Category Archives: Movies

What is the World’s Dirty Secret?

alex atkins bookshelf moviesThere is a point, months or years after graduation, that one longs to return to college. Nostalgia grabs you by the lapels and cries out: “remember the great camaraderie; the epic parties; the memorable meals; the thought-provoking, passionate discussions, young love, and the idle time for contemplation or getting lost in the world of ideas? Remember all that?” Of course, those years slip by so quickly, like sand through your fingers. And now, stuck in the routine of a boring, soul-crushing 9-to-5 job, you really begin to miss those years and those amazingly transformative experiences. But, year by year those memories recede before us and you stretch your arms farther, like Gatsby reaching out to recapture his past, and a younger version of his beloved Daisy.

It is exactly that paralyzing ennui that motivates Jesse Fisher to return to college and visit with his favorite college English professor, Peter Hoberg, in the 2012 enchanting film, Liberal Arts (written and directed by Josh Radnor). By visiting college and his favorite teachers, Fisher hopes to recapture his passion, his purpose in life. Hoberg dispenses a lot of wisdom, including this gem: “Any place you don’t leave is a prison.” However, during one memorable scene, while discussing aging, Professor Hoberg shares the world’s dirty secret with his former student:

Professor Peter Hoberg: You know how old I am?

Jesse Fisher: No, how old are you?

Hoberg: It’s none of your goddamn business. Do you know how old I feel like I am?

Fisher: [Shrugs]

Hoberg: 19. Since I was 19, I have never felt not 19. But I shave my face and I look in the mirror and I’m forced to say, “This is not a 19-year-old staring back at me.” [Sighs] Teaching here all these years, I’ve had to be very clear with myself, that even when I’m surrounded by 19-year-olds, and I may have felt 19, I’m not 19 anymore. You follow me?

Fisher: Yeah.

Hoberg: Nobody feels like an adult. It’s the world’s dirty secret.

So if you are a young adult, now you know what most middle-aged adults know. But please be discreet, don’t tell anyone… remember it’s our little secret.

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The Most Moving Death Monologue in Cinematic History

alex atkins bookshelf moviesEach year, moviegoers see hundreds of death scenes and corresponding death speeches in movies, but this particular short speech (only 50 seconds) is one of the most poetic and memorable in the history of cinema. In fact, philosopher and author Mark Rowlands wrote, “[the speech is] perhaps the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history.” So what exactly is he raving about?

For the answer, let’s step into a time machine and travel back to 1982 — the year that neo-noir science fiction film Blade Runner premiered. The film, directed by Ridley Scott (with a majestic and haunting score by Vangelis), was based on Philip K. Dick’s novel titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? published in 1968. The film takes place in a dystopian metropolis (specifically Los Angeles in 2019, which is, um, now… scary) when a group of replicants (bioengineered androids manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation) return to earth after escaping from a work colony out in space. The leader of the gang of replicants is Roy Batty (played by Dutch actor Ruger Hauer). We then meet Rick Deckard (played by a youthful Harrison Ford), a burnt-out blade runner (a cop who hunts down replicants) comes out of retirement to hunt down Batty and his crew. Near the end of the film, Deckard and Batty are engaged in a cat-and-mouse chase sequence though abandoned buildings in the evening — and in the pouring rain. There is a point when Deckard slips and falls, but Batty reaches down to save Deckard, knowing that Deckard is determined to kill him. As the rain pours down on Batty, and his life is slipping away, Batty looks at Deckard and reflects on his life, while a poignant Vangelis melody plays in the background:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

The speech is so famous, so frequently quoted, that it is referred to as the “tears in the rain” monologue. In an interview with British magazine Radio Times, Hauer explained how he changed the original script, written by David Peoples and Hampton Fancher, the night before the shooting of that scene. Hauer elaborates, “The irony is that all I did in Blade Runner was… and I’m not saying it’s nothing, but it’s so little. I kept two lines, because I thought they were poetic. I thought they belonged to this character, because somewhere in his digital head he has poetry, and knows what it is. He feels it! And while his batteries are going, he comes up with the two lines… You know, I think a lot of scripts are overwritten. The overwritten stuff comes from the writer and all the executives, but the audience can feel it, and even the best actor cannot sell me with language that is overwritten… So, I look at the script, and I look at my part, because I don’t want to touch anybody [else’s] parts. I shave everything that I feel you don’t need. [In Blade Runner] Ridley gave me all the freedom, because he wanted it to be a character-driven story. He’d never done a film character-driven. He said, ‘This is what I want to do – bring me anything you can come up with, and I’ll take it on if I like it.’”

