Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Life and Times of Forrest Gump

It doesn't take a lot to get me all nostalgic and glazy eyed thinking and pondering about years past. Tonight it was watching Forrest Gump that got me. In 1994 I was 12 years old when I went with the family to see the academy award nominated film, old enough to get the plot, humor, and message of the story, and yet 14 years later it things I missed are now better understood or rather understood as only the passing of time can explain. Everything that happens in the film happens in the world before my time. A thirty year collection of snapshots and pop culture references to an America that I've only seen in books, on television, or in the stories of those who lived through it. It is because of this that we who were not a part of its making can only sympathize with the often bias or incomplete interpretations delivered to us by the mentioned sources. We'll never remember where we were when JFK was shot, when Armstrong walked to moon, or what any of the other iconic moments or periods of those distinct decades of the 50s, 60s, and 70s were truly like. Now that's not to say that history is dead, that we are not living through what will one day be regarded as pivotal , groundbreaking, or the distinguishing events of our time. But, there is a bitterness that lingers on the realization that that which was will never be a part of who we, the generation born after, are made from. Already, the effects of time can be seen as that which we 80s babies take for common knowledge is lost on the youth. They have no remembrance of a cold war, of the first Persian gulf war, or a world without Internet and cell phones. Even a mention of 9-11 is only a date in history books and brings no direct and personal emotional impact on those who were too young in the Fall of 2001 to remember it. Like Bob Seger's "Against the Wind" the march of time pushes our birth year farther into the past, laying ground for the new crop. And like the song and the film everyone is trying to find purpose and meaning to their meager 30,000 days in this world; to make it mean something, even if that means only to themselves.
But Gump, in his simpleness, found purpose and meaning without all the weight and burden a more developed mind might have bogged him down with. An illustrious college football career was followed by a tour to Vietnam, where at least three men, who would have died - some say needlessly - lived thanks to him. Upon returning home his peculiar talent of ping pong ball prowess allowed him to afford his first shrimp boat that later led to a multimillion dollar business, brought Bubba's family out of poverty through his generosity, and restored self worth and peace to the suicidal and bitter Lt. Dan. And who could forget the prodigal daughter Jenny? After years of sowing wild oats, she comes home to the one man who was constant and safe in her life. But sick with terminal illness she must leave behind her son with his father because she knows he'll be as good to little Forrest has he was to her. At her graveside, Forrest shares the simple and profound wisdom that the movie (book) are based on, "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, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time."
Like the feather that is the prologue and epilogue to the movie, seemingly carried on a wind without thought or reason Forrest has found his way into the lives of numerous people whose fates may have been drastically altered if not for a chain of seemingly random coincidences. I guess Sally Field really was right about life and that damned box of chocolates.
What I'm getting at, I can't say for certain. Maybe it's about the realization of divinity in our daily lives or service to our fellow man, or how we should stop and embrace the present because one day it, like the twentieth century and all her days, will be gone; and all the while, worry less about the future and regret less what has passed. For now I'd like to think that its about how it's OK not to have things figured out entirely and embrace that which beyond our control. But it's 1:00 AM now, so in the words of my esteemed subject of topic, "that's all I have to say about that."

1 comment:

The Madsen Family said...

Hey, Jess here. Happy to see you are downloading skype. We will be anxious to talk to you. Maybe this evening?? Justin and I agree we need more Grayson in our lives....