Sunday, October 29, 2006

Point of Departure

The opening lines to the movie The Departed are given to Jack Nicholson. It’s something along the order of “I don’t want to be a product of my environment; I want the environment to be a product of me.”
Watching the movie I am given the impression the viewer is expected to absorb the message in a sinister manner. I got hung up on these lines. Given that these are the first spoken words of the movie meant I lost my place a couple of times as I mulled the thought through.
Somewhere in the front third of the movie came another honey of a line. Replying to another actor that has stated that he feels like he is dying, Nicholson deadpans “We all are, act accordingly.”
Now I have two memorable lines running through my brain and my concentration on the movie began to develop slow leaks. I’m betting the director and writers were not expecting the audience might get hung up on contemplation over a couple of lines, but they are memorable lines aren’t they?
Can this first remarkable phrase about the environment be considered sinister? The actions, thoughts and behavior of Hitler or Bin Laden could prove this case in my reasoning. Could it be used in white ways? It sounds like the working philosophy of Jesus, Gandhi or Mother Teresa as well. This is truly a double edged sword of a phrase.
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment; I want the environment to be a product of me.” We could all spend some time with that phrase. I thank the writers of The Departed for sharing it with me. Maybe it has an historical origin and my lack of literacy limits me having known this phrase before.
The second line that confirms we are all dying and therefore should ‘act accordingly’ carries equal paradox to the careful listener. We can turn that phrase inside out and re-write it as “We are all living, act accordingly” and then we might still wonder if we have the same meaning in place?
The movie itself is a twisting tale of violence and double-cross, the sort of Hollywood brew that turns back on itself so many times it is easy to get lost. There are lots of bullets through brains and folks leaving life in violent and improbable ways. And of course the main characters are inevitably united in a mano v mano scene where all other cops and criminals are mysteriously absent even though the scene began with their presence.
I’m taking away these two memorable lines to work with:
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment; I want the environment to be a product of me.”….and….“We all are, act accordingly” in reference to dying.
For some reason I am reminded of another very memorable line given to Nicholson in the movie Chinatown. The principal actress in the movie telephones Nicholson and asks him if he is alone….the reply from Nicholson was “Aren’t we all?”
These are three remarkable phrases to think about on Monday. I’m twisting them inside out and standing them upside down. I’m going to shake their pockets toward gravity later. I want to see if I can get a little more out of them.

For now, TTYL.


Enemy of the Republic said...

I'm in the middle of work, or else I'd give this post more analysis as it deserves--I'll come back. But for now, what do those letters you used at the end mean?

Seven said...

'Talk To You Later'

Anonymous said...

I’m of the opinion that we are one with our environment, but we fail to understand that and learn to work with it rather than against it. If one understands that concept, then I believe we do act accordingly. The choice I opt for is to flow with and to be part of the environment that I create. Something of a paradox, perhaps?
But “alone”? No, we are all connected whether or not we chose to operate with that premise, to interact with others. I think that every action taken by any person has the effect of a pebble dropped into the still water, causing ripples well beyond the perception of the human senses. The hermit may isolate physically, but cannot stop the thoughts about others which precipitated the isolation. He is, therefore, still connected, albeit negatively, and is not alone.
“We all are (dying/living), act accordingly.” This sounds to me like the glass half-empty/half-full argument. It’s a matter of choice with me. I have chosen to to live life as if there were no other possibility. I don’t know that I can explain it at this particular juncture of my journey, because the words don’t seem to be there; I just know that much of my life has had that “dying” feeling, and I don’t want to be there again. What I have accomplished in the past 18 months couldn’t have been possible if I believed that I should act according to my impending death. I wouldn’t be in New Mexico today if that were the case. Perhaps I’m being a pollyanna. But I intend to enjoy the rest of my life as fully as possible, and that means I must believe and act as if I’m living . . . and living big.

Ilias- said...

Love the phrases, pal. More than the phrases, I love your last three lines of your post.

I’m twisting them inside out and standing them upside down. I’m going to shake their pockets toward gravity later. I want to see if I can get a little more out of them.

Sounds like pure Seven. :^) And I like it. Happy Monday.

patti_cake said...

I totally disagree with the "we are all dying.. act accordingly" thought.
I want to shake thigs up, live!
No, i'm afraid i'm not very deep this morning. Rather shallow in this pool today.

Reach said...

The nice part of taking so meaningful away from the movie, you can watch it again and see a different film. I am certain you have touched the writers, as they have produce so much thought with only one line- let alone two.

Your awareness always affords my opportunity to widen horizons- Thank you


Enemy of the Republic said...

I really want to see that movie. It fascinates me--the shifting of identities; how does that transfer into self? It's something I wonder about actors--how do they "forget" their character, particularly the masters like Daniel Day Lewis and Robert De Niro who become that person. I've seen Chinatown, but I know I missed something essential in it: people I respect hold that film as their ten best--they quote from it, but I didn't see much. Anyway, as usual you make me think, which is one reason I like it here so much.

Rob said...

7, them's powerful words. For those who have the will and drive do manage to change their enviornmnet rather than be a product of it. However, all of those independent, disparate motivations seem to put the environment in a stalemate position. I think the net effect is we become products of that push and pull and act accordingly depending on our perception of death's beckoning. You've probably heard the saying that we start dying from the moment of birth, and there is some truth to that. Life is a struggle from there on out and death eventually wins. How we manage to avoid that final moment along the way is a legacy to which we should be either proud or pitied. The environment will absorb how we affect it, but will be a better place?

Enemy of the Republic said...


I want to thank you for all the great comments you've been leaving on my page. They are greatly appreciated. I also want to think on your remark, Rob. Offhand, I can't think of anything good, but I wish you'd start a blog so I could read more of your excellent insights.