So Hauer reviewed the script which read: “I’ve seen things… seen things you little people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion bright as magnesium… I rode on the back decks of a blinker and watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments… they’ll be gone,” and revised the last line: “All those moment will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.” Hauer adds: “For the end line I was hoping to come up with one line where Roy, because he understands he has very little time, expresses one bit of the DNA of life that he’s felt. How much he liked it. Only one life.” In another interview, Hauer explains the death soliloquy this way: “[Roy wanted to] make his mark on existence… the replicant in the final scene, by dying, shows Deckard what a real man is made of.”

35 years after his work on Blade Runner, Hauer is still amazed by how people remember that scene and that death monologue; Hauer said, “All I did was write one line – I edited, and I came up with one line. That’s the poet in me – that’s my poet, I own him. Great! And then for that line to have such fucking wings – can you imagine what that feels like?”

Sadly, Hauer’s passed away on July 19, 2019, at the age of 75, of an unspecified illness at his home in Beetsterzwaag, Netherlands. It is not known what his final words were, but perhaps he found some comfort knowing that his work — and timeless words — will not be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Most Visually Stunning Movies
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Best Academy Award Quotes
Best Books for Movie Lovers

For further reading: https://www.radiotimes.com/news/film/2019-07-25/blade-runner-tears-in-rain-speech/
Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul Sammon
The Ridley Scott Encyclopedia by Laurence Raw


I’ve Gone to the End of the World on the Wings of Words

alex atkins bookshelf quotations[Mrs. Merrett gives a book to American Dr. William Chester Minor, a patient at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum] Dr. Minor (the madman) responds: “You read? I will guess which one it is [if you provide me with] a paragraph, a sentence. [She turns and walks away, looking downward, ashamed]. Mrs. Merrett… What did I do? You cannot read. Forgive me, I should not have presumed. I do not need you to bring books Mrs. Merrett. It is your visits… I can teach you [to read]. Oh please, let me teach you. You can teach your children. It’s freedom, Mrs. Merrett. I can fly out of this place on the backs of books. I’ve gone to the end of the world on the wings of words. When I read, no one is after me. When I read, I am the one who is chasing, chasing after God. Please I beg you… join the chase.”

From the film, The Professor and the Madman (2019), by John Boorman and Todd Komarnicki based on the book The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. To set up the historical context, at the time that Shakespeare was writing his plays and sonnets, there were no English dictionaries. The first English dictionaries only began being published around the time of Shakespeare’s death (1616). Winchester writes: “The English language was spoken and written — but at the time of Shakespeare it was not defined, not fixed. It was like the air — it was taken for granted, the medium that enveloped and defined all Britons. But as to exactly what it was, what its components were — who knew?” Thus, it was very important to academics to develop the first, definitive English dictionary. When James Murray, a Scottish philologist and lexicographer (by trade, a former schoolmaster and bank clerk) began compiling the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1879 (although work had begun as early as 1857 but stalled), he sought the public’s assistance in providing entries (word with quotations from notable sources) for the dictionary. Dr. Minor contributed more than 10,000 entries in a period of 20 years. Throughout that period, Murray, grateful for Minor’s enormous contribution, invited him to Oxford so that he could visit the Scriptorium and meet the team. Finally, Murray travels to Crowthorne to visit Minor only to discover that he was incarcerated for life at a criminal lunatic asylum. After serving in the American Civil War, Minor suffered delusions that militant Irishmen were coming to kill him; one night, he ran out pursuing one of his imagined assassins, George Merrett, a brewery worker on his way to work (sadly, at the wrong place at the wrong time), and shot him several times. Minor’s army pension allowed him to live in Broadmoor and maintain a vast personal library of classic works; Minor also directed a portion of his resources to support the Merrett’s widow. Writing those dictionary entry slips, was perhaps, the madman’s therapy as well as his attempt at redemption. That activity also formed the foundation for a very profound, respectful friendship with a fellow word lover. When Murray first began work on the OED he told the delegates of the Oxford University Press that it would take seven to ten years. He was wildly optimistic. The first edition was completed, 13 years after he died. The first edition was published in 1928 — 50 years after Murray had begun; the dictionary, published in ten volumes, contained 414,825 words and 1.8 million citations to illustrate the keywords.

