There’s a trope in movies that we could all use: The learning montage. You lack a skill. You need to prepare. You are working for a goal. No one wants to watch anything resembling a realtime series of growth or progress, so the montage is utilized.
We all wish we had the montage in life. It shows all that growth and progress without all the slow drudgery of work. For every rabbi, a montage of high holiday prep would likely show clips of surfing the web, folding laundry, pulling books off of shelves, some staring into space, and then a shot of inspiration and a couple quick images of typing furiously before standing on the pulpit in triumph. Writing isn’t as compelling as training to fight to Apollo Creed.
Learning comes slowly. In the movies a scene of failure need only a scene of success to show true learning. My favorite example of this is French Toast. In the Academy Away Best Picture Winner of 1979, Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman’s wife Meryl Streep has left him and their young son. He is tasked with making him breakfast and the boy wants French Toast. He complies, but is completely unable to do so as he pushes how much his miserable young son is having with dad in the kitchen making Folded French Toast. By the end of the film, Dustin Hoffman has embraced his parenting role with energy and father and son share a silent, but successful breakfast making beautiful french toast. (Skip to 1:55 in the clip for the French Toast and to also to avoid a scene that will have you crying).
Again, if only life were the movies. We have far more failure on our road to learning from our past or gaining new skills. We have much more slow, ponderous work to reach our goals. The movies inspire. But to learn in real life we get neither a montage nor a simple one-shot of failure and success. The end result is still this good.
#BlogElul is the brainchild of @imabima who blogs at imabima.blogspot.com. For the 30 days of Elul, the spiritual preparation before the Jewish High Holy Days, many Jews will be reflecting on the themes of the season. My posts will all be through the lens of movies. You can see all the themes in the graphic. Follow all the other excellent postings through Twitter at #BlogElul along with related items #Elulgram and #PopCultureElul.