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World needs a few more Mr. Beans

Having just welcomed Baby New Year, we’re at that point annually where we have by tradition chosen to assess the events and behaviors of the past 12 months in preparation of the new calendar’s promise of a fresh start.
I am aware that I usually write about jumping into the fray of life, charging on and participating in every possible happening available ‘ and then inventing opportunities on your own. I’m sure some might rightly call me just too gung-ho.
Well, this year, I’m filled with mixed feelings about my New Year’s resolutions. My body is yelling, ‘Get those salty peanuts, sweet desserts and leftover turkey dressing out of the house!’ To put it mildly, I feel stuffed, but I now understand why the decision to live a better life comes AFTER the holidays. Too much of a good thing, indeed, is too much, and ‘shape up’ resolutions now come much easier.
I planned to write this column about the dangers of procrastination and the need to get back into the ‘be responsible, eat less and exercise more’ mode, when I watched three movies that offered me another view on life.
The first movie was ‘Mr. Bean Takes a Holiday,’ which chronicles the misadventures of the aforementioned Mr. Bean, a silly character who speaks little and does funny pantomimes.
While watching, I was reminded of the first time I saw one of the Mr. Bean movies. Sitting in an open-air noodle shop on the island of Bali, I laughed so hard as my eyes were glued to the huge-screen TV. The atmosphere was completely whimsical, timeless and happy.
Two weeks later, however, that very noodle shop was bombed by terrorists. It seemed such an unlikely thing to have such diametrically-opposed events happen in the same tiny, unpretentious eatery. Being a fun place made the noodle shop a tourist’s dream, but it also made it attractive for terrorists wanting to make a very public statement.
We need the Mr. Beans of this world to keep us laughing amidst all the troubling happenings of our time.
The second movie I watched was ‘The Thing About My Folks.’ Actor Peter Faulk was terrific as an older, rigid workaholic trying to figure out why his wife of 45 years had taken off to ‘find’ herself. In his quest to seek explanation, he discovers what he has been missing in life.
This humorous movie might help us all ‘wake up’ before it is too late to enjoy the best things life has to offer.
The third movie was an old favorite, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.’ Danny Kaye, with his ability to move his face in all directions in impersonations, is worth tracking down for an upbeat hour and a half of entertainment that carries a message that lasts a lifetime.
Totally frustrated, Mitty slips into fantasy adventures that make him a happy hero. There are several layers to this tale, and you can pick out which one hits where you live. It certainly made me aware that we all find ourselves in some kind of straightjacket or behind some barriers of our own making or forced upon us by outside circumstances.
I think slipping into such daydreaming might be better than constant holiday eating as a diversion from the unsettling evening news.
Coming from a workaholic like me, the following is some statement. These movies made me stop and say, maybe what I need in the new year is to relax, sing more and even act silly. The purpose of life is not just to survive, but to flourish.
All three movies shared that same message of ‘stop and smell the roses,’ but I don’t think I would have seen it if I hadn’t just experienced the religious message of the season: The worth of forgiveness of ourselves and others, the value of awareness and appreciation of God’s creation and the overriding strength of love.
The nativity story is one on joy and song and commitment to the future, even in the face of the sober reality of life.
Happy New Year, and let’s keep the ‘holiday spirit’ alive in 2009.