I’m a big believer in the idea that you can learn a great deal about a person by learning the things that person holds most dear.
So, a question I like to ask people as I get to know them is, “if you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one record, one book, and one movie with you, what would they be?” We’ll ignore the obvious conceptual problem that you’re on a desert island, so how in the world are you going to play an album or movie? Let’s set those logistical issues aside and, for the moment, assume you have the means to play said record and movie. What would yours be and why?
My one book would be “The Talisman”, written by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The book centers on Jack Sawyer, a twelve year old boy who sets out from Arcadia Beach, New Hampshire, in an attempt to save his mother, who is dying from cancer. Jack must cross the country, and cross through sections of a parallel universe known as the “Territories”, in order to find a crystal sphere known as the Talisman which can cure his mother’s disease. During the journey, Jack endures fear, doubt, suffering, and loss of a dear friend. It’s a classic hero’s quest and I love the book because I think King and Straub are extraordinary writers and provide amazing depth to their characters. When Jack’s friend Wolf dies in the book, it felt like I too had lost a friend and cried along with Jack. I also love the book, and the idea of the hero’s quest in general, because it serves as a reminder that in any journey, the final destination isn’t what’s important. Rather, what’s important is the person one becomes during the journey. A lesson we should all remember.
It’s a little more difficult for me to choose one album, but I have to go with U2’s “The Joshua Tree.” From the opening guitar riffs of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” to the gospel like quality of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” to the bass and drum driven opening to “Bullet the Blue Sky,” every song on the album is a classic. But, for me, the song that pushes the album from “brilliant” to “life changing” is “One Tree Hill.” The song was written by Bono in memory of Greg Carroll, a Maori man the band met in Auckland who joined the band as a roadie and was later killed in a motorcycle accident in Dublin. I first heard the song around the time my best friend Andy was killed in a car accident. I didn’t know the history of the song at that time, or Bono’s reason for writing it, I just knew as soon as I heard it that it was strongly connected to Andy. The more I listed to it, the more I understood why. The opening verse for the song goes:
“We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill
As the day begs the night for mercy, love
The sun so bright it leaves no shadows, only scars
Carved into stone, on the face of earth
The moon is up and over One Tree Hill,
We see the sun go down in your eyes.”
In a later verse:
“I’ll see you again,
When the stars fall from the sky,
And the moon has turned red,
Over One Tree Hill.”
Andy was killed in the fall of 1990, but even now, 29 years later, I get a lump in my throat every time I hear the song. It’s a powerful reminder of my friend whom I miss dearly.
Now for my movie. This is going to be really difficult as I’m something of a movie buff and there a dozens of movies I think are wonderful. But if I’m forced to chose one (and that’s the whole point of this exercise), I’ll pick “The Shawshank Redemption” (the original story was written by Stephen King, see a pattern emerging here?). The Shawshank Redemption centers on Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins), a banker who is wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover. Over the following two decades, Andy becomes close friends with Ellis “Red” Redding (played by Morgan Freeman), a prison contraband smuggler. The themes presented in Shawshank are numerous: friendship, loss, betrayal, triumph and, ultimately, hope. One of the great lines of the movie, which occurs near the end of the story, occurs when Red is reading a newly found letter from Andy:
“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.” The quote, and the movie, are wonderful reminders of the power of hope.
So, there you have them; one book, one album, and one movie. The three things I’d take with me to my desert island. Now that I’ve shared mine, what are yours?
(On a side note, I posed this question to my wife. Ever pragmatic, she wants a movie about surviving on a desert island. For her book, either a treatise on survival skills or a really, REALLY big book so she can use the pages as fire starters. I had to laugh and concede that, if either of us ever actually found ourselves on a desert island, she’d be the one to survive.)
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