Monday, June 28, 2010

Confronting the Unknown

Sometime last week, I read Michael Lewis' The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. It rambles a little, but overall it's quite good.

I had already seen the movie last December. And while I loved Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in that film, I found the book allowed everyone else to speak a little more. Face it, Sandra Bullock took that movie past the script and the (low-key or no-key) style of the other actors. She rocked that film into the All-American, turning it into an anthem for Christian charity, The Second Amendment, designer clothes, and enlightened self-interest, all wrapped up with a big red bow.

Michael Lewis cautions us that we don't watch and understand what happens on a football field very well. We look at quarterbacks and where the ball goes. We don't look at those who make quarterbacking possible, and thereby miss a great deal of the skill.

And then there's the personal narrative working its way through.

I think it's nothing short of miraculous that Michael Oher managed to hold onto the good he found. He had little loving care when very young or attention until Big Tony and then Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy stepped into his life. (Since Mr. Oher's main adventure starts at Briarcrest Christian school, Big Tony's role in getting him there is probably not given the scope it should have. You could say we left him holding the line, while the book ran to the goal.)

A Homeless Child
In any case, Michael Oher learned how to do for himself in the most basic sense. The way the book explains it, he could fend for himself, but had no good horizon to look forward to, no "way of being" except emotionally self-enclosed and minimally self-sufficient by our generally stated standards of wealth.

Still, he had some spark that enabled him to appreciate those whom he met--and to gain the interest of others. You could say that he led into the blind side, constantly, his whole life.   A child learned to survive. A young man who had not known sufficient love believed in emotional attachment. He held onto one commonplace and usually futile dream (to be Michael Jordan) until new dreams opened up--and he did not pass them by, but worked for them. He learned everything by memorizing, because he is intelligent, but so underserved by parents, education and social services that he was disabled and disadvantaged.

Simple Minded? Hardly.
They say the Mr. Oher feels that "The Blind Side" made him look stupid. But Michael Oher has to be emotionally and intellectually intelligent. I am willing to bet he is the most complex person in the book. This is a deeper story than we know.

He could make the leap into the utterly unfamiliar, over and over again. Now he is an accomplished man with a future--with tools as well as a character that will take him  past athletics.

And the entire world has the chance to see, a little, what the gifted ones who live behind our range of vision truly need from us. I can find a way to meet some of those, just as Big Tony and the Tuohys did, and thereby see the world more fully. I can learn to take risks into my blind side the way Michael Oher has, and therefore live more fully.

I wish him the very best. And I can't wait to read his biography, which is coming out in February of next year.

You can find out more at the Michael Oher Web site. The picture below is just the start for him.

In other notes: no, I'm not done with Lincoln, of course not. Just have Zombie Work to do. Then the meeting Tuesday night. Hagakure on Tuesday, so I'm thinking later in the week for Lincoln. And who knows what else?

Have a great day, everybody! The adventure is just beginning.


Bob G. said...

THis is a great to see success from potential failure come alive.
Goes to show what CAN be achieved when motivation becomes "job-one".
(no matter where that motivation comes from)

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
Isn't it so? Just a little feel-good piece, but with a lot of underlying messages.

Thanks for stopping in!

Slamdunk said...

I enjoyed the story as well Ann T. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and I was hooked on his insights after reading Moneyball a few years ago--which I believe is being made into a movie as well.

I saw an interview with Oher and he also complained that the movie twisted the facts some as well--but he understood that it is just how Hollywood works.

My biggest concern with the movie was the outcry from some members of the black community lamenting how it continued the fairy tale of the rich Christian white family helping the "poor" black kid.

I just wish we could get past the racial element in everything and acknowledge good when it is done--as it was with Oher's adopted family.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
Oh, yes, I loved the way this book made me think--not just about charity or sports, but about the underpinnings of life. To me, race was the least of it.

Two quotes about Christian thought in the book compare and contrast between active faith and passive faith. Mrs. Oher, strung out on crack--says, "If the Lord sees fit to give me children, then I'll have them." This assigns responsibility to a higher power but none to oneself. And I do not mean to disrespect having children or even having children while on Welfare--but to give an example of passivity towards one's own life.

To contrast with her, we have Big Tony--active, a good son and father, and thinking about others. He saw past the "blind side". So too, Michael Oher himself, who has embarked I believe on some charity missions and who has made active change throughout his life.

Mrs. Tuohy said, "God gives people money to see what they'll do with it." Here money is seen as a gift but also a talent to be wielded in an active life. To contrast with her, we have numerous others in the Briarcrest Community who could not get past their "blind side".

To me, that is what the book is about--emotional and spiritual intelligence comes from different quarters in the book, and emotional and spiritual stunting too. Race, income bracket, and even family of origin provided little or NO indicator of who was remarkable and who was not.

Thanks for a great comment.
Ann T.

The Observer said...

Ann T:
I've not seen the movie, and have only read bits of the book.

One thing this story illustrates is the variety of the strength of the practice of Christianity--the degree to which a person really allows the Gospel of Christ to transform.

Some do sit passively--"Fix me God." (There's a Bible story for them [John 5:1-15].) Others grab hold of the Gospel--and of God--as hard as they can.

You're right, it is an interesting study of spiritual and emotional strength and intelligence. In addition, it is the story of willingness to make changes and jump into opportunity, even when it's scary.

Like any rescue story, it's way more complex then just the rescue itself. It's about the rescued and the rescuer, and all the relationships within that frame. Here, with just a pinch of race relations and class difference thrown in.

I think that's what makes it compelling--even the simplified movie version is compelling!

Great post and some great comments and replies too.

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Thank you for commenting. Just to advance this even further, and straying perhaps off-topic--

I have recently been introduced to the concept of "cheap grace" and its opposite--reading a little about Bonhoeffer the theologian. It seems also to relate to this story somehow, although, I'm not quite there yet.

Anyway, it is part of yet another book I am reading, not even about religion per se, but about the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Thanks for a great recap, and I wonder if you have studied Bonhoeffer???? All this convergence I keep finding--

Ann T.

meleah rebeccah said...

I absolutely LOVED this movie and yes, the book was much better.

Unknown said...

I want to read the book before I see the movie. So it'll be awhile! lol

Thanks for the insight as usual. ;)


Ann T. said...

Dear meleah,
EXACTLY. There is no other word.

Thank you!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear peedee,
Reading is good, but I think you take to it about like I take to softball. I bet though, this wouldn't be a bad one to try on the plane.

No pressure though. We are doing what we do, and No! I do not want a softball! Yes, I am sure it would be good for me!

Ann T.