Grace and Nature
Weather: 47º F, cloudy, drizzly.
The first time I saw Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, it was the Fourth of July, 2011. At the time I was living in Jon's family's house in Dyker Heights. Late that night we drove to Sunshine Cinemas to see it play with Reed. Cars were parked along the BQE under the Brooklyn promenade overhang as fireworks exploded over the East River. We didn't pay much attention.
I spoke to my friend Grace on Friday. One point in our conversation reminded me of a memorable monologue from the film. Jessica Chastain's character tells us:
There are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.
Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.
The quote brings to my mind the focus of the individual, and how it relates to the focus of a community.
The individual's focus is on themself. "How do I get my food? I must establish their safe boundaries from others, so they don't take from me. I have what I have and I call it my own. Get your own." The individual takes from others for themself. So is the experience of the individual, and that of nature.
The community considers others first. "How are you feeling? Are you doing okay? I'm sorry you're experiencing that. How can I help? Here, take this pasta. I made it for you." The community gives to others for the good of the group. So is the experience of the community, and that of grace.
A long-question on my mind of late has been: how to you balance your individual with your community?
I disagree with the statement in the monologue "you have to choose [to follow either grace or nature]," and encourage you to question it as well.