Denholm Elliott in the Merchant Ivory production of “A Room With a View” portrays one of my favorite wise characters. I love the scene at the pensione when he’s trying to convince two women unhappy with their accommodations to take his room which has a view.
“I don’t care what I see outside! My vision is within. Here is where the birds sing! Here is where the sky is blue!”
He is gesticulating with his dinner fork, poking himself in the heart all the while. Sometimes I need a good poke in the heart as well to wake up that inner vision. I find myself feeling bored and peevish, discontent with my fortune. Why a traffic ticket now? Why didn’t I get that early bird discount? What am I supposed to do with myself when it’s 95 degrees out, I’m wearing a tight corset, I’m at work, there are no visitors to talk to, and I’ve got no chores to do? Why am I feeling so stuck?!? Because I’m not taking responsibility and I’m not living from the inside out. I am waiting for the outside world to stimulate and satisfy me.
And the outside world would love to take over that job! There are a million things to distract and entertain and lead you from one external thing to the next. I spent 4 hours this morning at the Wisconsin State Fair, manning the Tourism booth in my 19th Century costume. A quick tour after my shift was all I needed to grab a lamb sandwich and some fresh roasted corn on the cob. I passed up all kinds of brightly colored, noisy stuff. I don’t need a chamois cloth or a giant roller coaster ride or chocolate covered bacon on a stick. They’re not really going to make me happy. I want to be satisfied from within, and I want that for my children. I tend to worry about their fortunes, too. How are they going to get a job? How are they going to pay off those student loans? How are they going to get around if their cars break down? I find myself getting anxious and peevish on their behalf, too. But really, more than catching a break, I want them to catch that inner vision. I want them to be able to be satisfied and happy and enthusiastic about life no matter what their outward circumstances show.
An inner life. Unassailable, regenerating, like solar energy that continues for millenniums. Do we even teach our children to cultivate that anymore? How are we supposed to have a moral compass if we don’t? How does a nation of outwardly motivated and distracted people develop a moral compass to guide their democratic process? I wonder about these things…..