Saturday, May 14, 2011

What It Takes

I was in a ceremony the other day where this question came up: Do you have what it takes?

It reminds me of that moment in Rio Bravo where Dude wants to go into the saloon - through the front door - after the guy who shot Wheeler, and Chance asks him if he thinks he's good enough.   Dude responds that he'd like to find out.

That question - are you good enough, how good is he, is he as good as I used to be, you're not good enough - is one of the themes of this movie.  Dude proves he has what it takes when he walks into the saloon (yes, through the front door), claiming his place as a deputy in spite of his history as a drunk, and catches his man through ingenuity AND skill with his gun.  Colorado proves he's good enough by minding his own business, then jumping in on the right side - oh, and by his skill with his gun.  Feathers proves she's good enough by standing up to Chance, sitting outside his door all night, throwing a flower pot through a window.  Stumpy proves he's good enough by showing up at the right place at the right time - defying Chance, and saving the day - and by having a good throwing arm even if he can't run.  Carlos proves he's good enough by ...  Well, suffice it to say that all the good guys and gals prove that they're good enough.

But good enough for what?  And what, exactly, does it take?

Sitting in that ceremony, I realized that what it takes, for each of us, is exactly what we've got.  Neither more nor less, nor different.  But that means, too, that in order to have what it takes, we've got to give it all we've got.  It's like a key in a lock.  I can only unlock my own lock, not yours or Dude's or Stumpy's.  I'm the only one who has the key that fits my lock.  I have exactly what it takes.

But in order to open that lock, I do have to use my key.  There's no other way.

This is how we give ourselves into the world.  This is exactly the idea that, if we refuse to give of ourselves into the world, if we refuse the world our artistic originality, we are cheating the world, not to mention ourselves.

Refusing to give of ourselves because we're afraid we don't have what it takes - well, at least in that moment of ceremonial revelation, I realized how silly that is.  Because we have exactly what it takes.  Even, in a good moment, the courage of Dude: the willingness to put it to the test, to find out exactly what we do have.

Movie note: Howard Hawks, director of Rio Bravo, said he made it as a response to High Noon - apparently both he and John Wayne thought no lawman would act the way Gary Cooper's character did in High Noon (that is, ask for help).  However, I see a similar what-it-takes theme in High Noon, too, though there it's defined as the difference between a boy and a man.