On a recent snow day I sat in my recreation room at home and watched a youtube interview between Bill Murray and Charlie Rose. Bill Murray is my favorite actor, Charlie Rose and CBC Radio’s Michael Enright are my favorite interviewers. I watched the 51 minute video as a respite, I expected and wanted to laugh. That did happen but I was surprised by the insight that emerged from the conversation. The focus of the dialogue became Murray’s approach to acting and to life, namely being “available”.
The Buddhists have this notion of being “present”. I believe that is the core of what makes meditation so appealing, the yearning to be present to the current moment, to take in what is there. I think this is an excellent corrective to endless going back over the past and very distracting notions of the future. But when I am honest with myself I admit that I am unlikely to ever be fully present. Frankly I am not even sure I want to divorce myself from past memories or future considerations. But there is something very, very appealing about being “available.” And I really enjoyed the context to Murray’s passion for availability, how he makes himself available for roles, for emotions, for experiences with others, for offers to connect with people. Murray is famous for two things; 1) he does not have an agent, he lets people makes pitches for his time on his answering machine and then reviews the requests and determines where he will invest his time and 2) he does not tell the people who are having Bill Murray festivals or weddings or celebrations that he plans to show up. So one never knows if Bill Murray will make an appearance, he just shows up.
The availability has limits. Bill Murray does not just do whatever he is asked to do. He makes it clear in this interview that the role or the occasion has to be something he connects to, something that feels like him, where he is part of something that he can make a contribution to. Yet even when that does happen, when the offer is such he can see himself part of the experience Murray struggle to meet the moment. In this interview Murray describes the feeling of being in fog or zoned out and how easy it is to do that. All of us can relate to this experience, being tired or bored or disconnected or lost and failing to take the opportunity when it is made available.
In the interview Rose tells Murray that several people have told him how their down period in life was healed in part by the laughter they experienced when they watched one of Murray’s films. I can partly relate. I was depressed for six months and part of what got me through that was watching Lost in Translation, a movie that starred Bill Murray who plays a washed up star doing a promotional tour in Tokyo, Japan. I found myself identifying with how lost and depressed Murray was in the film.
As I think about my life at 53 I realize that when I am truly happy it is because I am being “available” to the opportunity that is presented and allowing my own gifts to mesh with the circumstance that lays before me.