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What is the Reid Technique?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureIf you watched Netflix’s gripping true-crime series When They See Us (2019), you have seen the Reid Technique in action — and to borrow a line from Holden Caulfied, it makes you want to puke. In the film, we witness detectives, who are feeling pressure from the public to find the rapist(s) of the Central Park jogger as well as pressure from an overzealous prosecutor, implement the Reid technique of interrogation to coerce false confessions from five very scared and innocent teenagers. Recall, that during our school-age years, we learned about Blackstone’s ratio, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” that first appeared in Commentaries on the Laws of England (1760) written by the brilliant British jurist William Blackstone. Almost a century later, that idea was echoed by Benjamin Franklin who expressed it more dramatically: “It is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer.” And as young students we were naive enough to believe that this fundamental belief in criminal law was sacrosanct. Sadly — it is not; for justice in the hands of imperfect human beings is just that — imperfect. In the case of the Central Park Five, the prosecutor and the detectives wiped their derrières with the Miranda Rights and Blackstone’s ratio and flushed it down the toilet, and then washed their hands of the whole stinking mess. 

“So what exactly is the Reid Technique?” you ask. The Reid Technique was developed by consultant and polygraph expert John E. Reid and is used by many law-enforcement agencies in the United States. According to their website “The Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation,® [is] widely recognized as the most effective means available to exonerate the innocent and identify the guilty. Our specialized interrogation training seminars are designed for law enforcement and government investigators, corporate security and loss prevention professionals.” Journalist Douglass Starr, in an article about the Reid technique for The New Yorker described its ubiquity and tremendous impact on law enforcement: “Today, John E. Reid & Associates, Inc., trains more interrogators than any other company in the world. Reid’s clients include police forces, private security companies, the military, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the Secret Service—almost anyone whose job involves extracting the truth from those who are often unwilling to provide it. The company’s interview method, called the Reid Technique, has influenced nearly every aspect of modern police interrogations, from the setup of the interview room to the behavior of detectives. The company says that the people it trains get suspects to confess eighty per cent of the time.”

Specifically, the Reid Technique consists of a three phases: (1) Fact analysis (learning the facts of the case), (2) Behavior analysis interview (determining if the suspect is lying), and (3) the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation (the specific steps are delineated here.) Frequently interrogators begin by isolating the subject (eg, placing him or her in a small, windowless room) and immediately coercing the subject to waive his or her Miranda rights (the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney) through false promises, lies, or threats. The interrogator begins with the presumption of guilt (stating that the subject committed the crime) and proceeds with an interrogation, which is more of an accusatory process than a Q&A, and adopting the familiar personas of the “good cop/bad cop routine”, designed to elicit a confession. The interrogator presents various narratives (whether true or not) about means, motive, and opportunity. Depending on how the subject responds, the narratives are altered to drill down on the relevant facts of the crime. Over many hours or days, the interrogator eventually wears down the isolated subject who will ultimately fabricate a story to appease his relentless interrogators; in short, the subject confesses to the crime. Game over.

Although the Reid Technique is a valuable tool for law enforcement that leads to many justifiable confessions and convictions, it is not without controversy. The blatant false confessions of the Central Park Five is an obvious case in point. In several criminology publications, critics point out that the Reid technique can result in false confessions, especially when used with children, non-native individuals who speak English as a second-language, and individuals with mental disabilities. In fact, several European countries prohibit lying to suspects (especially young suspects) about evidence since it can lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions.

In a thorough and fascinating article on how police interrogation works, Julia Layton explores in detail the controversy of the Reid technique. Layton believes the interrogation is not at all fair. First, it is a guilt-presumptive process. A detective, in a headlong pursuit to obtain a confession, can consciously or unconsciously, ignore any evidence of innocence. Second, implementing the Reid technique can be very similar to brainwashing. Layton writes: “[A] lot of the human rights concerns surrounding police interrogation have to do with the fact that psychological interrogation techniques bear an uncanny resemblance to “brainwashing” techniques. The interrogator is attempting to influence the suspect without the suspect’s consent, which is considered an unethical use of psychological tactics. A lot of the techniques used to cause discomfort, confusion and insecurity in the brainwashing process are similar to those used in interrogation: (1) Invading a suspect’s personal space; (2) Not allowing the suspect to speak; (3) Using contrasting alternatives; (4) Positioning confession as a means of escape.”

