Last night I watched Freedom Writers. It's strange to watch one's own greatest annoyance played out in a film. If I had a goal, it'd be to eradicate Ms. Gruwell (Hilary Swank) and to do away with that kind of person, the one who tells various people what can be and then demonstrates how it should be. That's a life of arrogance (and often times an accompanying condescension), the fulfilled life of the so-called 'idealist', because she ends up accomplishing her goal - that of shaping her world as she sees fit, regradless of anyhting or anyone which finds itself within that sphere. And she ignores everyone who tells her she may be wrong, instead insisting that it is they who are not in the right (there's that condescension I was typing about). But it was a different part of the movie that struck me in particular. It has to do with her relationship with her husband...poor guy (Patrick Dempsey...great hair though). I have noticed this theme repeated in various books and films. There's a dialogue between the two in the film that goes like this:
Dempsey: I just want to live my life- and not feel bad about it.It occurred to me that this dialogue is an exact replay of an extremely similar one in The Way We Were:
Swank: Well, I'm not trying to make you feel bad.
Dempsey: You don't have to try!
Swank: I didn't plan on becoming responsible for these kids...
Dempsey: Well, who asked you to?
Swank: No one asked me to-
Swank: Well, why do I have to be asked? [pause] I- finally realized what I'm supposed to be doing and I love it- When I help these kids make sense of their lives, everything about my life makes sense to me. How often does a person get that?
Dempsey: Then what do you need me for?
Swank: You're my husband. Why can't you stand by me and be part of it, the way wives support husbands?
Dempsey: Because I can't be your wife. [pause] I wish I could make that sound less awful. Erin, you know if you had to choose between us and a class- who would you pick?
Swank: If you loved me, how could you ever ask me that?
Dempsey: Erin, look at me- this is all there's ever been to me. This is it. I'm not one of those kids; I don't have any more potential. So you don't want to be here because if you did, wouldn't you be in the classroom every night?
Swank: That's not true- I want to be here; I love you.
Dempsey: You love the idea of me.
Swank: But it's such a great idea.
Dempsey: [softly] I know.
Streisand: There's something I want to ask you. [drinks a little] I hope this doesn't make me drunk; I want to sleep.So you see there is a theme. There is the underlying theme of the relationship between the so-called 'idealist' and her husband, or lover. And it is simply this; the so-called 'idealist' pushes the other person too hard, whether she does it deliberately or simply by the nature of who she is as a person is ultimately beside the point (although to imagine the person who does it deliberately to one they say they care for is to boggle the mind). The exact same idea is echoed in each of these exchanges. Dempsey tells Swank "You're in love with the idea of me," and she responds, "But it's such a great idea." Redford said the exact same thing when he explained, "Katie, you expect so much" and she said, "Oh, but look what I've got."
Redford: Don't drink it like water.
Streisand: Okay. It's because I'm not attractive enough, isn't it? I'm not fishing, really- I'm not. I know I'm attractive...sort of. But...I'm not attractive in the- I'm not attractive in the right way- am I. I mean...I don't have the right style- for you. Do I? Be my friend.
Redford: No. You don't have the right style.
Streisand: I'll change!
Redford: No, don't change. You're your own girl. You have your own style.
Streisand: But then I won't have you. Why can't I have you? Why?
Redford: Because you push too hard. Every damn minute! Look, we don't- there's no time to just relax and enjoy living. Everything's too serious to be so serious.
Streisand: If I push too hard, it's because I want things to be better. I want us to be better; I want you to be better. Sure, I make waves. You have to. And I'll keep making them until you're...every wonderful thing you should be and will be. You'll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much or love you as much.
Redford: I know that.
Streisand: Well then, why?
Redford: Do you think if I come back it's going to be okay by magic? What's going to be different? We'll both be wrong; we'll both lose.
Streisand: Couldn't we both win?
Redford: God, I- [pause] Oh, God, I- [pause] Katie, you expect so much.
Streisand: Oh, but look what I've got...
The tendency of a person is to look for where they can improve, but for the ways in which everyone around them can improve- how they can grow, become better, achieve their whole self? That is not something for them to decide. And generally this tendency is even self serving, because the idea is that a person is happier when he has achieved his whole self and everything that he might be and desires to be as prescribed that other individual. Such a person glows with confidence and pleasure in everything that he is told to be, so the thinking goes.
So, how can you expect Streisand or Swank not to be what they are, not to want to change the world and everyone around them as they see it, and bring that kind of joy and pleasure to everyone else?
The problem is that they cannot see when other people are already happy. Take Dempsey, for example, who is happy with his job and has no interest in the work required to go back to school in order to become an architect. That's because his attitude is that this is his chosen world that needs no additional tweaking, that's the way the world works best for him. It is what it is. This is the way things are. Relax and enjoy it. Because you don’t need to get anything else, and it's not worth the time if you’re content. That attitude kills the people who are around who are so-called 'idealists'. It rips apart the fabric of their world, a little at a time. Because to them, it appears as though you are choosing to remain unhappy, even though that is the farthest thing from the truth. And they just don't get why anyone would deliberately choose to remain a mere part of himself when he has the opportunity to be whole. They're in love with the idea of a person at his best as they see it, doing everything they want he should do. They're in love with their idea of a joyous person, a happy person, a fulfilled person. And damn right they're not going to take it when someone says that they already are, because that's the only thing they cling to in order to stay alive.
I think this is true, not merely of relationships with lovers, but of all relationships that a so-called 'idealist' has. The people who are around them are subjected to scrutiny, usually unintentional (so they say), or they feel like the idealist looks down on them, which is sadly often the truth. Some people look down on anybody. Some people are just perplexed, confused. Because how can you have the ability and opportunity to reach for something wonderful- and still deny it to yourself? Why won't you believe? How? Why? Because it's not a question of having anyone believing in you. You believe in you. You believe in all of us and in the good that is at our core, no matter how you may appear to lead your life.
I hate how some people talk to me, with their statements that suggest how everything should be, forever and ever. Every so often I fear that I'll start accepting the stress filled parameters of their world, the world which simply works a certain way and that I can't change, that place where things just are and it's my job to make it so, no matter how fair, unfair or unjust it is. That world where all I have to do is...do what they want. I have no intention of ever doing that, and with God's help, I never will. It is our job to see everything that our world could be, and to partner with God in making it more beautiful. It is our job to hope for the better and to look for the beauty in people. It is our job to forgive the unforgivable, to learn to see people, to stop cowering because they won't dare to believe that we already are the things we wish to be because we have put in the time and effort. And just because I haven't yet found the way to 'perfection', or whatever term one wishes to use for thier goal(s) in life, doesn't mean I can't, or that I won't...in my own way.
The thing that makes me sad is this idea found in the literature and the movies, that it's impossible to live with a force of nature. Because who wants to deal with someone who pushes too hard or who wants everyone to live up to an unnecessary standard? So yes, you can be extraordinary, or strive to be; just know that you may lose people along the way depending on how you go about it. And if you do not choose wisely it's going to hurt both you and them. And you're going to hate yourself for not being able to change enough, and wishing you could, while knowing you can't and people may hate you for the changes and wishes you try to force on others who don’t need them. But you won’t stop and consider their position…because that would hurt you more.