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Broken flowers

A friend in Program says:

(Note: If you have not seen this movie, you may prefer to skip this page.)

Don Johnston receives an anonymous, typewritten letter on pink paper. It tells him that he had a son by a girlfriend from some twenty years ago, and that that son may now be on the road looking for him.

Don's next-door neighbor, Winston, persuades Don to go looking for the old girlfriend, instead of waiting for the son to turn up. Don meets four of those girlfriends, and visits the grave of a fifth. But he doesn't find the information he is looking for.

In fact, the movie is not interested in whether Don finds his son or not. Instead, it shows us the "every-dayness" of Don's life, even while he pursues this quest: sitting in airports, on planes, driving his rental car. And it also shows us Don's desire to make sense, not only of his investigations, but of his life. Why did one of his girlfriends have a dog called Winston? Why has another thrown away a pink typewriter -- was it because she wrote him the letter? What is the secret that his second girlfriend seems to want to tell him, if only her husband were not there?

After a while we realize we are colluding with Don. We want, as much as he does, to make some sort of sense of the minutiae of his life. We want him to find his son. But Don's world, and our world, just don't work like that. The desire for life to make sense doesn't mean that life will make sense, however much we attempt to force that to happen.

This is the lesson of the last three Steps: that life simply is. We can pretend that we have exalted goals, that there is a result that we are supposed to achieve. While we are thinking like this, life just continues; and without Steps 10, 11 and 12, we may never be able to see it as it passes by, moment after moment.

"The spiritual life is never one of achievement:
it is always one of letting go."

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