One of my all time favourite movies is Cool Hand Luke.
Paul Newman is brilliant and you get to see George Kennedy act before whatever itch drove him to make one crappy movie after another.
It’s full of insight, wisdom and inspiration. One line though comes back to me over and over and over: “What we got here is… failure to communicate.”
In the end I think that that sums up so much of what is wrong with me and us from the very beginning. It’s not that it doesn’t get said, and it’s not that it doesn’t get said ‘right’. There’s just a break down, something that adds static to the message. Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes it’s their fault and sometimes it’s just sun spots.
In the movie Luke is on the run from prison and he starts a conversation with God. It’s all about the failure to communicate:
Luke: Anybody here? Hey, Old Man. You home tonight? Can You spare a minute. It’s about time we had a little talk. I know I’m a pretty evil fellow… killed people in the war and got drunk… and chewed up municipal property and the like. I know I got no call to ask for much… but even so, You’ve got to admit You ain’t dealt me no cards in a long time. It’s beginning to look like You got things fixed so I can’t never win out. Inside, outside, all of them… rules and regulations and bosses. You made me like I am. Now just where am I supposed to fit in? Old Man, I gotta tell You. I started out pretty strong and fast. But it’s beginning to get to me. When does it end? What do You got in mind for me? What do I do now? Right. All right.
[Gets on knees, closes eyes and begins to pray]
Luke: . On my knees, asking.
[Peeks up with one eye, waits. Then opens eyes and crosses arms]
Luke: . Yeah, that’s what I thought. I guess I’m pretty tough to deal with, huh? A hard case.
Luke: . Yeah. I guess I gotta find my own way.
[Headlights shine through windows, backs up]
Luke: [Shakes head and smiles] Is that Your answer, Old Man? I guess You’re a hard case, too.
I’ve been trying to learn how to text with the cell phone. It has a feature to make it ‘easier’ for me to write by learning what I like to say and ‘filling in the blanks’ for me. I think we’ve got a little editor inside that does that for us. We listen to part of what people are communicating and then the editor kicks in, fills in the blanks and we think we’ve got the whole message.
We think we’ve heard and we think we’ve said but there’s been a failure somewhere. Maybe if we could find a way to value a relationship more than our ability to understand or be understood we could get beyond this cool hand Luke problem.