Coming to terms with everything

Regular readers know that I am an admirer of Roger Ebert and have been for years. Actually, decades.

Despite medical difficulties, Ebert may be at his personal best. In addition to all the movie writing, he publishes a blog that is certainly one of the best anywhere, about any subject. Ebert modestly admits to over 100 million views of his movie site and his more personal Journal attracts millions more.

One of Roger’s fun contributions to the journal is the Your Movie Sucks™ files.  I am sure that reading Ebert’s trashing of hilariously bad movie releases (escapes?) would be much more interesting than time spent watching the actual flicks.  If Roger really views every frame of every movie, surely he has a disk player with a highly responsive fast-forward.

One of more than a thousand comments caught my eye. I share reader Wes Larson’s thoughts:

YES!!! Nothing I love more than reading really good critics ripping into really bad movies. AS Dave Barry once said, you make these movies sound so bad that I now want to see them.

I treasure Ebert’s ability to make me smile but, with words alone, he can also bring me to a full stop. Maybe it is the images he paints, the poignant admissions and naked revelations, his sympathetic and respectful humanity, his pride in friends, the unconditional love for Chaz and perhaps more than anything, his comprehensive self-knowledge that leaves no room for expression of self pity.

In November, Ebert wrote about loneliness. Not romantic solitude or short-lived absence of friends but the withering emptiness of life untouched by loving companions. Ebert believes that lonely people have an affinity for the Internet although he warns it can be like, “Someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with companionship.”

Ebert believes he did not experience loneliness throughout most of his life but admits to relying in early years on a dangerous friend:

For many years I was an alcoholic, and I never felt lonely then. I could feel sick, I could feel despair, but I could never feel lonely. A drink would lift me up. I was never a morose drunk. Alcohol makes you feel better and then makes you feel worse and then remorselessly very bad indeed, but then alcohol will make you feel better again. It is the cure for the dog that bit you, and how easily you forget it is also the dog. . . Thank God I found sobriety.

The writer understands unmedicated loneliness more clearly now. He reveals:

A few weeks ago, something happened. Chaz needed emergency surgery. There were two nights when I was alone and she was in the hospital, just as there were months when she was alone and I was in the hospital. And in the middle of the night a great fear enveloped me. If “anything happened” (as they say), I would be so terribly, terribly alone, and sad. I would miss her so much. This feeling came over me in a wave. I pulled the covers tighter around me. Then I would know what loneliness was.

An illumination came into my mind, and with it the words of a song that has haunted me: Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone? Perhaps I wasn’t lonely before because I didn’t have it, so it couldn’t be gone.

A week later, after studying hundreds of reader responses to his blog about loneliness, Ebert wrote: A meeting of solitudes. It adds much understanding and starts with this:

So many of you were abused, physically beaten, bullied, called worthless, ostracized because you were gay, or the wrong color, or too tall or short or fat or thin or — does it matter? The reasons for your mistreatment were not in yourself, but in the minds of those cruel ones hoping to hurt you. As a response, some of you have cut off, shut down, or isolated. From your lives you have learned the lesson to seek shelter.

Any time spent reading Ebert’s journal and the hundreds of literate comments drawn for each article will be time well spent. I guarantee it.

Categories: Journalism

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