Monday, January 30, 2012


Jennifer and I first watched the film, Dinner with Friends, four years ago, when we were living in Flagstaff. No one had told us about it--we just saw the cover and we both thought Dennis Quaid was kind of a neat guy. The kind of actor you think would be your friend if he ever got to really know you. And hey, the movie was based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning play.

Must be good.

But after two hours of watching with our jaws hanging off the bottom halves of our faces, we knew it was beyond good. Better than great, even. It was into that realm of Stuff-You-See-That-Speaks-Beneath-the-Seeable, and yet it doesn't make a whole lot of pretenses about doing so.

There's a scene at the end of the film where Dennis Quaid's wife, played by Andie MacDowell, asks him how they can keep a marriage going: How can two people continue to love one another amidst the battles that daily life confronts them with--everything from the tiny tussles to the most massive hardships? How does love survive and grow and withstand it all?

Dennis Quaid (in that Quaidish way only he has) thinks for a moment and then says, Uh-oh.

And what happens next is mythic.


Profoundly moving in a life-altering, universe-shaking kind of way.

What happens next is more complex than any algorithm, more true than any time-tested theory, more authentic than any super-authentic quote from a human being / fount of wisdom.

He tickles her. This husband answers such a profoundly poignant question with a tickle.

Because, actually, that's how love survives.

Lately, Tyler has been using the word actually a lot. And when I write a lot, what I actually mean is all the time. And when I write all the time, what I actually mean is in every single sentence he utters.

"Tyler, do you want to have some juice cool dude?"

"Actually, Daddy, I would like to have some juice AND a cheese stick!"

Or this:

"Hey T-Man, do you want to play with the Gruffalo?"

"Actually, Mommy, I think I want to play with the castle."

And when I contemplate Tyler's usage of the word actually, I've got to admit that I'm kind of inspired myself.

See, WB Yeats wrote this incredible poem about love, entitled "When You Are Old," and in the poem, there's a middle stanza that articulates a vision of love unlike anything the synapses in my mind have ever before encountered. Yeats claims that love isn't seeing someone's "glad grace" or "beauty" and loving them for it. Instead, it's seeing someone's "pilgrim soul" and someone's "sorrows."

Actually loving is about seeing the authentic person--the self that is yearning to grow and change and journey forward. Love is about seeing someone's sorrow, and loving them not in spite of it, but rather because of it.

So tickling one's wife in the face of an insurmountable question is an act of love which Yeats might watch and get giddily gleeful about. It's the thing in motion--the truth in practice. It's the saying and doing what you actually mean rather than settling for a generality or a mixed-truth.

Yeats might see that scene from Dinner with Friends and nod his head.

Then, if he bent down to say hello to Tyler, the great poet himself might grin and say, "Actually, poetry that doesn't become life isn't poetry at all."

To which Tyler would say (respectfully), "Actually, Mr. Yeats, I would like to play with my Gruffalo now and drink some juice."