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So when a relationship dies, and with it, those cupid-slung lists of must-reads, it's a sad day not just for your love life but for your literary life as well.
All this to say, if you're suffering heartbreak or just between dalliances, don't miss The Pat Tillman Story. What does director Amir Bar-Lev's new documentary about the football star-turned-army corporal who fell to friendly fire have to do with romantic goo?
Emerson. As in Ralph Waldo. America's very own Transcendentalist philosopher, essayist and poet.
You may have read him at gun-point in high school, or even willingly gotten yourself into a college course with him and some of his 19th-century cronies on the syllabus. But you probably couldn't fully embrace him then, not like he deserves to be savored and relished and held to your bosom – as if the very object of your affections turned you on to him.
Which is exactly what Pat Tillman does in the movie. The guy is so charismatic, so irresistibly adorable and cool, you can't help but fall in love. I defy woman, man or beast to remain impervious to his charms.
So when it comes out that this gravity-scoffing god, this Adonis from a Grecian urn, this Huck Finn of the Western wilds read Emerson, I took it as a personal whispering of sweet somethings: You gotta read Emerson! -- or, say, whatever Bill Clinton's billet-doux exhaled to Monica Lewinsky along with Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
Start maybe with the essay, "Self Reliance." You know Emerson's general rap about resisting conformity, and will surely recognize the line, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." But there's lots more where that came from. And if lately your instinct is telling you something or you've come up with a quirky idea, he's the go-to-guy for reassurance to take these voices seriously.
Though it's dodgy to quote someone so devoted to self-direction that he shuns quoting, I'm such a fool for his essay, "Compensation," you simply have to have a taste:
"…The good are befriended even by weakness and defect. As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man had ever a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him. The stag in the fable admired his horns and blamed his feet, but when the hunter came, his feet saved him, and afterwards, caught in the thicket, his horns destroyed him. Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults. As no man thoroughly understands a truth until he has contended against it, so no man has a thorough acquaintance with the hindrances or talents of men, until he has suffered from the one, and seen the triumph of the other over his own want of the same. Has he a defect of temper that unfits him to live in society? Thereby he is driven to entertain himself alone, and acquire habits of self-help; and thus, like the wounded oyster, he mends his shell with pearl."
Mends his shell with a pearl! My knees are jello.
But okay, even if you don't Find Waldo, at least check out The Pat Tillman Story. The film's hero may have a ring on his finger -- and he may be quite dead -- but his spirit is guaranteed to steal all but the most helmeted hearts.
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