Friday, November 26, 2010

posties with boasties

"Posting a blog on anything is a big, loud, obnoxious, bragging yell out into a sea of faceless people you'd like to impress."  - Reed Herring

My friend Austin Herring is an actor and director. I mention this all the time; I suppose under the presumption that by telling you I become cooler by association. This is not, of course, the justification I usually give myself when I do it. To myself, I say that it is because Austin's next film project is a short called "Fork" that I wrote myself and that we are hoping will make it into the Cannes Film Festival; and that writing about Austin is basically just a way to help both his film career and mine... still shameless self-aggrandizement, yes, but now with vocational undertones.

What I have not yet told you about Austin is that he has an identical twin brother named Reed, who like me does a lot of writing for Austin and in fact wrote the script for "Unemployment" (currently post-production), a Sundance-bound film (fingers crossed) of which I am a producer. Reed also keeps a blog, an oft-neglected place where he semi-anonymously blathers on about non-film topics that interest him. His most consistent theme has been love, and just this week he posted a three-thousand-plus-word essay on how love doesn't boast, or "strut."

In it, he ironically, self-reflexively made the above-quoted observation on the arrogance of writing a blog. This sentiment reinforces Austin's side of an ongoing debate he and I have about what the primary motive force is behind the stupid things that people do. Austin says it's pride; I say it's fear.

When I first read his post, I had thought that Reed was cutting the legs out from under his brother's argument by admitting that the act of boasting comes from a fear of being thought less valuable. "We are fearful creatures," Reed writes, "We're scared that people will discover how wretched we really are. Boasting hides that. Boasting, as it turns out, isn't rooted in pride nearly as much as it's rooted in fear."

Ah-hah! Point for the Barkmeister, right? Except, I ran that one by Austin and he said that whereas I maintained that boasting was a manifestation of pride, which I defined as "a heart attitude/mental state in which a person believes him or herself to be superior to another person or group of persons," Reed made no such connection between boasting and pride. This, Austin figured, invalidated my conclusion that if the manifestation of pride (boasting) comes from fear, then it must mean that fear is the deeper motivating factor.

Now, given that Reed and Austin are twins, it is not exactly surprising that they would share an opinion. Nonetheless, I do feel a little ganged up on, now that Austin's genetic doppleganger has brought the fight into an arena that has hitherto been my domain; so I would like take this opportunity to say to both Austin and Reed that, yes, you are wrong. Horribly wrong. So there.

(Sometimes, in the absence of anything new to add to a debate, I just loudly repeat that the other side is stupid. It's the American way.)

The debate, therefore, rages on. Austin, as the admittedly infinitely more arrogant of the two of us, continues to stand behind his ridiculous proposition as I, the cowering, fear-filled ninny, continue to crouch, quivering, behind mine.

Although it is all in fun, I would like to pause and offer something of a truce by quoting something that Austin said to me last year. At the time, I was not particularly impressed with it, but in the past few months it has seemed to me to provide - if not a solution - then at least a resting place in the whole fear/pride debate. What he said was something like this: "Everybody is either a Christian or an Easterner or a Muslim... and most Christians are Muslims."

What I took that to mean was that the distinctive that Christianity has to offer (the only distinctive, in fact) is Grace. It is what makes Christ so friggin' amazing. All other religions (Islam included) believe that you have to do things (or actively not do things) to be in a positive relationship with/to the Divine. And while most "Christians" say they believe in Grace, the belief they evidence by their words and actions is that they will allow you a tawdry parody of Grace, but only after you do just these few things (things outlined clearly in these books they want to sell you), or say these few magic words they've hacked together out of the detritus of the Word of Grace they have just violated.

But Grace does not work that way! Grace is all or nothing. As Bono the Rockstar says, "Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff."

Amen to that.

So as Austin and I wrestle in our cynicism over why we do all of our own stupid stuff and why I write my arrogant, desperate blog posts; I believe we can rest somehow in a belief - or rather, faith - that Grace is enough... that no matter why we do it all (and do it, and do it, and do it) and how little we actually evidence our Grace-faith with our lives, we are loved by God nonetheless.

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