Man on Fire

The summer is finally here. My days are free, and the sun is firing heat-rays like it means it. So I put on a cheap, ratty cotton t-shirt and some jeans that I really need to wash and headed down to Rosauer’s to buy myself a can of DP- the nectar of the gods.


I’m starting the story in the wrong place. The story begins with waking up at just before noon and praying my roommate gets out of the shower, because I had way too much soda last night. Then it continued with my finishing the rest of Man on Fire. Life lesson: Do not kidnap Dakota Fanning.


I decided to go to Rosauer’s barefoot. The roadway is not horribly gravelly, nor is the offroad path I took later on. But my feet are tender, American, scholarly feet. They winced with every pebble, and I laughed mercilessly and kept on walking. I wish I had real feet, jungle feet, with calluses. I want feet like Mowgli. And an accent like Hugh Grant. Definitely an accent like Hugh Grant. Hello, ladies.


Man on Fire is really dark, gritty, and good. And somewhere in there, they start putting a value on a human life. As the story winds on to the finish, and it does wind, I realized that they not only gave human life a price, but that they were willing to pay it. What did that mean?


Summer may be the most valuable season in my life. All my best memories come out of there. I ran into friends today, earlier, between the movie and the soda run. It was startling to realize that, even if I managed forty hours a week at work, I would still have time to hang out with them.


Back to the movie. I’ve been thinking about movie structures a fair amount lately. Basically, most movies have three acts: the first act sets up the characters, relationships, and settings; the second act puts them through all sorts of wild adventures; and the third act ties it all together in a fantastic conclusion. Man on Fire put a price on that first act: people, relationships, and settings.

The funny thing about the sacredness of lives and relationships, is that they’re not abstract. In that movie, the girl did certain things that tells us her relationship to her family. Denzel Washington responded in certain ways that tells us how he values those things.


As I was walking to Rosauer’s, I saw a dad playing with his child in a kiddie pool. He was acting like a little kid, making funny noises, playing games, splashing. That right there is valuable. C. S. Lewis said once, and someone repeated to me several times as school was winding down, that we are all immortal. All these countries and fashions and languages and trends will pass away, but we will go to God or be hidden from God and remain forever. That man was doing something  so ridiculous it made me laugh, and so sacred that the acts of all the mythical gods and heroes would pale in comparison.


Man on Fire was a good start to the summer. It put things in perspective. Friends, family, those sorts of relationships, those are important. Obama getting thrashed, however delightful to my conservative heart, is not.


There was a car parked by the soda machine, blaring rap as a man got out to get his soda. I said hi to the total stranger, then got mine. I turned, strutted past to the rhythm of the beat, popped that coke open like a commercial, and guzzled like I meant it.

As the afternoon winds on, an owl is hooting in the distance. In a week I will be home and add the cry of the peacock to the ambiance. The trees around me are green, the lawns are overgrown, and it’s hotter outside than that first blast from an opening oven. My friends are doing stuff. I will join them, and we will act like adults—which is to say, like six year olds with driver’s licenses and enough cash to buy that extra bag of candy. We will be ridiculous, and we will be sacred. Welcome to the summer. Welcome to the world. Welcome to life.


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