A Higher Love

Sam Shephard’s death prompted me to think about Terrence Malick, who directed Days of Heaven, which featured Shephard. I had not heard of any films by Malick since his The Tree of Life (2011), which I loved, as I have all of his films. That thought led me to imdb.com, where I discovered that Malick has recently made To the Wonder (2012), Knight of Cups (2015), and Song to Song (2017), all of which received fairly weak reviews. Roger Ebert, however, in the last movie review he ever filed, gave it more than three out of four stars. I agree with Ebert.

The film, which is pure Malick with its hypnotic cinematography and music, reminded me of the book Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Thinking), which my sister gave me for my birthday. Edited by Peter Vernezze and Carl J. Porter, the book consists of sixteen essays by various philosophers. The lead essay is “Planet Waves: Dylan’s Symposium” by Doug Anderson.

Anderson posits that Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves, as did Plato’s dialog “Symposium,” explores

what love means, [with] each song manifesting a different possibility…. The Symposium’s story of love [also] develops from basic descriptions of human physical attraction to accounts of more spiritual and intellectual attraction…. Dylan sings of a similar sort of ascension….

As do Plato and Socrates, Dylan must abandon other relationships when they interfere with his one true love. This sounds callous to the champions of agape and traditional marriage, who want to portray the commitment to poetic creation as selfish. That strikes me as “sour grapes” at best. Notice that we seem willing to accept the celibacy of those who “marry” God, but we want to denigrate those who are wedded to realizing beauty and truth….

Music, poetry, and philosophy are not the useless practices that guidance counselors tell us they are; they are the divine gifts of those who love in the highest way possible….

Malick’s film, which features a priest who struggles with his faith, addresses the same issue: the quest for a higher love. Lord knows I’ve fallen short, but I share that pursuit. That’s why in “Reflections On My 73rd Birthday,” I said “humanity is my family” and “my true love is truth, justice, and beauty,” which “will always be my my side.”

So I plan to watch Malick’s two more recent films as well, even though they received even weaker reviews. I sense he’s a soul mate who will in-trance and inspire me once again.

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