In the movie of the same name, Jerry Maguire becomes increasingly disillusioned with the changing business focus of his employer, Sports Management International. Once being a sports agent was all about the heart, it was important to care for your client and ensure that regardless of the business deals being signed and sealed, that fans were always respected. Jerry eventually comes to realise that the heart has been lost from the business, and the driving force behind the agency has become the head, or more specifically, the dollar value. Money had overtaken the pure love of sport, and personal consideration for the players and fans had been lost.
In response to this evolving business model, Jerry takes it upon himself to get his thoughts down on paper. The result is a ‘mission statement’ entitled, ‘The Things We Think and Do Not Say‘. This is a wonderful, wonderful piece of writing that was actually penned by the film’s director (and writer), Cameron Crowe. You can find a copy of the full text here. Crowe writes eloquently, and his words drip with passion and hope for the future. He speaks with honesty and inspires in so many ways:
‘I have broken even with my life. I have a nice home, a nice car, a fiancee who makes my heart race. But I have not taken that step, or risk, that makes the air I have breathed for 35 years worthwhile. I once had a yellow couch. I got rid of it because it was neutral. My life is now like that yellow couch…
I have never been a writer, but I can see how this great lost art will never truly die. Putting words to paper is a sacred thing. It’s more than a phone conversation, it is a document. It is something you are putting on paper. The relationship between a phone call and a letter is the difference between a magazine and a phone book. One you leave on a plane, the other you save…
We cannot sleepwalk. We cannot just survive, anything goes. We can take control of our lives, we can quit sleepwalking, we can say – right now, these are our lives, it is time to start living it. It is time to not second guess, to move forward, to make mistakes if we have to, but to do it with a greater good in mind…‘
In a burst of late night / early morning inspiration, Jerry distributes copies of his mission statement throughout his office. Unfortunately for him, the honest thoughts and feelings he documented are not embraced by the business, given that he is virtually advocating a change in emphasis from more clients (and more money) to fewer clients (and more personal attention). In the end though, things work out for Jerry in a completely unexpected and deeply fulfilling way. Anyway I digress…(there is a link here somewhere).
After a long time, I finally purchased and read ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers. This is an incredible book that moves the reader at almost languorous pace through the experiences of several characters who are all touched in some way by John Singer, a deaf-mute. There is fourteen-year-old Mick Kelly who hears music in her heart and dreams of an amazingly big life, cafe owner Biff Brannon who observes his customers with quiet reflection, hard working doctor Benedict Copeland who struggles with his family situation, the drunken outcast Jake Blount who rages against the world, and the lazy Spiros Antonapoulos who is Singer’s best friend. Each character in their own way feels out of place in the world and longs for a way or a person who will help them feel less alone.
In John Singer each individual feels that they have finally found someone that really listens and understands them for who they really are. For them it doesn’t matter that he can’t speak to them directly, with Singer a conversation goes far beyond the need to talk. Without being aware of their dependency on him, Singer becomes critical to the existence of those around him. When people speak to him they say the things ‘they think and do not (normally) say’. With Singer, people share their feelings, thoughts and secrets in complete openness and honesty. Even those things that cannot normally be admitted to one’s self, suddenly with Singer, it seems right to divulge them.
‘Singer was bewildered. Always each of them had so much to say. Yet now that they were together they were silent. When they came in he had expected an outburst of some kind. In a vague way he had expected this to be the end of something. But in the room there was only a feeling of strain. His hands worked nervously as though they were pulling things unseen from the air and binding them together.’
But what of Singer? The person chosen to be the confidant of so many. Singer desperately misses the friendship of Antonapoulos who has been hospitalised in another town. He is bewildered by the attention he receives from the people around him and perhaps feels more starkly confronted by his loneliness when he is with them.
And so through ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’, Carson McCullers shares a commonality with Jerry Maguire by exploring the things that more often than not go unsaid. As with much in life, everything comes down to communication, and perhaps more importantly it is the things that are left unsaid that leave the most indelible mark on the heart.