We watched the Oscars last night, and I enjoyed the show – it felt different this year, and I liked it. Moments like Eminem popping up to sing “Lose Yourself” delighted me (my daughter stared in amazement as I sang/rapped along – she is only 13, so she missed my Eminem glory days), the fashion was GORGEOUS (was it me or was last night one of the simply loveliest red carpets ever?!)…it was a good evening, as far as these evenings go. When it came time for Joaquin Phoenix to accept his Oscar for Best Male Actor for his role in “The Joker”, my ears perked up – Joaquin, love him or hate him, can always be counted on to say something that gets you thinking. Here’s the transcript of his speech:
[We have to] continue to use our voice for the voiceless. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively. I think at times we feel, or were made to feel, that we champion different causes, but for me, I see commonality. I think, whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.
I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world, and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview — the belief that we’re the center of the universe. We go into the natural world, and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then, we take her milk, that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal, and I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up.
But human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.
Now, I have been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with and ungrateful, but so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. And I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of community.
When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric. It said, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.'”
I really liked the beginning – he lost me a bit in the middle when I first heard it, but he ended strong. Reading it through a couple of times this morning helped me to appreciate where he was going and what he was trying to say (perhaps I wasn’t listening closely enough last night, or maybe his words were meant to be savored rather than slurped down). The last part really resonated with me (and not just because he used the word ‘scoundrel’, a most excellent word): we have all been scoundrels, and been shitty to those around us, we’ve all had moments that we aren’t proud of…but thank goodness we’ve been given second chances. We haven’t been written off as a waste of time or space. It wasn’t one and done – nor should it be. We should be willing to give others another opportunity to make the right choice, to say the right thing, to be their very best. Not all of us are going to get it right the first time….most of us don’t. Dori in “Finding Nemo” said it best: ‘Just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. It’s important to keep trying, to keep striving. To keep trying to find your purpose, your passion – and, just as vital, we must be willing to accept those around us, to value their efforts, and to encourage their attempts. Maybe I’m still obsessing about the Netflix documentary “Cheer”, but we as a society are in serious need of some mat talk. Let’s give it a try, shall we?
PS: Can we please take a moment together to pause and appreciate what Joaquin’s brother wrote: Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow. Sigh. Gorgeous. ♥️