My First Things column today is one of those odd ones that began at about 3AM as I was lying sleepless after a busy Christmas Day. I was all keyed up — I suspect I’d had too much coffee, too — and part of the Midnight Mass was racing through my head, and then a moment from a favorite film slipped in there. You know the brain skips from one reference to another. And the title came to me, so I just got up and wrote it.
And sometimes…well, it’s something like this:
I found an unusual-looking fellow performing an obnoxious dance, complete with lewd pantomime. His audience consisted of two unimpressed record-shop clerks, and when the dance abruptly ended a conversation ensued about life and music and the consequences of sullen attitudes and selfish behavior. The actors were Jack Black, John Cusack, and Todd Louiso, the film was a fairly faithful representation of Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel High Fidelity, and happening on the movie at precisely that instant was a moment of revelation. There was a freshness and energy to Black’s no-holds-barred performance and Cusack’s fourth-wall-breaking and self-obsessed monologues. After enjoying a few repeat viewings, an expectation formed: I wanted to see more work by these unexpectedly charming, gifted performers.
It didn’t last long. The actor’s subsequent projects were mostly tedious. High Fidelity had been interesting, but the performers—undeniably talented though they were—could not themselves sustain that elusive sense of freshness and depth that makes one want to keep seeking something out, keep chasing its mystery, keep refreshing one’s sense of wonder at seemingly boundless potentialities. A small thing that had seemed full of promise proved to be simply a moment, passing; it left no contrail against the empty-and-the-void.
You’ll have to read the rest to see if you like it. It does not end where it begins.
UPDATE: Over at Facebook, Father Steve Grunow says it better than I can:
Our physical senses are so saturated by the ephemeral that the spiritual senses are rendered numb or remain so underdeveloped that we can scarcely appreciate the character of revelation as it makes itself known- but grace will sometimes allow us to see and understand.
Read his excellent piece on the Crib and the Cross. We’re still thick in the mystery and revelation of Christmas!