Walking the Line

Thoughts since returning from Nashville...
22 April 2015

Walking the Line

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I used to watch Walk the Line and see a story I thought I understood.

There was a boy…a dreamer. Truly his brother’s keeper, a guilt-ridden child who let everyone down – especially his hard-working, nearly-impossible-to-please father.

I saw a music fan who stopped dreaming. Doing what everyone expected of him, he pretended to be an airman, a salesman, a husband and a father (falling short in all categories). I saw a man who didn’t realize he would be JOHNNY F-ING CASH if only he had the courage to stop pretending to be anything else.


A man who moved to where the action is…to the detriment of his young family. A cautionary tale, but cautioning what exactly?

“In life, you have to lose a fly to catch a trout.” (old saying, not a line from the film)

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” (from John A. Shedd, also not a line from the film)

I saw a phone call that I recognized…one we’ve made dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

“I think it was the best show we’ve ever done…hell, it may be the best show I’ve ever SEEN! I miss you.”

But the other end of the line can’t hear it. There are too many “real world” distractions for her to maintain focus. A baby screams. There’s homesickness as well as the sadness that comes when you realize you can’t really share your proudest moments with the person you care for the most. She just doesn’t care enough…not about that stuff at least.

I saw a man plagued by guilt and depression…always chasing something that he thinks will finally bring him peace. When he tastes whatever that next step is, he realizes it’s not the cure he thought it would be.

I saw demons nearly destroy a man. Not a legend. Not some name in a magazine or on an album cover. A human being who’s no stronger or weaker than any of us.

There was a decision to be made: which life do you choose? How will you live it?

It wasn’t choosing one woman over another. That’s metaphor. “Vivian” as a construct meant the old life, promises, responsibilities. “June Carter” as an ideal meant having the freedom to dream again, with a partner by your side. Although based on real people, these women work as plot devices or motifs….they are not flesh and blood.

But there IS flesh and blood in the real world. Lives change. People can be hurt.

I used to watch it and think I understood.

Returning from Nashville, I felt it only fitting to rewatch a film I held dear.

Now I realize it’s not about any of that stuff. It’s about Joaquin Phoenix kinda sorta looking and sounding like Johnny Cash, but not really. If nothing else, Walk the Line is a film about how much groundwork one needs to lay if you want to sleep with Reese Witherspoon. Like, it takes a whole lot of stupid effort.

It’s a movie. It’s not prophetic, and it’s certainly not reality.

Think I’ll go kiss my kids and hug my wife.

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