In the film, we witness how the detectives do everything they can to increase each suspects’ level of stress: isolation from one another and their parents, depriving them of food and water, depriving them of sleep, physical and verbal abuse, threats, etc. All of this causes the subjects to break down emotionally, cognitively, and physically. Layton continues:” The more stress a suspect experiences, the less likely he is to think critically and independently, making him far more susceptible to suggestion. This is even more true when the suspect is a minor or is mentally ill, because he may be poorly equipped to recognize or fight off manipulative tactics. A process designed to cause someone so much stress that he’ll confess just to escape the situation is a process that leaves itself open to false confessions. Researchers estimate between 65 and 300 false confessions per year in the United States.” [emphasis added.]

In his article “Do Police Interrogation Techniques Produce False Confessions?”, Starr explains how psychologist Saul Kassin, a leading expert on false confessions, noted that in most cases, when a confession was introduced in a trial, juries tended to deliver guilty sentences — regardless of any other evidence presented. Starr also describes experiments by Kassin and other psychologists who have devised experiments that test tactics associated with the Reid technique. Time after time, the experiments showed similar results: accusatory questions and direct accusations consistently produced false confessions. Even more problematic is the fact that the Reid technique is extremely dependent of the interrogator’s ability to identify a lie using the suspect’s nonverbal behavior. Starr writes: “Three decades of research have shown that nonverbal signals, so prized by the Reid trainers, bear no relation to deception. In fact, people have little more than coin-flipping odds of guessing if someone is telling the truth, and numerous surveys have shown that police do no better. [Psychologist] Aldert Vrij… found that law-enforcement experience does not necessarily improve the ability to detect lies. Among police officers, those who said they paid close attention to nonverbal cues did the worst. Similarly, an experiment by Kassin showed that both students and police officers were better at telling true confessions from false ones when they listened to an audio recording of an interview rather than watch it on video. In the experiment, the police officers performed less well than the students but expressed greater confidence in their ability to tell who was lying.”

Ultimately, When They See Us is a cautionary tale about what happens when an individual does not know and understand the protections of the Miranda Rights and the Constitution. What is absolutely tragic about this heart-breaking story is that had the teenagers, or more importantly, their parents (or their family friends), known their rights — this travesty of justice could have been easily prevented. First, let’s begin with the fundamental fact that these minors should have never been questioned without a legal guardian in the room. Second, the parents should immediately have invoked their child’s Miranda Rights — the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The interrogations would have come to a screeching halt. Game over. And third, every American has the protection of the Constitution, specifically three amendments: (1) the Fifth Amendment: the right not incriminate oneself; (2) the Sixth Amendment: the right to a speedy trial; and (3) the Fourteenth Amendment: the right to due process. All of these legal safeguards, however, did nothing to prevent the miscarriage of justice delivered to the Central Park Five. Fortunately, decades later, in 2014, they were all exonerated and won a settlement of $40 million.

You have to wonder: if the Central Park Five could, would they trade that $40 million to go back in time, to April 19, 1989, and regain their innocence, their youth, and live the lives that they were meant to live?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The O. J. Simpson Trial and the Chewbacca Defense
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For further reading: Essentials of the Reid Technique (2nd Edition) by Fred Ibai, John Reid, Joseph Buckley, and Brian Jayne
An Expendable Man: the Near Execution of Earl Washington, Jr. by Margaret Edds
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/09/the-interview-7

https://people.howstuffworks.com/police-interrogation.htm
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reid_technique


What is the Genius of the Constitution?

alex atkins bookshelf movies

Sometimes a film from the past speaks to the present in a very compelling — and perhaps eerie — way. Take the prescience of the 1994 film, With Honors, regarding the topic of the balance of power between Congress and the President that has dominated the news in the last few months. In With Honors, Monty Kessler (played by Brendan Fraser), an honors student in the government program at Harvard University, and his new companion, Simon Wilder (played by Joe Pesci), a homeless man, attend a class lecture. The professor, Mr. Pitkannan (played by legendary author Gore Vidal) poses a question to the class: “Our founding fathers, or to be more politically correct, founding parents designed the Constitution to prevent the presidency from becoming another form of tyranny — an elected king. Well, did they succeed?… Could the President of the United States without consulting those he governs, more or less destroy the entire world?

