I love old movies – particularly, the great comedies, with Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.
One comic – probably the most famous and iconic of all – sadly, however, leaves me cold…..
I find Charlie Chaplin totally unfunny, maudlin, and over-rated.
Having said that, one of the greatest movie speeches ever was delivered by him in the talkie “The Great Dictator”. Here are a few lines from it:
“And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.
“Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.
“More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.“
These words are filled with a passion for humanity, with a compassion for people, with a love for folk, especially the downtrodden, the abused, the trampled upon.
Chaplin is better known for his portrayal of the “little tramp” and, I’m sorry, I find him in that persona as amusing as heartburn coupled with raging toothache!
In his film, “City Lights”, he plays someone – the “tramp” character – who brings grace, love, salvation and hope into two people’s lives….to both a poor blind girl and a rich man.
Chaplin befriends the prosperous gentleman who had tried to do away with himself when drunk, In gratitude for saving his life, the rich man takes the little tramp home with him for dinner, and gives him money….. something he forgets about, when he sobers up…. accusing Chaplin of having stolen the money.
Chaplin escapes, and manages to get the money into the hands of a poor blind girl for an operation she desperately needs to restore her sight. Then, he is arrested and imprisoned.
The blind girl had imagined that the person who had given her the cash must have been a handsome, wealthy young man.
But on his release from prison, she – now able to see – doesn’t recognise him, and in fact makes fun of him, shabby and unkempt as he is.
Only in the final scene of the film does she discover that the shabby little tramp was her benefactor.
Love comes in all kinds of different packages. Love comes in all kinds of different shapes, colour, people and situations.
And how, so often, we fail to recognise it.
St Paul, of course, describes it (in 1 Corinthians 13) as the most powerful force in the universe. The most potent weapon for good and for God in the world.
And yet, how often are we blind to it?
As Chaplin says, in “The Great Dictator”, “Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little”
Without love, we are nothing, we are empty, we are intoxicated by our self-centred greed and quest for personal gratification.
Without love, without love, without love….. welcome to this dark world in which we are lost.
During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb. In the front yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow. Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, “I can’t see you!”
The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, “But I can see you. Jump!”
And he did.
Dare we take the leap of faith, when we love others? Dare we make ourselves vulnerable, naked, open to ridicule… when we give and go on giving the gift that conquers all?
Dare we follow Christ’s command to love our neighbour as ourselves?
Dare we?…. and so help usher in the Kingdom about which we fervently pray, but do so very little to bring about in the hearts and souls of those still walking in darkness.