One of my favorite characters in modern movies is Purslane Hominy Will in Love Song for Bobby Long. Scarlett Johansson plays the young doe-eyed girl who is thrown together with a couple of washed-up alcoholics in seedy New Orleans. She is a bright light that shines through the bitterness and hardship that the other characters have faced. In one scene, she walks outside and runs into an old friend of her deceased mother. He talks to her of the origin of her name. “Your mother thought you were golden, so she named you after yellow flowers and corn,” he said. She answers that purslane is really a weed. She’d been told that by more than one person who meant to insult her. What a difference a name makes when you take into context the feeling behind the word!
My friend Bonnie posted this placard on Facebook today:
It reminded me of this scene in a Love Song for Bobby Long. I think the movie is really about the idiocy of judgment and the false perceptions we get about people. The characters in this movie could be dismissed as trash because of their poverty, alcoholism and bad personal habits, but I’ve never seen a movie that had such a wonderful, soulful story. Every time I watch it, I walk away feeling good about the world. I admire the characters who are smart, learning to live in the present, fighting their own battles and really, truly caring about each other in a way that more civilized people might not. What’s not to love about that?
I have problems with judgment. I think most of us do until we learn that it is senseless. When I was younger, it kept me safe in a weird sort of way. If I wanted to put up walls and stay in my own little safe world, I could make judgments that separated me from people, activities, groups and places. It was so easy to do, and it also made me feel a little superior. I think it’s human nature to want to feel superior. It certainly feels better than feeling inferior. Honestly, I felt inferior inside, so I think the seat of judgment helped numb out my uncomfortable inferiority complex with the lofty, hoity-toity air of superiority. But, it was fake. All I had to do was start getting real with people, and I began to realize that they were very much like me. And, I was neither inferior as I feared or superior as I’d hoped. As reality leaked into my perception of myself and others, my judgments began to melt away.
Before I divorced the first time, I thought people that divorced were lazy or just quitters. I didn’t have much sympathy for them nor did I have any empathy for their struggles in coping with the split. I mean, they asked for it, didn’t they? Why couldn’t they just stick it out? I had this idea that any relationship could be saved and divorce was wrong… sinful … adulterous. I don’t actually know where I got that idea because no one in my family felt that way. I think for me, I just didn’t want to be divorced, so I made it out to be so horrible that I would never be able to make that choice. Just put up a wall … make it the worst thing I could do … don’t even make it an option … and it won’t happen. Well, it happened. And, I was the one who chose it. In one short period of time, my perception of divorce totally changed. It was all in how I perceived it. And, as I opened my eyes and my heart to those people who had divorced, too, I realized that they were good people. They, like me, didn’t want to make that choice, but it was what they had to do. A man I knew at work shamed me about divorcing because of its religious connotations. I didn’t answer him because there was nothing I could say. I just thought to myself that, if he had any idea how hard it was to divorce, he’d know that I had no other choice. It’s NOT the easier way. It was all in his perception.
I’ve realized that I know nothing. My perception is always distorted by my own experience. I can lean one way one day and another the next. That’s why I don’t get too heavily involved in political or religious discussions. Everyone has their own beliefs and perceptions, and they have a right to them. I have mine, and I have a right to them. But, I know they are fleeting. All I have to do is get one more piece of information, and my perception can change. And, get one more piece of information, and it will change again. Perception is only a lens through which we see reality. It is not reality itself. Who am I to judge someone else’s reality?
I’ve written about my struggles with depression. Depression is a lens which distorts my perception of reality. Happiness can be a lens that distorts reality. Bitterness, hatred, ignorance, vanity, fear and anger also distorts one’s perception of reality. The truth is that Purslane was named after yellow flowers and corn because she was loved. The only people who call purslane a weed are the ones who don’t appreciate its beauty, and they want to eliminate it. In other countries, purslane is a very nutritious food source loaded with Omega-3s and vitamins A, E and C. It is used in salads, and is considered a very desirable plant and food. It’s perception that determines whether it is a flower or a weed. It has nothing to do with reality.