“Being smart about life leads us down a superior but narrow road of self-deception.” — Thomas Moore
I bet you missed it.
This year’s Oscar-award winning animated short, “The Lost Thing” by Shaun Tan, is a marvelously envisioned parable of redemption. I recommend it.
During his acceptance speech, Tan said “Our film is about a creature that nobody pays any attention to, so this is wonderfully ironic.” How true … the irony of misplaced redemption.
Misplaced you ask? How can redemption be misplaced? Well, in exactly the same way that self-determination can misplace one’s conscience. We sometimes forget where we put it. We need to be reminded that it’s right HERE … inside us … all the time.
Let me give you an example: Carl has a two-year old son, Simon. Like all two-year olds, Simon is exuberant and playful … and often a distraction. Simon demands attention just when Carl seems least able to give it. And besides … what’s more important? The reciprocity of work — with money, power, and prestige? – or the reciprocity of a child — who is needy, potentially unruly, and uninterested in what we are MOST interested in?
So ask yourself: what offers you the most satisfaction? Attending to your vulnerability or someone else’s? Now you see? Conscience really can be misplaced by the folly of self-determination. Once the hard shell of self-determination is fixed — we hide the softer and gentler parts which offer us conscience. We lose our ability to connect.
So going back to the animated short … try to remember: this is movie about a creature … a “thing” that is alive and inquisitive — and at the same time, lost. Inexplicably lost.
During the course of the movie — a little boy — finds the lost thing on a beach, befriends it by taking it with him, and he returns it to its rightful place. He returns the lost thing to its home.
And here, my pronouns … well … they become … difficult. “The Lost Thing” is an octopus-like creature that lives inside what, at first, seems to be a rusted out bomb. You know, those spiky, spherical bombs that float? Just waiting to be touched.
And this particular bomb just happens to wash up … with the lost thing, who lives hermit-like inside. Dangerous but benign. And what’s more, the lost thing is alive and inquisitive about itself and about its world — so this PARTICULAR “lost thing” isn’t really isn’t an “it” — but it’s not really a “he” or she” either.
Why should “THIS Lost Thing” be lost ??? If it possesses that much curiosity and aliveness, then surely, it must know itself. Yet, pretty much everyone — except the little boy — simply ignores the lost thing – as if it doesn’t exist.
In the universe of the film — there are two worlds — the visually playful and inquisitive world of lost things (and we see thousands of them) and the other more distracted world of life as we live it. Harried, rushed, and bored.
And, in the real world … a lot of things don’t matter. So, it’s not all that hard to understand … beautiful and unique “things” get lost … someone must stand up, or else they never will find their way home, back to where they belong.
Redemption really can be misplaced. Psychologically and spiritually – if we never pay attention.
So what happened then?… to Carl and Simon …
Well, Carl decided not to be so self-determining. He found a way put aside the armor of what he was interested in. And then, he invited himself into the moment – like that newly found creature — alive and inquisitive.
Conscience, as the folly of self-determination, absolutely requires redemption – the return to our original state, back to the place from which we started.
So … let’s not misplace our redemption. We carry it around with us all the time. Just like a hermit.
Thomas Moore wrote: “Being smart about life leads us down a superior but narrow road of self-deception.”
I guess it’s too much to ask — to see that “superior” place — has being both alive and inquisitive.
Thanks for listening!