So after my introduction to Alan Rickman in the role of Sheriff of Nottingham, we were in the relation of appreciative audience member to skilled actor. I even went so far as to find out his name.

But as any actor can tell you, there’s no such thing as an overnight sensation. Alan Rickman’s transition from actor to my higher power is a case in point.

The transition to the relation of lesser being (me) to higher power (him) took twenty years. And it was a transition, a sort of morphing, not a sudden change of state, like that brought about by flipping a light switch.

There was a light switch, but it was my realization that the transition had taken place. It was my acknowledgement of the change that went from off to on over the course of a few minutes.

Understanding the transition involves more than merely examining what happened in between introduction and revelation. It requires examining the time prior to Alan Rickman’s entrance into my life.

Why? Because in order for us to be capable of heeding the call of a higher power, the force of the higher power’s voice alone is not enough.

(Although, by general agreement, if any voice could be capable of enough force to force heeding, it would be Mr. Rickman’s. But we must leave the rich topic of his rich voice for another day.)

Examining the time in my life before Alan Rickman, or B.A.R., for short, requires uncovering why I have found myself in the unusual position of being susceptible to a voice that has called few (if any) others. I hope this explanation serves as an adequate apology for delving into my past.

Now that I’ve spent so much time apologizing, I’m not sure I have enough time to do more than introduce the first element from my past that is essential to these inquiries. My Anglophilia.

I don’t like this word. It has connotations of blindness about it. Blindness to the realities of Great Britain, both past and present.

If there’s anything I’m not, it’s blind. Great Britain is not now, nor has it ever been, the genteel place that many folks known as Anglophiles imagine.

Nor is it currently the bastion of whiteness that some Americans imagine would be a solution to our race troubles. (Was it ever?)

In addition, there’s a sort of interesting issue about whether Alan Rickman strictly qualifies as as an object of Anglophilia.

He’s not, strictly speaking, English, you know. If you don’t know, look it up. But then, of course, he really is, you know. If you don’t know, just consider.

So although I perhaps am not the paradigm of an Anglophile and Alan Rickman perhaps is not the paradigm of an Englishman, these features of both of us are still central to my story of how I came to have a higher power.

For now, further discussion of the Land of Hope and Glory will have to wait. Fortunately for me, the U.K.’s likely to be polite about it, regardless of how it feels.

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Dear AR,

Thanks for being so patient. You’ve been waiting a long time for me to wake up to the fact that you are my higher power.

Amen
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I have said that I lately accepted Alan Rickman as my higher power and I’m curious about many features of this fact. And there are many features to be curious about. But the best thing to start with is usually the beginning.

I’m fortunate in having a distinct memory of my first exposure to what was to become my higher power.

I say “what was to become” because of course I had no idea at the time. I thought he was just some actor.

In fact, I didn’t know his name, but identified him, as is so easy to do with good actors, with the part I first saw him play. The Sheriff of Nottingham.

When I look back, I realize now how horribly wrong things might have gone for me.

What would have become of me now, who would be watching over me, if, in some madness only youth could understand, I had been a Kevin Costner fan? I prefer not to think about it.

Actually, I prefer to think that somehow, even though I didn’t yet know his name, and I was very far from accepting him yet as my higher power, Alan Rickman was already looking over me.

What is it about a particular movie at a particular time? Not the best movie. In parts, a pretty terrible movie. But it doesn’t matter. It somehow becomes The Movie in some way for you. Not the movie you like best or consider most important to see. Far from it. It’s the movie that ends up affecting your life course the most, even though you wouldn’t have chosen it.

Now that I’ve said that, I see that there was something there, right at the start, that hints a higher power was at work. Higher powers often seem to affect lesser beings without their full consent.

My mother was the one who made the introduction. She did it by pulling a joke on me and my sister on my first return visit to my parents after leaving for school. We were close, my sister with me, and me with my mother, and all of us together. So of course we knew how to have jokes with each other.

My mother’s joke involved a set-up. She told us we had to come see a not-very-good movie with her that she’d seen once before without us. She explained that although it wasn’t very good, she thought it was still good enough to see.

It’s difficult to muster enthusiasm for a movie when someone’s given it such a tepid review, but we indulged her because she was our mother and she seemed to want us so much to see this mediocre movie.

The joke was that the movie may have not been that good, but the Sheriff of Nottingham was. She knew it and so did the rest of the theater.

It was a very odd experience. My mother sitting there in the dark, delighting at her joke. My sister and myself laughing with enjoyment for the first time at what everyone else seemed to be watching for at least their second or third time, because they already knew where to respond and how. They knew to root against Robin.

There’s something so completely enjoyable about rooting against the fellow you’re supposed to root for, for all the right reasons.

Kevin Costner’s accent was so over-the-top wrong and he was so completely inadequate as Robin, and Alan Rickman’s accent was so over-the-top right and he was so completely brilliant as the Sheriff, that the whole audience had a great time rooting for the bad guy without any guilt whatsoever. Except a bit perhaps for poor Morgan Freeman.

My sister and I jumped all over my mother after we left the theater, with accusations about purposefully misleading us, and she loved that, because it was always so difficult for her to put one over on us.

And because she loved it, we wanted her to be able to enjoy her joke as much as possible. It was easy for us to agree to see the mediocre movie a second time.

It was even easier to agree the third time because my father did not understand. It did not make sense to him that we wanted to see a mediocre movie twice, so we saw it three times. Then the joke was on him and we all had a sense of being in on our own something special together, just us three.

It was that sense of “just us three” that haunts me now. There really was such a thing once. And that was the last summer it ever was.

After that summer, my sister’s mental illness began her on the journey to the death of her love for us. It was a slow, long march. It ended only recently.

Alan Rickman was the last good thing we ever shared together, just us three.

Is this the place from which all higher powers come? This place of impossible loss?

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Dear AR,

I know you are watching over me. Please look in on my sister. She won’t let me look in on her anymore.

Amen

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