Friday, August 19, 2011

Anne Lamott on LATCHO DROM

"But oh, the old women dancing: the old women who shine with the incredible stirring of spirit that has kept them lit over the years, even though the winds howl all around them."

Anne Lamott says her two best prayers are "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Sometimes one leads to the other.

One time in particular, the answer to the first and the route to the second was a movie. In love with a man and suddenly, desperately self-conscious, she found herself loathing the face and body that are the legacy of four hard-lived decades on this planet. "Even though both feminism and Christianity have taught me that I am my spirit, my heart, all that I have survived over the years and all that I have given, still a funny thing happened after I started liking this guy: I looked in the mirror, and sighed, and thought to myself, I will cut my eyes out."

The still, small voice prevailed – "this little-kid voice, this Tweety-bird voice" – and she asked God for "a little help with this stupidity." And what do you know, iInside ten minutes, friends called and she was on her way to see Latcho Drom, a film about gypsies, without dialogue, filled with dancing and singing and... Faces.
"The gypsies are all born old. The men are dashingly homely, as if cars have ridden over their faces. The young girls are beautiful beyond words, and the oldest women dance. But the middle-aged mothers look just like me and my friends – tired, baggy, in need of some repair."

She doesn't want to see this movie, but it begins to draw her in, to lift her up out of whatever it was she had been sinking down into. And as the old women dance, and she feels "the rush of the life force" inside them, inside her, she begins to se them – and possible, potentially, herself? – as the younger gypsies see them: "absolutely beautiful, visibly beautiful, like movie stars."

"Gypsies" is a piece of movie writing you really must read. Just as the book it comes from, Traveling Mercies, is a work of spiritual biography you really must spend some time with. Lamott is a gifted story-teller, an acute observer, a dazzling and hilarious stylist: coming to faith later in life after an intentionally non-Christian, countercultural upbringing (not that authentic Christianity isn't countercultural, but you know what I mean) and a prodigal young adulthood, the fresh wildness of her faith is breath-taking. Just as Aslan is not a tame lion, Anne is certainly not a tame Christian.

It's no surprise to me that God would use a sensual, soulful film like Latcho Drom to speak grace into the heart of this woman: a film that's not religious in any conventional sense, that's about bodies and faces, about soul and the spirit of a people, without being in any way about spiritual things. Jesus can make wine from any water – it's astounding to see what He can concoct from such a heady brew as this!

"Coming out of the movie that night, I realized that I want what the crones have: time for all those long deep breaths, time to watch more closely, time to learn to enjoy what I've always been afraid of – the sag and the invisibility, the ease of understanding that life is not about doing. The crones understand this, and it gives them all kinds of time – time to get much less done, time for all these holy moments."

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