Monday, February 26, 2007

The Measure of a Man by Sydney Potier

I really can't call this a review. Not a formal one at any rate. I no longer have the book with me to refer to, nor did I take notes as I read. I was practically speed-reading it Sunday and did not finish until nearly midnight. I set out to write a quick review while it was all fresh but my laptop was in a balky mood and had to be restarted and during the restart I started Stephen King's Lisey's Story. Thirty pages into that it was my eyes that were balking.

I had to let the Potier memoir go back to the library when my husband left for work at seven this morning. I hate trying to do a review without the book in front of me but I just can't let this one go by without commenting on it. It moved me tremendously. He talks about the struggle to live with integrity. He confesses to not always measuring up to his highest standards. He talks about the necessity of confronting one's own darkest impulses, which must begin by acknowledging they exist.

He confesses that if pressed, he will admit to a belief in God. But he considers this to be, not an entity, but an immense consciousness that holds every particle of the entire universe in its awareness at every instance. He is uncomfortable with even this much defining and demurs at naming it even with the word 'god' as he sees naming and defining as the beginning of devisiveness. I am paraphrasing horribly here and hope I have not shredded his meaning too badly. I just had to share this part because this was where I got goosebumbs as I read because he was describing so closely the understanding that I have come to through my own studies and contemplations since I broke with the Fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity in 1992. And like Potier, I still hold a great affinity for the Christian story, its metaphors, images, rituals and aspirations but also like him, I hesitate to name or define. I would go so far as to say that attempting to pin it down with a name is the beginning of idolatry.

My favorite part was the first couple chapters that cover his life from early childhood on Cat Island in the Bahamas to his discovery, in his late teens, of a passion for acting. Events in between had taken him from Cat Island at ten, to Nassau and then to Miami and eventually to New York.

The bulk of the book consists of anecdotes and reflections for each of his major stage and screen roles. I have missed most of them, tho I faintly remember having seen at least part of To Sir With Love as a teenager and having been moved by it, however briefly, to consider becoming a teacher. I remember wishing that I had ever had a teacher who could 'see' me like that teacher 'saw' each of his charges.

I went up on the library's online catalog this morning to see which of his movies were available on DVD. I ordered several of them on my husband's card because after Wednesday, I will be unlikely to be able to check anything more out on my card for at least two weeks as I have to work my card's load down from 97 to under 30 items in order to check out any more of the requests coming to me. I am highly motivated to do so though as among the requests I am next in line for are To Sir With Love and the Defiant Ones. Both Sydney Potier movies. Also Crash and Dangerous Minds and Waking Ned Devine. All three of which I've been waiting months for. So the next couple of weeks are going to be an intense exercise in letting go.

Among the Potier DVDs I ordered on my husband's card were Look Whose Coming to Dinner, Raisin in the Sun and Lillies in the Field (which he won the Oscar for). I, (or rather my husband) got either first or second slot on each these so there is hope I will get to see each of them before April 6. It would be nice if not too much time goes by between reading Potier's commentary on them and actually watching them.

I was dissappointed to not find A Patch of Blue in either DVD or VHS in the library system. I was most eager to see that one as it features a blind girl. And I don't believe I have ever seen it. I think I would remember as visual impairment was such an issue in our family with my Mother and her Mother both suffering from RP, and me learning I also had it just before I turned thirty.

Well, back to Lisey's Story. It has been an exercise in delay of gratification to not pick it up again before I at least tried to say something about the book I spent most of Sunday with. The large print of the Potier book has spoiled me tho. That is probably why I was able to read over 300 pages in under ten hours. Something that used to be so common I never thought twice about it but has become as rare as slugs in a salt mine in the last five years. My plan is to intersperse DVDs with reading whenever eyestrain gets the best of me.

1 tell me a story:

Susan 2/27/2007 11:14 AM  

Poitier rocks - thanks for reminding me - I'm going to add a few of his stuff onto my Netflix list. Thanks for bookmarking me Joy! I'm adding you in my sidebar list since I'm trying to get set up on either delicious or blinklist but have yet to get very far with either account at the moment... I too hope TT picks up again - based on Leanne's message the other day it seemed like it might but I haven't checked back on the hub since then. Take it easy and have a great day!

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