Mind over Matter: Casio, Dead Cows, and Meryl Streep in a Tupa

defending your life

You either get busy livin’ or you get busy dyin’.

Wrong movie. Same sentiment.

Hanging out in Dario’s newly remodeled plush 15 seat home theater this past Saturday, he and Gianni kind of got into about this flick. You’d have thought they were auditioning for guest critic spots on “At the Movies”. The argument: the 5-10 best comedies about death, and whether or not Defending Your Life should be listed among their — we repeat ‘their’ — selected canon of Heaven Can Wait, Beetlejuice, Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life, Death Becomes Her (also starring Meryl Streep), The End (with Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise), and Hannah and Her Sisters. Alrighty then. Which also begs the question: have these guys seen anything in the past decade? What’s more, these two are both barely 38 years old! How’d this happen? Who under 50 references Dom Deluise in anything?

Anyway, after 37 minutes of debate over a lovely grilled chops and mixed veggies dinner (thanks Carrie) and two Marzens later, it was finally decided that Defending Your Life merits more than an honorable mention mostly due to the brilliant writing of Albert Brooks, and top notch performances by master actors Rip Torn, Lee Grant, and Meryl Streep. It was also agreed that the best people to write about death are neurotics. Presuming Mr. Brooks is, in fact, neurotic.

Following a rather calamitous car accident while listening to Barbara Streisand in his fresh off the lot BMW, Brooks comes to and finds himself at neither the pearly gates nor near any infernos, but in Judgement City, a sort of afterlife weigh station. Here, with the assistance of his defender, Rip Torn, he must defend his choices in his last life in a judicial hearing before he can be either moved onto the next evolved life, or sent back to Earth to start all over again.

Reviewing various video footage of one disastrous decision after the next since boyhood — like foregoing a prime opportunity to buy Casio stock options and instead buying cattle that turned up diseased — Brooks is constantly confronted by the aggressive prosecutor (excellently cast Lee Grant) about living a pitiful, risk adverse life driven by fear. Overcoming ones fears is a huge determinant in the final verdict.

Meanwhile, Brooks meets and falls in love with Meryl Streep, after having lived the very definition of a valiant, love-filled life. Her carefree, unaffected disposition demonstrates that she is an ideal candidate if there ever was one to be moved onto the semi-celestial semi-finals. Their fate together happily ever after depends greatly on his ability to finally move past his fears and embrace life as an uncertain but fantastic journey.

Who knows if there’s any such thing as a Judgement City — which by the way looks like a cross between Las Vegas and Universal Studio Tours. But if there is such a place, how do you think you’d fare?

Hey, fear can be good. We would never completely knock fear. Many fears are rational. As a primitive flight response, fear serves us particularly well in potentially life threatening situations. For the majority of humankind, fear has kept us from being lunch for lions, tigers and bears when we need to…. RUN!

Our massive homo-sapien brains are not wired to distinguish between the initial sensations of rational or irrational fear. Until we tell our brains to think differently, fear is fear is fear. Fear can feel like impending doom or death until we realize differently. Calming our fears is essentially an exercise in mind over matter. Most specifically mind over ‘gray matter’. Make sense?

Are you letting irrational fears keep you from taking greater risk that could truly enrich your life — your connections to friends, family, lovers, humanity? Are your fears stopping you from having the lifestyle and experiences in life you really want?

Wasting valuable time on irrational fears robs you from….living.

Time is the stuff of which life is made of.

Mojo Rizing’s motto #23:

Surf’s up. Grab a board. Catch the waves while you can. Sunset will be here before you know it, Chief.

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