The Life I Always Wanted
Quentin Tarantino’s film ‘Pulp Fiction’ can hardly be considered as a Christian classic. Yet ‘Jules Winnfield’s’ conversion to a better and more productive way of life in the final café scene had a profound effect on me when I first watched the film in 1994. When Jules (as portrayed by Samuel L Jackson) explained that he was going to ‘walk the earth’ I connected in a very deep, emotional and spiritual way. That desire to shake off earthly pleasures, to dispense with the superficial trappings of an ordinary life, to ‘walk from place to place, meet people; get in adventures’ sounded perfect. And despite Vincent Vega’s typical and apathetic reaction – ‘so you decided to be a bum’ Jules remains firm in his conviction. Firm, because he now believes that until God ‘puts me where he wants me to be’ he will never be happy.
It is an unlikely scenario but then consider the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. Here we have a man who worked for the ancient version of ‘Marsellus Wallace’ and his gang of hotheaded Pharisees. A bunch of self-righteous, conceited, all powerful patriarchs, intent on destroying those who stood in their way blocking their path to wealth, status and a safe continuity of the old order. Saul, a man certainly willing to quote scripture and to kill without fear nor mercy for this cause. After Saul witnessed and experienced his own, unlikely and very personal miracle, did he not decide like our more contemporary convert, Jules Winnfield to simply ‘walk the earth’ thereby forsaking everything he previously held true. St Paul certainly had adventures to behold and then paid the ultimate price for his new found convictions and freedom from the slavery of sin.
Before I leave ‘Pulp fiction’ I must further admit my cloying admiration for the ‘Wolf’. In my various roles and guises as a project manager, company owner, emergency disaster engineer I readily and easily recognize the type. The ‘Hi - pretty please’ get on with the ‘effing’ job approach!
It never made me friends but it always got the job done. Efficiency and efficacy were all I ever needed to satisfy my own highly regarded sense of personal integrity. Being liked was the least of my worries however many times I was shuffled out of the role for someone more politically correct and likeable. It was always enough to know that I had done the best for my clients, donors and beneficiaries alike whether they could see it or not. As a final twist of fate and affirmation of this approach God always placed me somewhere else just as, if not more exciting than before and when it was time to come home and step out of my work clothes I always had Jill to console and comfort me the loss of any possible friendship! Strangely enough the friendships I have made are truly strong, sincere and have stood the test of time.
I have written before about walking in the very footsteps of Lu Ban. The ancient Chinese, wandering architect, engineer and philosopher. His biopic was released in China in the early 1930s but made its way to my TV screen when I was at university in 1984. Lu Ban like Jules Winnfield ‘walked the earth’. Having adventures, he combined his philosophical and engineering talents with a desire to do good; to seek out and understand people’s troubles and to unconditionally provide mesmerizingly simple solutions. Having applied his genius, solved the latest architectural conundrum he would slip off into the ether unnoticed and un-acclaimed. It was his humility that attracted me. How could I, with such an enormous ego and desire to be known for my Wolf-like application of project management skills ever be like Lu Ban. It would take me nigh on 30 years perhaps and who am I, even now, to judge myself so kindly? Being un-acclaimed and unnoticed does not attract prizes; more often than not simply derision and one needs a good thirty years or so to grow the thickest of skins.
Jules, Lu Ban, the Wolf and a plethora of other fictional superheroes invaded my mind and transformed my thinking through the eighties and early nineties. They directed my efforts and set my sails for a mythical land where, as Tennyson put it in his epic Ulysses, ‘Men strove with gods’ to ‘Move earth and heaven’. Yes- you’ve guessed it I learnt that one off by heart too. I never realized before that these random characters were so intrinsically linked. The Wolf provided all the necessary practical skills. Lu Ban a stroke of genius coupled with great humility and Jules brought a new found puritanical determination and commitment to this singular mix of talent.
But here is the rub! In twenty-five years of marriage, twenty years raising children, endless time making friends and decades integrating into community life one can easily lose the sense of self, one’s youthful dreams and courageous ambitions. Where does it all go? Nowhere. I can vouchsafe it is all there, deep inside. It just gets buried. The stresses and strains of modern life conspire to pacify the unbridled passions of one’s youth but they are there hidden and restrained, just waiting anxiously to re-emerge into the bright new dawn of middle age!!
When I first met Jill, I arrogantly warned her ‘not to follow me’! That warning was partly serious and partly taunt, offered to tempt her along the way to join me in my quest, and indeed she could not resist! Yet twenty-five years later I stopped her in her tracks when she complained; ‘why couldn’t you just have just been an ordinary person, done ordinary things, gotten a mortgage like everyone else and played it by the rules’. I reminded her ‘I met you in Khartoum not in Slough!’ And that reminds me of another classic film – Jason and the Argonauts.
I like Jason have steered the ship through, and often into all kinds of dangers and she like Hera, the wooden figurehead quietly contemplated my most stupid mistakes and misdemeanours. Then surreptitiously, when no one was looking she deigned to speak and whisper in my ear the safest and quickest way out of my latest predicament. With Jill it has always been a hair-raising ride but it always worked out and she constantly guided me home to calmer waters.
So what conclusions have I come to? It is simple really. When we are told that God answers all your prayers - though he may not answer them in quite the way you want him to, or in fact you can see no evidence of answer at all, or that it may not be in the timeframe that you had hoped for then believe me; what we are told is true. I realized, just this week, when my contract came to a natural conclusion and it was time to move on once more, God was grinning in His heaven. “That young man told me he wanted to ‘walk the earth’. He told me he wanted to share his knowledge with people far and wide and he prayed that I would let him do it well - and yet he still worries when I answer his prayers so clearly and in full”.
Having finally grasped God’s plan for my life, I thank Him that he has truly let me live the life I always wanted.