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Friday, July 1, 2011

Midnight in Paris is About Living for Today...

Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris
As many of you know by now, I love Fr. Robert Barron's commentaries. He finds the most significant religious underpinnings in the least likely places of the culture.

In his latest commentary, Fr. Barron reviews Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight in Paris.

Now, you might say, as I did, what a great title.  Midnight seems to be a natural fit for a movie title i.e., Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Midnight Express, Midnight Cowboy, and Midnight Run (that I can recall offhand).

You throw Paris, with its romantic imagery, into the mix (which is dear to my heart because it's where my wife and I spent our honeymoon) and it’s a box office hit waiting to happen.

However, according Fr. Barron, the movie, which is written and directed by Allen, is more than just a good title. It actually has a deeper philosophical message; live for today.

It’s a romantic comedy about a Hollywood screenwriter named Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, who dreams of writing great novels, in the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. He travels to Paris with his fiancee and her family.

During his trip, Gil starts imagining and glorifying what it would have been like to live in the Paris of the 1920’s, fresh after WWI, when upper and middle class Parisians tossed pre-war morals out the door and embraced fun, decadence, frivolous living and personal freedoms. It was the time Fitzgerald and Hemingway roamed the streets by the Seine and were inspired to write some of their great works.

This romanticizing, Barron says, is a tendency many people suffer from, at times, including myself, who often idealize and try to imagine what it would have been like to live in a more innocent time of our nation, like the 40's and 50's.  The problem is when people get stuck in the past, or worse, live in their past, which leads them to frustration and disenchantment with the present.

Interestingly, I experienced a sense of nostalgia very recently when attending the 30-year class reunion for the class that graduated before mine at my high school.  Although, my reunion is not until next year, I was invited and gladly took my wife to meet old friends that roamed the same corridors of my senior high many years ago.  Despite the rainy night and low turnout, we had a wonderful time.

However, during the many conversations, laughs, recollections of "glory days" and getting caught up, I couldn't help but to think that the best of times in my life are being lived now with my wife and children.

I recently heard a co-worker say , "What I wouldn't give to go back in time to high school, knowing what I know now."  Really?  I don't think he really meant it but if you think about it, some people do.  Was high school really that much fun that I would be willing to give up the life to go back?  In my case; no way! And, let me tell you, I loved being on the baseball team, hanging with the popular crowd and having no responsibilities but to have fun. 

None of that can compare, however, to having my son run and hug my leg when I get home from work, or listening to my older daughter talk for days (weeks and months) about the talent show she is planning with her cousins during our trip to Sanibel (she can be a bit obsessive!), or seeing my younger daughter's smile that lights up any room (I would say something about my wife, but you get the picture).   

Other people, Barron says, get too caught up in the future.  They are so busy planning, working and saving for the future, that they don't enjoy life.

If there is one thing my wife and I have made a point of doing during our marriage, and now with our family, is to enjoy our life.  It doesn't mean living extravagantly (three kids in Catholic school is enough to curb any incline that either of us might have) but we don't live worrying and planning for the future.  I know that in today's portfolio-minded culture, we may seem odd but as the saying goes, "life is short and then you die."  My wife's father died when he was 53, which I will turning (God willing) in just six short years.  Why am I going to worry about what may or may not happen? 

The only thing we ever stress about is having the funds to continue to send our kids to parochial school, which for us is extremely important.  Although, I realize stress and anxiety show a lack of faith in God, sometimes in my humanity, I can't help it.  That said, once we have the tuition for the year covered, for me, everything else is gravy.

As for Fr. Barron and Midnight in Paris, which is the reason I started this blog, through the magic of Hollywood, Gil is transported back in time to the era he longed for and meets his writing heroes. But, what he finds is that like him, those that live in the 20's, are romanticizing and pining about a previous time in history.

In other words, at the risk of stealing some of Fr. Barron's thunder, his conclusion is that we should leave the past behind, stop worrying about the future and live for the "glory days" of today because this is the time we have been given, which is exactly what Woody Allen (coinciding with Christian teachers of the past, although probably unintentionally considering he's Jewish) is apparently trying to say with his movie...

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