If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Saturday 4 August 2012
Read gnomica 1-50 here!
“My old drama coach used to say, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there.’
Gary Cooper wasn’t afraid to do nothing.”
Clint Eastwood (31 May 1930 – )
I like the underlying paraprosdokian (παρὰ προσδοκίαν) that the comment exemplifies. Torquing a cliché is usually a matter of the kind of clever inversion of language and sense one sees here.
And the coach’s statement is widely applicable.
As nature is said to abhor a vacuum and must somehow fill it up, some people dread the emptiness of silence and need desperately to fill it up with talk talk and more talk. How many times have you felt like telling someone who has fallen hopelessly in love with the incantatory sound of her (or his) own voice just to please for just one minute shut the eff up, will you! On some occasions in your life (as in mine), just keep your mouth shut.
And as for action, sometimes it truly is the best and smartest thing just to stand there. Then and now the most effective action is inaction. For, paradoxically, inaction is action. Do a Gary Cooper! How many times have you felt like telling someone who has fallen hopelessly in love with being seen as a (literal) mover and shaker-up-er of things just to please for just one minute sit the eff down, will you! On some occasions in your life (as in mine), just do nothing.
I admire Clint Eastwood – certainly as an actor, but also as a person who gets deliberately involved in the real world that he inhabits, and who, whether as actor or director, articulates contemporary fantasies of various kinds in the coherent format of film. Maybe the vengeance-is-mine ethos of so many of the characters he plays is not exactly New Testament, but there is more than a little bit of Old Testament there.
In connection with the citation, I think most immediately of that silent lethal waiting he does so effectively in the three Sergio Leone westerns from the sixties, like, for example, A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Yes, he shoots and kills, but it is the antecedent doing of nothing and just standing there that creates the intolerable tension and in a sense ‘justifies’ the explosive release when it finally comes.
For the many great films that followed in which Eastwood had a hand in one capacity or another, check the list!
But let’s for sure not take leave before we take special note of that truly iconic series, the Dirty Harry franchise from the 1970’s and 1980s, escapist film-making at its most compelling. Do you think any moviegoer could ever forget those five violent, memorable Magnum tales of retributive Smith & Wesson justice?
Well … do ya, punk?