Tuesday, February 26, 2019

True Detective Season 3 - Love can transcend suffering if we let it.

My reflection on True Detective Season 3

First a short recap of seasons 1 and 2 –
Season One was groundbreaking for its style and that it was a television series with famous movie stars. (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) I found it more quirky and new for TV, then good, but I enjoyed Matthew McConaughey’s character philosophical diatribes and the question of good and evil. (always a favorite topic of mine)

Season 2 starred Vince Vaughn and Collin Ferrell. Critics generally panned season 2. I liked it. It was less subtle and more over the top, but it was also more real and relevant in many ways and focused on the theme of fatherhood and its different meanings, and how it impacts men. It also has the theme of bad guy trying to change for good and being  drawn back into old life. This is also a favorite theme of mine as well.  

Actually looking at all three seasons here, it is more obvious that the writers are clearly focused on men and the role of masculinity in society. Maybe because I am a man, and father of two men, I found this more interesting. However there is very little focus on women or major roles for women.
Also, whereas Season 2 focused on big city corruption and challenges, as in Season 1, season 3 brings us a fairly negative view of rural living. (Isolation, alcoholism, limited opportunities, corruption, back room deals, etc.) I have no idea of its accuracy, since I have never lived in a rural community, but it mostly focused on the negative, and not much positive.

Season 3 starred Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorf as Detectives investigating the disappearance of two children. It uses flash forwards and covers 3 time periods of time in the life of the detectives and the case. I admit at times it was hard to determine between the first two time periods and the only way I could was by the growth of Stephen Dorf’s beard and his balding hair.  
The show also includes the challenges of the detective and his family when he starts developing dementia in his old age and is trying to remember the case and just forgets how or why he is somewhere.  I appreciated this often neglected topic being an ongoing part of the show.    
Overall I liked the season. The fact that it moved me to write something about it, is a testament to it..  Everything wrapped up very quickly in the second half of the last episode, with a few twists and turns, and a feel good ending. It was logical and made sense, but it felt unsatisfying. Sort of here are the answers to all your questions now. One quip is that again, although the show did have a strong female character, (her research writing a book about the case actually helped her husband solve the case). However she was used mostly as a counterpoint to Mahershala Ali’s character and I didn’t feel she was focused on enough.  Also her death is never explained and she is not part of the show in the later time period and becomes invisible and in fact is only seen as a ghost during that time period. Also Ali’s daughter only shows up in the last 5 minutes of the last episode and it is clear throughout the show they had a strained relationship. He asked her at the end “Did I lose you?” His son stayed in town and took care of Ali. Again, women disappear, men stay and take care of things. It is a terrible message but it is part of a cultural narrative about how men are made to feel they should be.   
The show also did have a focus on the difficulties men have in relationships. How men keep their feelings internalized, and how that leads to a very lonely life. Even Mahershala Ali’s character, who we see developing a better understanding of himself through his interaction with and the deepening relationship with his wife, in the end, at the end of his life, is alone in the jungle in Vietnam. This metaphor of his being alone is used throughout the movie. His struggle to share his feelings or information, in his mind as a way to protect his wife, but really it is protecting himself from his own pain, or in his mind maybe protecting her from his pain. But in the end they decide to let go of the past, and start anew, living in a way that is not tied to the past and true to themselves. We see a glimpse that this happened, but in the end after his wife’s death, he I drawn back to his memory of this unresolved case. The theme of closing off the memory of our emotions and the pain it causes is an ongoing theme. The father of the children, says in the second time frame “Whatever it takes to stop feeling. I mean, there's no point. Ain't nobody left to feel anything for.” And Stephen Dorf’s character seems to show only immense feelings for his dogs.
 We all suffer in our lives, and the message here is that if we don’t acknowledge our suffering it will become self destructive or destructive.
 The show also touches on the redemption theme or in this case lack of redemption.  The detectives in their pursuit of the truth did a terrible deed. This negatively affected their relationship for years, until the passing of time, and memory, brought them back together. Ali’s character, in the end just as he is about to solve the case, has a bout with his dementia and never realizes he may have solved it.  
The people involved in the disappearance of (and murder of one of) the children as well suffered. One of them tried to redeem himself for his actions, but was unsuccessful. He searched to find the truth and was left unfulfilled.  At the end when confronted he said, “I cant take it anymore. Kill me or arrest me. I cant live with it anymore” The detectives let him live with his pain.  The silence of keeping secrets destroys us.
The lines of the poem read (see poem below) at the beginning of the last show were haunting for me:
“What am i now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again
Time is the school in which we learn 
Time is the fire in which we burn:”
The story shows that people can transcend their trauma if they are intentional. It also asks the question and makes the point that we often fall into the same traps that we make for ourselves. And in some cases by the time we learn and grow, it is too late to always appreciate the learning. It was (and as I look back on the series) it is a little depressing, only because I see some truth in it. it is a reminder to me to be intentional and to be open about my feelings and to appreciate or at least be present to every single moment of every single day, because we don’t know when it will end. We don’t every really forget until we do. So let us use our memories and learn from them. And move forward in our lives. We sometimes make terrible choices. We cant change them and their outcomes,  but we can learn to make better choices going forward.  We never really know the outcome of our actions before we do them, and as Ali’s character says “You do your best and you learn to live with the ambiguity”
So I know this all sounds dark, But the lasting message is that we can transcend our challenges and that it is Love that helps us transcend that challenge. I cant say much more without giving spoilers.
The opening of the season 3 finale of True Detective were an excerpt from the poem 
“Calmly We Walk Through This April Day” by Delmore Schwartz.
“What will become of you and me
Beside the photo and the memory

