How to Rise

Screw Rudy and George and the pile of burning metal they rode into myth on:

The problem with this movie isn’t so much that Rudy was shitty and then wasn’t. It’s that anyone on earth can show up in a crisis and we think that proves anything at all.

Think about it. Think about an actual crisis. Yes, shit is on fire, but you have something discrete to do. Your job is to stand in front of the cameras and calm everybody down. Approve things someone else has thought of. Say yes and no. You can be calm in that, when everybody’s watching.

But the next day? And the next? And the next? The days after, or before, all eyes are on you? When there’s no galvanizing event, when there’s no movie playing in your head complete with inspiring soundtrack? Can you show up then?

Can you do it when nobody’s watching? When nobody’s taking pictures? Can you do it when you know nobody’s ever gonna throw you a parade?

It’s not even about “in adversity,” because adversity, too, is grounding and centering and motivating. When they’re throwing rotten fruit at you you can laugh and duck and give them the finger. Can you work for others when your work is ignored? When the response to your almost killing yourself is, at most, a shrug?

That’s the test. The hard, grinding, everyday bullshit of working for the common good, that’s the prize.

W. stood on the debris pile and yelled into a microphone and the whole country listened. Rudy held everyone in his hands and said the death toll may be more than we can bear. It’s hard to remember those moments honestly now because shortly thereafter everybody lost their whole entire minds, but in those moments they were needed, these two clown princes of public life, and they did a job.

They did a job and did it well. But it wasn’t THE job, and the problem with a redemption story is that it ends, redeemed. We get so angry and disappointed with our leaders and our lives because nothing is like that, nothing at all.

What is the story if it’s just getting up every single day and making the coffee? Where’s the soundtrack for that? For the long walk home after you cross the finish line, for the stretch and the laundry and the dinner the next night? What if you were judged by the public not on how high you rise in the moment but on where you settle down, at the close of the day, when you’re bone tired and all you want to do is sleep?

What if we judged based on what you did then? What would that look like? Just you, alone in the dark, working on something that nobody cares about, sanding it down and making it fine and true. No one will ever see it. No one will properly appreciate it. No one will even know.

Do you do the job then?

That’s your fucking Capra film.


3 thoughts on “How to Rise

  1. This reminds me of a poem:

    The Abnormal Is Not Courage – Poem by Jack Gilbert

    The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German
    Tanks on horses. Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers,
    A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace.
    And yet this poem would lessen that day. Question
    The bravery. Say it’s not courage. Call it a passion.
    Would say courage isn’t that. Not at its best.
    It was impossible, and with form. They rode in sunlight,
    Were mangled. But I say courage is not the abnormal.
    Not the marvelous act. Not Macbeth with fine speeches.
    The worthless can manage in public, or for the moment.
    It is too near the whore’s heart: the bounty of impulse,
    And the failure to sustain even small kindness.
    Not the marvelous act, but the evident conclusion of being.
    Not strangeness, but a leap forward of the same quality.
    Accomplishment. The even loyalty. But fresh.
    Not the Prodigal Son, nor Faustus. But Penelope.
    The thing steady and clear. Then the crescendo.
    The real form. The culmination. And the exceeding.
    Not the surprise. The amazed understanding. The marriage,
    Not the month’s rapture. Not the exception. The beauty
    That is of many days. Steady and clear.
    It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.

    Jack Gilbert

  2. What if the fucking Capra film wasn’t that you had to have some kind of fund driver (cuz that’s what it is) to fight the forces of Capitalism? (Which CHEATS … Capra makes that very clear). But NOTHING … NOTHING has changed since 1946 & in fact … it’s gotten much worse.

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