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This is my old blog, which I no longer update. Feel free to browse around old posts and such, but the much more recent version of my ramblings are to be found at MarilynAnneCampbell.com

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Philosophy Lives in 'The United States of Leland'

When I took an intro to philosophy class at university it struck me that there were no modern books of philosophy - or at least none that we were reading. Later I decided that modern philosophers certainly existed, but most of the time they were writing their ideas into songs or novels or blogs or independent films - films like Matthew Ryan Hoge's 'The United States of Leland'.

As a Ryan Gosling fan I've been meaning to see 'The United States of Leland' for awhile now (Don Cheadle and Kevin Spacey never hurt, either). The story is based on a teenager committing a seemingly unprovoked and particularly heinous murder; the film as a whole is about people making mistakes. It gets a little heavy-handed at the end in an attempt to drive home the "mistakes" theme, but still it's an excellent movie that both got me thinking and made me cry.

The thing that got me thinking the most was in the final voice-over narration. In his unevenly soft but cutting way, Leland (Gosling) says this:

"The worst part is knowing that there is goodness in people - mostly it stays deep down and buried. Maybe we don't have God because we're scared of the bad stuff, maybe we're really scared of the good stuff. 'Cause if there's no God, well that means it's inside of us and we could be good all the time if we wanted. So when we do bad things it'd be because we want to, or because we have to, or maybe we just need the bad stuff to remind us what the good stuff is in the first place."
- Written by Matthew Ryan Hoge*


This notion that we use God to avoid taking responsibility for our own capacity for good struck me as brilliant and sad and very likely true. I'm religious in the sense that I believe there's something more to this world than we know, but I never feel comfortable with any organized religion. I think with these lines Hoge tapped into a key reason why - I never liked the notion that if we pray long enough or hard enough or to the right god, he/she/they will give us the strength to be better people. I think we were made with that strength (which is miracle enough itself) but we all choose when and if we will exercise it.

So there. There's my little spiel on how an indy movie helped me articulate my spiritual beliefs.

Now to go home for Easter dinner.

Quick Links:

SuicideGirls.com interview with Hoge

IGN Inerview with Hoge and Gosling

*Transcribed while watching the DVD. My apologies for any errors.

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