.  The story is deeply compelling, the writing is terrific (I got the book for Christmas this year), the acting is excellent, and many of the lines cut straight to my heart.  I’ll probably make reference to many of them in future posts.

The official description of the movie goes like this:  “At the dawn of the Civil War, the men of Cold Mountain, North Carolina, rush to join the Confederate army.  Ada (Kidman) has vowed to wait for Inman (Law), but as the war drags on and letters go unanswered, she must find the will to survive.  At war’s end, hearts will be dashed, dreams fulfilled, and the strength of the human spirit tested . . . but not broken.”

(Please note:  The movie is rated R for war violence and some sexuality, but it can be family-friendly, at least for older kids, IF you watch it with a Clearplay filter, as we do.  You should check it out.  We love ours!)

(By the way, Kidman’s character, Ada, had a lot to do with our latest name selection.)

Renee Zellweger plays Ruby Thewes, a hardened but resourceful mountain girl with a deep drawl and all the attitude to go with it, who shows up in Cold Mountain near the middle of the war, when Ada, a preacher’s daughter with city-girl skills, is destitute and the farm has fallen apart.  Ruby quickly begins to pull the farm back together with hard labor, quick wit and a sharp tongue, as both women make sacrifices for survival.

Near the end of the film, the women learn that Ruby’s father and another friend have been shot in the mountains near their home by the Home Guard because they had deserted the Conferederate army.  Ruby and her father have had a strained, but recently restored, relationship and his death brings her anger to the surface.  As Ruby and Ada prepare to make the 5-hour trek into the snow-covered mountains to retrieve the bodies, they have a heated and emotional dialogue in which Ruby angrily vents:

Every piece of this is man’s bull@#$%!  They call this war a cloud over the land, but they made the weather, and then they stand in the rain and say, “@&%#! It’s rainin’!”

I love that line – one of many delivered by Ruby that I love.  It speaks to me on several different levels, but mainly right on the surface.

I’m thoroughly disgusted by our ability to foul up our lives and those around us and then complain about the misery to which we’ve been subjected.  Small to great, every trouble known to man is primarily the outcome of our own mistakes.  Even when good decisions have unanticipated negative side-effects, we seem to focus on the negative, decrying our inconvenience and discomfort and looking for someone to blame or fix it for us, as if we’ve been entitled to life on easy street.

Being honest about our difficulties and vulnerable with our trials is not the issue in question.  The issue is our response to the difficulties.  First of all, being honest about my feelings doesn’t inherently justify the feelings.  I can be wrong and honest at the same time.  Furthermore, if my intent in sharing my pain is to find support, that’s fabulous, but if my intent is to find someone to blame or defend my right to have my situation corrected, it would seem misguided.  A sense of responsibility, of ownership, of unity in struggle seems necessary.

Imagine, for example, what it would be like for me to maintain the perspective that my life is terrible and difficult from the hardship of having so many kids.  Yes, I know I could have prevented this!  Yes, I know what causes this!  Yes, there are difficult days and moments I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into, but I must remember that I did get myself into this.  I’m grateful for my family and for a wife who helps me maintain the right perspective.  The value of life, in the way we’re called to live it, far exceeds any hardship.

I am not a victim.  We are not victims.  Yes, of course, many things happen, positive and negative which are outside our control.  But, we always control our responses!  Too often, it seems, our tendency is to respond with blame and self-pity, with complaints and attitudes of entitlement.

God help us.  Help us to stand in the rain of the messes we’ve created and recognize that our responses and next steps determine the impact of the storm, and complaints about the rain will not lead to shelter.

6 thoughts on “making the weather”

  1. how existential. i recently came to the same conclusion after re-reading one of my favorite books. in it the author makes the case that everything that has ever happened to us is as a direct result of us willing it to be so. i don’t know if i’d go that far, but i have found that it is possible to make a conscious decision to be happy. if you believe you are happy then you are happy and circumstances cannot change this. it’s so simple i don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it.

  2. first off i would like to note on the spelling of Ada… why wasn’t i there to pick up the phone!?!?
    And secondly, your insight on things and the ability to put it in words is awesome dale. I knew there had to be a reason i liked you.

  3. As I read this, I see dead bodies floating in the streets of New Orleans. I wonder that you would tell a child, or anyone, clinging to the roof of a floating house days on end unprotected from the sun, dehydrated, and starving, waiting for rescue (that may or may not come — for many, it didn’t) that she created her own mess? Or willed it? Really.

  4. To midwest transplant:
    Thank you for the challenging comment. It’s difficult to adequately convey one’s perspective on any particular topic through a one-sided blog post of a few hundred words. I can understand why you might challenge the position I took in this post with regard to a tragedy like the one which occurred in New Orleans. Although we may never have the opportunity to discuss this point through resolution, I would like to offer a response.

    I can assure you that I would never suggest to that child, clinging to the roof of a floating house and suffering unimaginable terrors that she is the source of her own trouble. Nor would I suggest such things for the adults, young or old, nor even for the civil institutions which might have done more to mitigate the damage.

    As I said, perhaps without the needed emphasis, in this post, “of course, many things happen, positive and negative which are outside our control.”

    I know that many Christians, and even people of other faiths, look at global tragedies such as New Orleans, and blame those events on the people suffering from the calamities, or somehow rationalize that such events are the judgments of God and deserved by those upon whom they have been inflicted. I do not, absolutely do not, share that position. I cannot justify any position which interprets “acts of God” in such a manner. I do hold a position that God must be accountable for such events, and that he alone can understand the overwhelming complexity of such human suffering.

    I do, however, as I stated in this post, hold the position that we can control our responses to such calamities. Because I have not experienced such calamity, I cannot ascertain nor judge the responses of those affected, but I can hope that such a little girl would find hope. I can justifiably postulate that for her to survive such unthinkable conditions, it would be important for her, over whatever time is necessary, to move forward and to choose to live well in spite of such circumstances.

    As far as I’m concerned, the tragedy in New Orleans, and other events like it, should never be viewed as weather that anyone but God has made. To him, my unceasing question, which in my opinion will always defy human reasoning, is: “How could you?” My faith assures me he has an answer that I cannot comprehend.

    Thanks again for the challenge.
    Dale

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