Inexplicably, I only watched the movie Dazed and Confused recently on the recommendation of my brother. Inexplicably, because I love movies and my appreciation for goofiness rivals that of France, birthplace of that flopping dog, Tony Parker.
Right away I was hooked in that the movie takes place on my birthday and the last day of high school in 1976, my relatability was off the charts. The Gilligan’s Island episode quiz in the 1st scene was, even by then, merely icing.
On the actual day before that fictionalized movie day, I was a junior at the glorious Miami Senior High and had a day as close as I would ever come to the Dazed and Confused crowd. The day began normally, until I was asked to join some friends and girls going to Crandon Park, so I skipped classes that day…. Wait, I need to set this up.
A little background. During my junior high school years, I was bused to my 7th and 9th grade schools, I lived near the 8th. Attending 9th grade at Booker T. Washington, I once skipped my late classes and the Dade County sponsored bus trip home. Leaving early meant about a 3 mile solo walk home from Overtown. That was the 1st time I ever skipped school.
When I set out I imagined myself facing possible danger [think Michael Douglas in Falling Down], but it turned out to be uneventful. I did so because it was MLB’s opening day and I wanted to be home to see if Hank Aaron would tie Babe Ruth’s record. I made it just in time to see the historic home run at Cincinnati.
So May 27, 1976 was the 2nd, and last time, I ever cut classes. That makes me a rather tepid male teenager for 1976, or ’66 or ’86. Did I mention I’ve never smoked … anything. So I watch portrayals of wild teenagers much as I would the Discovery channel. The main difference being that I have no memories of growing up with warthogs.
As I settled into the haze of the Dazed and Confused movie, a familiar voice and questions settled their way into my thoughts; Why hadn’t I been more adventuresome? What was missing?
The voice in my head was unfair I thought. Doubt and insecurity can’t take a goofball comedy off? What, I’ve been assigned a real go-getter demon? Fortunately, like LeBron picking apart the Spurs, I’d heard them before and have settled on some answers along the way. Some deep, some obvious. As in, not even Mel Brooks could produced a watchable comedy about 99% of actual high school experiences. Give the writer/director Richard Linklater’s imagination some credit.
For the deep, I must outsource to Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor, courtesy of the Brain Pickings blog, as she discusses her spirituality in relation to her work in a letter:
I won’t ever be able entirely to understand my own work or even my own motivations. It is first of all a gift, but the direction it has taken has been because of the Church in me or the effect of the Church’s teaching, not because of a personal perception or love of God. For you to think this would be possible because of your ignorance of me; for me to think it would be sinful in a high degree. I am not a mystic and I do not lead a holy life.
Not that I can claim any interesting or pleasurable sins (my sense of the devil is strong) but I know all about the garden variety, pride, gluttony, envy and sloth, and what is more to the point, my virtues are as timid as my vices. I think sin occasionally brings one closer to God, but not habitual sin and not this petty kind that blocks every small good. A working knowledge of the devil can be very well had from resisting him.
To read how someone like Ms. O’Connor accepted limitations on what she could hope to understand, is a powerful reminder about avoiding intellectual vanities on subjects, both large and small, that do not serve a higher purpose. Not coming to a self-help bookshelf near you. “What is that to thee, follow me.”
Like St. Paul, Ms. O’Connor reads like someone who has put away childish things.
OK voice, I got my team. Here we go, to eleven, no 2’s, win by 2, everything back.