A Day at the Movies with Red Rountree & Queen Elizabeth

I saw two wonderful and very different movies yesterday, and I'm wondering how they are connected in the larger scheme of things in my consciousness today.

In the afternoon, I saw a very interesting documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival called, "This Is Not A Robbery," directed by Lucas Jansen and Adam Kurland, and produced by Andrew Lauren. The film is about an otherwise law-abiding citizen and beloved family man who unapologetically takes up bank-robbing - in his eighties! Presented with a bit of tongue-in-cheek amusement, no attempts at psychological explanations and gratefully, without any moral judgments, the film examines the life of one J.L. "Red" Rountree.

Red, who admits in an excellent interview with him in prison that he didn't need the money, but that he "got a rush" from robbing banks, claims to be certain that he is destined to go to Heaven when he dies because "there's nothing in the Bible that says anything about bank-robbing." When his adept interviewer gently poses, "Uhh...Thou shalt not steal?" Red simply responds "Oh. I like to steal." It was my favorite moment in a very fascinating portrayal of a human being who doesn't overtly seem to be suffering from any particular medical or psychiatric diagnosis, and without a prior history of sociopathic behavior, yet still embarks on a wanton criminal enterprise as the finale to his life.

At home in the evening, I watched "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," a stunningly beautiful movie about the fabled virgin Queen of England during a powerful and most significant moment in World History, the later half of the 16th Century, when the Catholic Church was perhaps at its most corrupt and, with the help of Spain at its craziest, was attempting to crush the Reformation permanently.

Elizabeth, played by Cate Blanchett in a performance that defies words, more than just saves Britain from defeat at the hands of the powerful Spanish Armada, she stops the Inquisition in its tracks and saves the world from potential papal domination. Elizabeth is more a Goddess than mere monarch. Unmarried, without child, perhaps even a virgin, she is accepting of a spiritual mission that leaves her bereft of Eros and sex, even though she is presented here as a very sensual and passionate woman.

So, anyway, what am I talking about? Red Rountree and Elizabeth? An elderly bank robber from the 20th Century and a virgin Queen from the 16th Century?! What do they have in common?

Well, for one thing, they both seemed to have understood, without self-consciousness, that they were here to deliver a message, to assume a spiritual task, one seemingly ironic and eccentric, one seemingly grave and of the utmost import. Red believed that he was going to Heaven because God wouldn't judge him for breaking the laws of man. The Protestant Reformation also put forth the proposition that our relationships with God were personal, beyond the purview of priests or saints of the laws of a church hierarchy.

If God is God, first and foremost, God does not judge. The notion is absurd, on the face of it, really, that All That Is could judge a particular expression of Itself? It would be like me judging one of my fingernails, as if it were not part of me. Ah, but that's what human beings do, right? In this current place in our evolution, having only recently developed a reflective consciousness and an ego, we judge and judge and judge - ourselves, each other, everyone and everything - as if they were truly separate and apart from us. This is the basis for war, poverty, crime and bigotry.

Near the end of every episode of "The Actors Studio" with James Lipton, the host always asks his famous guest what they would want to hear God say to them when they reach the "Pearly Gates." Although I don't expect to be on show anytime soon, I have nonetheless asked myself the question in preparation for a possible appearance. What I have come to is this: God wouldn't say anything to me. Neither "Great job, Pete!" nor "You really fucked up big time, buddy!" God doesn't judge. I believe God wouldn't say anything to any of us, but rather would simply ask us all the exact same question: "What did you do and how did it feel?" That's it. What did you do and how did it feel? And I've realized that if we only asked ourselves that question about all of our actions, from a place of being truly connected to ourselves, we wouldn't need the laws of man or moral judgments. (How we become truly connected to ourselves is a larger topic for another discussion.)

Red Rountree, Queen Elizabeth, I thank you for an enlightening day at the movies. James Lipton, you ARE God!

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