Monty: “The President cannot bomb without reason.”

Professor Pitkannan: “He has the reason. He thinks we need more parking spaces. The point is — can he destroy the world?”

Monty: “Not without Congress.”

Pitkannan: “Now Mr. Kessler, after four years at Harvard has it escaped your attention that the President can make war for 90 days without consulting Congress… My question still stands: what is the particular genius of the Constitution? You sir [pointing to Simon], do you have an opinion on this?…

Simon: “You asked a question sir. Let me answer it. The genius of the Constitution is that it can always be changed. The genius of the Constitution is that it makes no permanent rule other than its faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves.”

Pitkannan [in a sneering tone]: “Faith in the wisdom of the people is exactly what makes the Constitution incomplete and crude.”

Simon: “Crude? No sir. Our founding parents were pompous middle-aged white farmers. But they were also great men because they knew one thing that all great men should know — that they didn’t know everything. They knew they were going to make mistakes. But they made sure to leave a way to correct them. They didn’t think of themselves as leaders. They wanted a government of citizens — not royalty. A government of listeners — not lecturers. A government that could change — not stand still. The President isn’t an elected King, no matter how many bombs he can drop. Because the crude Constitution doesn’t trust him. He’s a servant of the people.”

[The classroom erupts in applause.]

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Read related posts: Benjamin Franklin’s Warning: A Republic if You Can Keep It
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The Most Important Thing in Life is the Journey

alex atkins bookshelf wisdom“If you look back on your life when you were a child, and you had aspirations, and you had ambitions, but they never really worked out the way you thought they would. So there’s a lot that can make you extremely frustrated and extremely mad. But at the same time, it’s kind of exhilirating. In many ways, it doesn’t matter if things work out exactly the way you wanted them to or they didn’t. The most important thing is the journey. Because the experiences can be so rich and so valuable to you… Of course, I am [happy with the journey so far]. It’s been amazing so far. The best way I could think of, you know, leaving this world, and it would be either, you know, go to sleep and not wake up or be in the middle of… a telecine suite doing a new transfer, like a 4k or an 8k tranfer of [2001: A Space Odyssey]. Just as the music play out, I’d say, ‘I’m coming. — I’m with ya, Zarathustra.'”

Leon Vitali from the documentary about his life: Filmworker by Tony Zierra. Vitali was a successful British actor who in 1974 walked away from acting, and spent a lot of time away from his family, to become legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s apprentice and right-hand man for more than 25 years. Vitali, credited as “personal assistant to director,” worked alongside “the maestro” on cinematic masterpieces like The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Since Kubrick’s death in 1999, Vitali has overseen the restoration of all of Kubrick’s films. Currently, Vitali has been working as a consultant to the Kubrick estate. Recently, he has been supervising a new digital 4k version of 2001: A Space Odysssey. He is also working on creating a comprehensive archive of all of Stanley Kubrick’s film elements.

Steve Southgate, the vice president in charge of European technical operations for Warner Brothers who had worked on most of Kubrick’s films watched the apprentice transform into a master: “Leon was a spirit. You could see, you know, the doors open before he got to a door. He has this aura of ‘Kubrickism’ around him. The apprentice that all of a sudden one day became the master with all the answers.” Southgate had enormous respect for Kubrick: “He was one person in the film industry who knew how the film industry worked — in every country in the world. He knew all of the dubbing people, the dubbing directors, the actors, he had relationships with foreign directors who would supervise his work because he couldn’t be there to supervise himself. We had to go around to every cinema to make sure the projection lights were right, the sound was correct, the ratios were right, the screens were clean… He seemed to work 24 hours a day. We used to get calls all hours of the night. He could be very difficult but not in a difficult way. If you ever got chewed out by Stanley on the phone you knew you’d been chewed out. He never screamed or yelled but he had this wonderful manner and a sort of lovely New York drawl to his voice that you knew you were being carpeted. If he had any criticism of his film, he took it terribly personally. It was body and soul to him.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Most Visually Stunning Movies
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For further reading: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/19990704mag-kubrick-profile.html


What is the Meaning of the Feather in Forrest Gump?