This is the school in which we learn
That time is the fire in which we burn 
What is the self amid this blaze
What am i now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again
The children shouting are bright as they run
This is the school in which they learn
What am I now that I was then
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day
Time is the school in which we learn 
Time is the fire in which we burn”

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

End the dictatorship.

This is some semblance of what I said at the "National Emergency Protest" Rally
I am Rev. Jay Wolin, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and chair of the Quad Cities Interfaith Restorative Justice Task Force. 
We have gathered here tonight in response to the President’s declaring a national emergency. Something we know is not an emergency,
something the president has himself said is not an emergency.
It is a self indulgent craven political move to act as a dictator rather then as a President.
There comes a time in history,
when we have to call out evil acts for what they are. There are  not good people on both sides of this argument.
On the one side you have The President unabashed lying and appealing to fear and racism currently being enabled by Republicans in the Senate.
I call that evil, I call it evil, because the outcome of that appeal, leads to suffering, to separating families and imprisoning children.
On the other side are people of good conscience. People who appeal to  compassion and love and justice. 
The question is what are the good people going to do?
We come together tonight find support amongst ourselves, to raise awareness of this injustice.  
But if that is all we do, then we are no better then the Germans who allowed their neighbors to be led to the gas chambers.
We are no better then the Americans  who allowed Japanese American neighbors to have their land stolen and put in camps during WWII,
and the truth is, we are no better because today we allow children to be locked in cages on our southern border.
It is not enough to be kind.
It is not enough to come to a rally.
We have to take action.
We have to organize,
we have to run for office,
we have to vote, Go to city council meetings,
go to school board meetings
make our voices heard, and if they don’t listen
we have to close the city down if necessary,
close this country down if necessary
until this evil is banished from this land. 
There comes a time when good people must make a stand and some times it takes a sacrifice on all our parts.
Now is such a time.  Now is the tipping point.
There is an old saying the most committed wins.
If we do nothing, evil will win. What will you do. There are many good organizations sponsoring this event tonight, Quad Cities Interfaith is having their task force meetings tomorrow night and I personally invite you to attend, but more so,
I ask you when you go home tonight to ask you conscience, to ask whatever God you pray to,
what are you going to do to end the evil acts of the Oligarchic Dictatorship that is currently running this country.
The future of our country is at stake.
The future for our children is at stake.
Now is the time.
If we wait much longer it will be too late.
Now is the time.  
Let me hear you say it.
Now is the time
Let us not falter in our duty to ourselves, 
To our families
To our community
To our country