God is in the Elevator, and He's Mad Magnolia Didn't Win Best Picture

Written by Jester

Whenever I'm confronted on the streets by some blank-eyed twit who wants to tell me about his personal friend Jesus, I always counter with a line I believe I picked up from either a movie or a stand-up comedian:

"I talked to God this morning, and he didn't say anything about you."

I wish I could remember where I heard it from. If anyone want to drop me a note in the comments below if you know where it originated from, I would be most grateful. If you've read my previous article The Gospel According to Some Guy I Met on the Bus, you'll already be familiar with my views on religion. I'm not against organized religion per say, but I am much more into personal spirituality. I want to believe that there is something out there, but in my lifetime I am prepared to accept that I may never get more than occasional glimpses at it. I already told you about one such glimpse.

This morning, I had another.Today is Sunday, and that's usually the day I try to clean the apartment. I am conscious that my place screams "BACHELOR! BACHELOR ALERT! CLEAR THE BRIDGE! DIVE DIVE!" and I'm trying to cure it of that. I'd like to make the ol' homestead look like I live here, and not just Generic Slob #3. I'm not prepared to wait for the next woman in my life to take over the decorating duties.

That leaves me with quite a lot to do, and a lot of money to spend. I need new furniture. I need to buy groceries en masse more often, instead of just picking up odds and ends as I come home from work everyday. I need to routinely pick up those damn flyers that keep shoving through my mail slot, causing a mess and frightening the cat.

Like many people, I don't exactly look forward to doing the laundry and tend to wait until the last set of useable socks/underwear is gone before I drag my ass downstairs. It's amazing to think that all laundry used to be done by hand. Now we have machines that do almost everything for us and we're still lazy about it. Housewives in the 1950s must be as tough as modern-day marines.

I had to do lots of towels and bed linen to do too. I was going to drag a stuffed laundry bag and a basket downstairs. I do have a little shopping cart I could have used to bring the load downstairs, but when I bought it, disassembled, the hardware was incomplete. I lost the receipt so I couldn't prove I'd bought it from the place where I did and get a replacement.

From odds and ends in my toolbox (I am a MAN goddamnit. I have a TOOLBOX. With crumpled Canadian Tire money at the bottom of it yet. I think I'll go on the balcony, beat my chest, and howl over my domain) I managed to attach all but one wheel. I needed a lock washer to hold the wheel in place. Normally, the little black cap that comes with the cart has this to lock the wheel and place, and provide a smooth object to protect careless legs from scrapes. Me, I would have been happy with just the correct size of lock washer and little bit of hockey tape at the edges. Unfortunately, all my efforts to find the right size had been thwarted.

I had looked over lock washers just the day before. I've been looking for months, mind you. And today, as I hauled my overflowing load of socks downstairs, I kept thinking how much I'd love to use that cart right now.I was in a pretty good mood. The night before the Maple Leafs had one game two of their series against the Ottawa Senators. I watched it, and it was a great game with some beautiful goals. I'd just finished a book by Ann Rule, one of the few true crime authors worth reading. And I am well on my way to beating Thief 2: The Metal Age on Expert level. Life is good. So what if my laundry was heavy, and made no easier to carry by the fact that my basket is cracked along the handles (the fate of virtually every laundry basket).

I tossed my laundry in, and made my way to the elevator. Here, in the elevator of sub-basement one, the least likeliest of places, I had my religious experience.

Let me caution you as I did before: this experience is utterly meaningless to anyone but me. In fact, many of you will probably find this stupid, as you should. But I'm telling you, once again, there was the touch.

On the floor of the elevator, was a cap from a shopping cart, one used to hold wheels in place. I picked it up and took it up stairs.

It fit my cart perfectly. Now, after months of goofing around with lock washers, I finally have a cart. You are probably now saying, "There is a word for this, and it's 'coincidence.'" I agree totally, but that doesn't change my point. I am not saying that God put that cap there. As far as divine intervention goes, finding a piece my cart needed ranks rather low next to raising Lazarus. The most mundane set of circumstances probably put that cap there.

My point is, I was just wishing for something like that on a day it just happened to come into my life. I live in a world where a vague wish can be granted by a coincidence.

Isn't that fucking great? My first experience--seeing the newborn kitten, also happened due to an unusual set of circumstances. I was doing three things that I was unlikely to have been doing that day. In the midst of it all came this experience, totally unexpected. Just a coincidence. It really profoundly influenced the way I think. Coincidences are profound.

I'm not the only person who thinks this way, if I'm reading the climatic scene of the movie Magnolia right. I won't describe the climax, but you probably wouldn't believe me if I told you anyway. It's easily the least predictable climax in motion picture history...yet it does make sense in its own way.

Magnolia is big on coincidence. The opening sequence discusses cases of coincidence at length, including people whose lives are connected by it. The movie then goes on to depict the lives of more people who are connected by coincidences. A former kid quiz show champion, now an adult. A young quiz show contest, trying to be the next big winner. The host of said quiz show. His estranged daughter. A police officer who investigates a disturbance at her apartment and becomes infatuated with her. A dying old man. His gold digger wife. The old man's estranged son, who has some major issues with women (understatement). Aside from coincidence, the various parties are also related by feelings of loneliness and desperation. Some have dark secrets that they are begging to be forgiven for, and fear that they won't be. The movie charts their progress through their problems, while Amy Mann sings unsubtly "It's not going to stop until you wise up." Indeed, watching the movie you can't help but feel that some of the problems the people face are easily solvable if they'd just start talking about how they feel. You actually want to shake some sense into some of them.

Then, just when it looks like everyone involved is going to totally self-destruct, the climax occurs, and the characters in the movie are no less stunned and confused than the audience.

What does it mean? Allow me to offer this interpretation. While these people are busy screwing up their lives, sinking deeper and deeper into despair, this thing happens. It defies all rational explanation. It does suggest a divine one though. Someone saying "I'm watching." Perhaps it's a friendly touch suggesting to these emotional road accidents that "Hey, I'm here, and I care." It might even be a warning. "Listen you idiots: sort this out now. Don't make me come down there."

I believe I have experienced the friendly touch, and maybe even the warning. There was one summer where myself and a group of three of friends, with too much time and sugar on our hands, did everything we could possibly think of to try to get ourselves killed. This resulted in an incident that I have always wondered might have been a graphic demonstration of what could happen if we didn't smarten up. I may discuss this incident at another time, but right now, I'm too embarrassed.

As I said, I am prepared to live with the fact that if there is something divine, I may never get more than a momentarily glimpse at them. But I am grateful for what I have been shown. I certainly wouldn't object to another show, though, if someone or something were willing.

In the meanwhile, Magnolia will be out on DVD soon enough. I will definitely buy a copy.