When did life get so hard? Oh wait, it’s always been hard. At certain points in time we just fool ourselves into thinking it’s all going smoothly. But in reality we’re always making scary decisions and jumping into the great unknown. Every day, all day, over and over, until we shuffle off this mortal coil. And that’s the rub, right? Jumping is scary, but the alternative is scarier: never jumping again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, about jumping. I keep hearing Meg Ryan’s incredible, impassioned speech to Tom Hanks in Joe Versus the Volcano, playing on repeat:
Joe, nobody knows anything. We’ll take this leap and we’ll see. We’ll jump and we’ll see. That’s life!
Written by John Patrick Shanley and delivered with such powerful, beautiful conviction by Meg, the line lives rent-free inside my head, always.
We’re only a month into a new year, but already it’s as troubling as last year for most of us. Raging pandemic still raging. Four years of political mess now left to a new president to unpack and fix. All the usual stuff carrying over from 2020 into 2021, all of it impacting us deeply on a personal level, each day, ad infinitum. So these days Meg’s character Patricia’s words are particularly prominent in my brain. What do I feel like I’m leaping into, exactly? I don’t know, but as noted earlier, the alternative to not jumping is ceasing to exist. So, I jump. That’s the only choice I see, day in and day out. Every new day we’re jumping into that volcano, hoping it spits us back out to give us another go tomorrow.
In a script full of extraordinary lines, Meg has several of my most favorite. Another one I think of often, and that seems to point towards hope in bleak times for me, is when she tells Joe,
My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.
I’m awake. Always living in a constant state of total amazement. Sometimes though – okay, a lot of times – that amazement can turn to shock, revulsion, and depression. When you live, like Joe says, “a long time on a crooked road” it’s going to be a struggle. Life is that crooked road. We’re all living on it. But amazement wins out for some of us, and sometimes you need the depression to appreciate the amazement even more. After all, you have to be inspired by the power and beauty of life in order to also be let down when it doesn’t live up to its potential. But if you take the leap, and you’re wide awake, like Joe (Hanks) and Patricia (Ryan) are when they hold hands and jump together into the mouth of a volcano, well, then you’ve got a pretty good chance of being burped back out to try it again tomorrow.
Some movies I love with all my heart in such a way that they feel like they belong only to me. They shape and inspire my philosophies and are far more spiritually empowering to me than any religion ever has been. Joe Versus the Volcano is one of those movies. I watched it again last month, and I’m already guessing 2021 might demand a few more viewings, as we hold hands and jump together, day after day, in the hopes of finding something true and perfect and life affirming that exists just beyond that crooked road.
Say it with Meg one more time, “We’ll jump, and we’ll see.”