Saturday, November 21, 2020

Lemonade and Lament

Actor Michael J. Fox is one of those Canadian exports who makes us proud. He came to fame as Alex Keaton,  the driven Republican teen son of earnest ex-hippy parents on the hit series Family Ties. We went on to even greater acclaim in the Back to the Future films, then in another series, Spin City. What we didn't know was that half his lifetime ago, at the age of 29, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease. He gave up acting for a time, then returned as a crafty lawyer who exploited a degenerative illness in the courtroom on The Good Wife. He has retired again, and short of a miracle this is likely permanent. 

Fox has been the point man for gratitude and hope with his autobiographical books, Lucky Man, and Always Looking Up. He feels that he's led a remarkable life and is grateful for the unfailing love of his wife and children. His new book takes a different direction as the result of the bleak challenges of a cancerous tumour on his spine which threatened to paralyze him. No one wanted to operate but he found a surgeon who admitted that no one wanted to be the doc who paralyzed Michael Fox. He had to learn to walk ago but as he did so he fell and shattered one of his arms. In all of this he began to question his optimism and wondered if he had been misleading his readers who often faced monumental challenges themselves. 

Fox is doing the virtual interview circuit for a new book,  No Time Like the Future and on the CBC radio program Q he reflected on his emphasis on making lemonades out of lemonade, until he came to the point where he said 'I'm out of the freakin' lemonade business. I can't put a shiny face on this. This sucks, and who am I to tell people to be optimistic?'​

In the interview he want on to speak bluntly about his mortality and mortality in general:

But I thought about the idea of the future, and then it came to me that the future is the last thing we run out of. We run out of breath. We run out of everything. Then there comes a point where we have no more future and that's the end of it.But until then there's always something in the future to be optimistic about, to look forward to. It may change our circumstances or it may not, but that will run out, so enjoy it while you have it.

I found Fox's honesty disarming (no pun intended) and while it is a personal story it is also a reflection of the times we'e in. The coronavirus pandemic has us all wondering what the future will look like, and even if we feel that we're blessed and have enjoyed full and meaningful lives there is a pall of uncertainty over everything.

We are struggling to be hopeful in the midst of this, but is it okay to be "cranky", the word Fox uses to describe this latest book? It seems to me that his latest  memoir is in some ways a lament, which is a biblical concept -- there is even a book in the Hebrew scriptures called Lamentations. To lament is not to deny hope, it recognizes our realities and lets lament and hope live alongside each other, even if it is an uneasy relationship. 

We're on the brink of  Advent in the Christian year, which begins with the Sunday of hope. Will we even be able to gather for worship through this season, or celebrate Christmas with loved ones?  Perhaps we can figure out how Christ comforts us in our loss and lament, while showing us the way to hope. 

                                  Back to the Future

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