“Marisa Tomei! Hallelujah! Marisa Tomei! Thank you Jesus! Marisa Tomei! Now I can eat. Amen.”
What you just read was an approximation of my thoughts just before dinner tonight. I am presently on a retreat for new pastors and today is our day of silence. With the exception of a short session for spiritual direction, I haven’t spoken all day, which has been great. I’ve done a lot of reading from the Bible and some old school preacher dudes and philosophers. I did some meditating. I watched my thoughts and prayed a lot about the direction of this ministry I feel called to. In addition, I had a long internal conversation with God about money and other material stuff that some of us get attached to on this plane of existence–to include our so called bodies (but that’s a whole other post). And I even walked a labyrinth.
When I went into the silence, I was hoping that I would get a chance to put words to this idea I have about the relationship between the spirit and the so called body. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be, because just when I thought that I got the right words to express this idea, I got totally distracted by Marisa Tomei.
I know it sounds a little random, but that’s how life is sometimes. I’m sitting here asking God to help me see around, beyond, or through anything that would cloud my vision from seeing the world with the truest eyes possible and from loving with my whole being. I’m standing in front of these monuments to Jesus at this retreat center trying to hear “the still small voice” and I keep getting these images of Marisa Tomei’s face in my head. At first I was ignoring it. I would just let the image arise and depart like I would any other distraction in this time of contemplation. But eventually, I gave in to the image and tried to figure out if her appearance held any particular meaning for me that I was not aware of. I didn’t want to discount the possibility that God was answering my inquiries with Marisa Tomei’s face. Stranger things have happened, right?
Anyway, I start mining for meaning by thinking of the different things that I’ve seen her in starting with the show, A Different World. From there I go to My Cousin Vinny and a few other films when I realize that although her face is in my head and I can think of several movies that I’ve seen her in, I can’t remember her name for anything. In an effort to do so, I start asking myself questions about her. “Isn’t she Italian?” I wonder. So I start trying to think of Italian sounding names. From there I start thinking about the characters that she has played. What were they like? Are there any similarities between the films? Is she typecast? Why did she choose the films? Why would the casting people choose her? I’m going deep to try to force my mind to remember her name and I refuse to google her to find it out. I will not give up!
Everything I’m trying to do to jog my memory isn’t working so I start thinking about the memory itself. What is it really? Where are memories contained? Are memories located in the brain or are they impressions that exist ever present in the universe always accessible to those of us who can tap into their presence by tuning our brains to the right frequency with which to receive the impression? Does memory follow a linear trajectory or can we remember the future if we’re tapped in like the prophets? Heck if I know, but it is a good question, so I contemplate it for a while. But, eventually I don’t care anymore, because I’m just annoyed that I can’t remember her name in the here and now. I know I used to know her name. What happened? From there, I start theorizing that the internet and other technology is making me dumber because I don’t need to remember anything anymore except where my phone is so I can look stuff up. When I think that thought, I get so serious about remembering her name that I decide that I will not eat until I remember it. Meanwhile, I hear people in the dining hall eating away.
Eventually I have to make peace with the fact that if I don’t remember her name soon I will not be eating dinner. I imagine telling my wife or the other pastors that I didn’t eat dinner because I can’t remember an actors name and I am aware that that’s just silly. But, I’m feeling like a scientist right now and I don’t want to stop the experiment. I guess one thing I should add, is that my last sermon relied heavily on the power of names, so I had an added scientific investment in trying to remember her name. The premise of the sermon was that–in reference to Jesus and the context out of which he emerged and made his impressions–a name was more than a name and that within the name is the very essence of the being to which the name refers. Follow the above link to learn more. Anyway, that’s partly why I was so adamant about remembering Marisa Tomei’s name.
By the time her moniker popped into my head, I had pretty much fully tapped into the essence of all I knew about her. In other words, I knew what her name meant to me even though I still didn’t remember what she is called. It was a weird feeling to think about the little I knew of someone’s character with that much intention. I realized that I do that with Jesus, my wife, my daughter, and my mom but for everyone else I do the quick reference thing. It makes sense to me to go that deeply with them, but it was really strange to do that for someone who I don’t know personally and likely never will. In a way I felt like I had no right to think about her with that level of intention, but then I thought about what I asked God. Can you see where this is going?
I asked God to help me see around, beyond, or through anything that would cloud my vision from seeing the world with the truest eyes possible and from loving with my whole being. Well, as I imagine it, God looks at the complete picture of all of us with great attention and intention, not just some of us. If I am going to see the world with the truest eyes possible, I have to be willing to at least try to look at others with all of the attention and intention that I can muster. So with that, I discovered that Marisa Tomei was actually the answer to my inquiry.
And if you’re wondering how I recalled her name… Well it turns out at least in some small way remembering the future is possible. When it started looking like I was not going to get dinner, I stopped and imagined myself being satisfied with the meal that they prepared. When I could really feel the impression of having eaten, I said to myself, “If I ate this meal in the future, I must have remembered that her name was ______. And with that thought “Marisa Tomei” popped into my mind effortlessly. Along with her name, came a poem that I think captures the essence of what I contemplated about the roles I’ve seen her play. It’s called “Who’s Your Marisa Tomei“? Check it out. I think you’ll agree that everyone needs a Marisa Tomei in their lives.