alex atkins bookshelf moviesIn the opening sequence of the 1994 film Forrest Gump, we are mesmerized by a feather that floats downward from the clouds, caught in a gentle breeze — swirling and spinning delicately like some ethereal dancer. Eventually the feather reaches the ground, and is swept across a street by the motion of cars, landing at the foot of the film’s slow-witted but kind protagonist, Forrest Gump, who is sitting on a bench waiting to catch a bus. It captures his attention; he reaches down and grabs it and gently places it inside his favorite book, Curious George, that his mother read to him when he was a child. Then at the conclusion of the film, that same feather falls out of this book (Gump has now given the book to his son) and the feather is lifted back into the clouds by a gentle breeze. So, immediately we ask: what is the meaning of the feather in Forrest Gump? As we shall soon see, the feather is the perfect symbol for this film that, thanks to the brilliant screenwriting efforts of Eric Roth, works as a fable wrapped around a sweet love story — as opposed to the biting satire and cynical tone of the original novel of the same name by Winston Groom. And like one of Shakespeare’s fools, Gump may be simple-minded and a source of amusement, but he possesses all the wisdom that those around him clearly lack.

Fortunately, if you haven’t figured it out by the end of the film, Gump tells us in his soft- and plain-spoken way. In the last scene of the film, Gump is in a reflective mood and in a voiceover, explains: “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it’s both.” And that is the central theme of this film: is life determined by fate or chance? In an interview, Tom Hanks, who played Gump, elaborates: “Our destiny is only defined by how we deal with the chance elements to our life and that’s kind of the embodiment of the feather as it comes in. Here is this thing that can land anywhere and that it lands at your feet. It has theological implications that are really huge.” Perhaps what Hanks actually meant to say was that the philosophical implications are huge. Some of the greatest philosophers, thinkers, and writers have grappled with that question and its implication of free will; that is to say, if our life is based on fate (determinism) or chance, do our choices matter? In the case of Gump, the answer is yes — it is chance and choice. It is perfectly summarized by the symbolism of the feather: even though the feather lands near him (chance), he notices it and picks it up (choice). And it is because he makes these choices, time after time, that he unwittingly plays a role in many defining events of the 20th century (teaching Elvis how to dance, reporting the Watergate break-in, inspiring the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine”, the creation of the iconic smiley face, coining the phrase “shit happens,” etc.). 

On another level, the feather, with their connection to birds, represents flight and freedom. It also represent hope and inspiration. In the poem, “Hope” is the thing with feathers,” Emily Dickinson uses the feather as a central metaphor: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all.” For many tribal priests and shamans, the feather represents ascension or prayer, representing the magical communication with gods or the spirit world.

In her fascinating blog, Symbolic Meaning of Feathers, Avia Venifica, who studies the work of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, presents an in-depth exploration of the symbolism of feathers. Briefly, she discusses the feather as representing truth, spirit, travel, heaven, levity, flight, messages, ascension, and fertility. She also writes about the meaning of finding feathers, which is also relevant to the film. Venifica presents four meanings of finding a feather:

“1. Feathers are a reminder to count our blessings and be thankful for the good stuff going on in our lives.

2. Feathers are a symbol of levity. When seen, they remind us ease up on all the seriousness. Take a breath, relax, enjoy.

3. If feathers really are a communication tool to and from the gods, then their appearance is a reminder to listen to the bigger voice – as in a higher power.

4. Feathers often show up when there is someone or something that wants to reach out to us. Sometimes this might be a loved one who has passed into non-physical. A feather is a reminder you are loved by infinite people (both here on earth and otherwise).”

So is life determined by fate or chance? Some believe it is fate, others believe it is chance. Like Gump, many believe it is both? If you read enough biographies and have listen to the life stories of many people, you will realize that there is a common thread: serendipity. Someone was at the right place, at the right time, with the right person — and that has made a huge difference in their life journey, with respect to their education, career, or personal relationships (friendships, mentorships, and marriage). And herein lies one of the greatest life lessons: although you cannot create luck, propitious chance encounters — learn to identify serendipity and seize the opportunity.

The film, because it is a timeless fable, asks us one important question: if you are sitting on a bench and a feather floats by and rests near you, will you pick it up?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: The Complete Dictionary of Symbols by Jack Tresidder
https://forrestgump227.wordpress.com/symbolism/
https://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbol-meaning-of-feathers.html


				

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