During the week I had a day in the big City (well, not that big, Cardiff) so a pal came and spent some time with my dogs. This pal is very married, by that I mean that she and her husband are at home all day every day, keeping each other company, so they’re not just ‘married’, they’re very inescapably and wonderfully ‘married’. She duly arrived and made a fuss of the dogs and sat cuddling Pip, with Pico at her feet (Percy ignored her, miffed) and after a while she made some lunch and sat at the table to eat it. Then it hit her. The truth of being single. She felt, suddenly and sharply, the reality of living alone, in a silent house, with no one else. She had, she told me afterwards, a brief but vivid understanding of a singleton’s life. The irrelevance and isolation of it. Fortunately she was just here for 5 hours so she’s back in the bosom of her family, but she reminded me of the image I had when my husband died so suddenly – I felt as if I was standing on the edge of a desert, no one in sight, no trees, no homes, no sense of another heart beating. The world I knew wiped out. When that happens, and it happens to many of us, we can either sit down and give up, or we can plant a few trees, make a few paths, build a hut, sing a song. Looking around, we’ll find a few seeds we didn’t know we had, and stuff left behind by other people, lessons learned in another life, there will be manna from heaven, just enough to get us through today. Manna from heaven, the Word of God. That’s what gets us through.
Well, it’s what gets me through. That and you, you bloggers. And friends. And dogs. And the sea, and the sky and an occasional jigsaw with an audio book playing. God is good and even when life is hard, we have all we need to get by. If you’re on the edge of desert right now, courage my little chum. There is manna for today. There is. And tomorrow will bring manna of its own.
‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ (James 1:17)
We celebrated a friend’s birthday yesterday, with a movie evening; a few weeks ago I downloaded the fabulous’Elvis’ movie, so last night we had hot dogs, popcorn, wine and ice creams. Correction – we had so much in the way of hotdogs, popcorn and wine that we didn’t manage any ice cream.
Have you seen the film? It’s very rare for any film to daze and dazzle me, but this one did. The script, the cast, the director, the set design, and especially – oh! especially – the editing are just excellent. We don’t often give the team in the edit suite the recognition they deserve, but surely this editor, Matt Villa, is on line for an Oscar.
There were three of us, silent and transfixed all the way through, and although I’d already watched it with one of my grand children, I was lost in it again, awed by the talent and skill. There’s Tom Hanks, playing a fat old man, wearing a fat suit and latex jowls, his teeth yellowed, his beady eyes darting here, there and everywhere, the greed oozing from his pores…. no longer Tom Hanks! He becomes the self styled ‘Colonel Parker’. What a talent. And now we are no longer earth bound, we are in a Ferris wheel, in an almost-but-not-quite fantastic scene, a sequence of heightened reality, engaging and poignant and honest. Wowser!
And at the end, the person who never cries at sad endings (me), who can never quite step into the drama, who can’t help but see the workings of the scene and wonder why this was done or that was not done… I was completely absorbed, heart broken, totally present. Stunned.
Do watch it, if you get the chance. It’s more than a tribute to creative talent, it’s a supreme display of it. It says something important, showing the vulnerability of a gifted person and the greed of the world, nailing the truth that for every talented person there’s a huge cost, and an inescapable responsibility. And the songs will send you spinning back through the years to Rock’n’Roll and cowlicks and sideburns, and great old American cars, and even Mahalia Jackson and B.B. King. Fabulous.
Talent is a gift. We either have it or we don’t. But what we do with it is our decision. It can be nurtured or it can be neglected. It can raise us up to great heights and it can dash us down to the lowest depths. To nurture a talent demands hard work and commitment and a degree of sacrifice. That’s a truism, I think, something we all know, but need occasionally to remember. Sophocles likened the male sex drive to being chained to ‘a frantic and savage master’ and sometimes being talented can feel a bit like that. Just a bit. A dear friend, a fellow writer, is in the grip of her writing talent and there she is at midnight, banging out the latest draft. In the morning she’s researching. Her script is in her head, her internal world is rowdy with characters, her thoughts prowl around them constantly. How will she show this aspect of life? How will she lift the mood, darken the mood, reveal a truth, drive the drama through… She’s driven and desperate and full of energy and exhaustion and frustration and self-doubt and sheer bloody TALENT. And it costs her. Of course it does.
A creative talent is a gift from God. Yes, it may seem like being chained to a mad man sometimes, or being strapped in the most terrifying fairground ride the world has ever known, but it is also, at a very basic and nurturing level, our greatest joy. If God has gives us a talent and we deny it, there’s trouble ahead, simply because we’ll be unsatisfied, bored, and eventually depressed. And, listen – used well, our talent may even glorify God! Wouldn’t that be fab?
Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)