The movie Jeff Who Lives At Home has been percolating in my instant queue on Netflix/Amazon Prime for a very long time now. It constantly caught my eye and for some reason I just kept passing on it. Thanks to a busy schedule it took me three days to get through the whole thing (I only watch while I am eating lunch.) I knew, on day two as I watched the actors agonizing over their interpersonal disconnects that this film was worth a little reflection.
Here is what IMDB gives for a synopsis:
Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his widowed mother, slacker Jeff might discover his destiny (finally) when he spends the day with his unhappily married brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife.
And that is every bit as myopic and closed off as three out of four of the main characters of the film, so it is somewhat ironically apropos.
I think you truly have to watch the film so I won’t waste words giving you a fuller synopsis. The valuable thing to know is this: Jeff looks like the one with his life in disarray and on many levels it is (unemployed, no perceivable aspirations, living in his mother’s basement, the worst kind of pot head–the watch TV and eat cheese puffs all day kind) but it is his brother and to a lesser extent his mother that are truly out of sync with their inner truths.
The primary surface conflict is certainly the issues between Pat and his wife, but the bigger picture conflict is between Jeff, who believes in a higher cosmic order, and Pat who is unable or at least unwilling to see meaning in anything, much less the little things that so captivate his brother, who is a borderline conspiracy theorist–just with positive connections as opposed to negative ones.
The most beautiful moment happens in the backseat of a cab as the brother race to catch up with Pat’s wife so he can finally own his own failures and open himself to change. Something has traffic on the bridge at a complete standstill and Pat looks at Jeff, realizing the traffic stall is a metaphor for his stalled out life and stalled out marriage and says in pure agony: “How do I know what to do?”
The beauty of film is that the perfect lighting, the perfect music, the perfect performance by the actor are so much more powerful at conveying these moments than I can do here with this prose.
Pat shut down Jeff’s attempt at connection at every turn. He mocked, and laughed at him. He was rude and mean spirited and it was all this outer shell of cynicism and pragmatism that he wore in order to shoulder his way through the galloping hordes of life. He is the perfect picture of what so many of us are today.
In my circle of artists, musicians, metaphysical healers, drum circles and incense burners, I am blessed to be surrounded on all sides by the kind of people that live their lives deeply in tune with the river-like cosmic flow of which Jeff is so certain. They know that while not all events must have meaning, all events can be given the meaning we choose to assign to them.
But I come from a much more pragmatic family. A family of scientists, and plain jane protestants that see the world in black and white and either fear the unknown or examine it coldly with the eyes of intellect alone. A family of Pats. I was raised surrounded by these kinds of people and it was not long before I bucked the whole shebang and made myself scarce while I hunted my own understanding of God and the world unseen.
And it feels like I have been given a key to an outside world that none of them even know is there, and now I am standing outside their tiny microcosm of existence watching them “push the food button” and “make the doughnuts” day in and day out. I could shatter the walls of their universe with truth bombs–out argue them, out logic every point of their self validation, but they would simply fail to see or hear me, because this is not something you can come to on the coattails of others. You cannot evangelize people OUT of their cubby holes.
I watch people around me that also have the key rage in frustration, judge and feel superior about their knowledge–mostly unintentionally. But I have come to understand something about human nature and the path to God:
Any and every path will get you there. It is a matter of your own level of evolution how your path contributes to the collective and in what amount.
It is important to understand that each path that gives, will give at a different level, and in different amounts and in different ways.The church that raises money to build schools in Africa gives differently than the Reiki healer that relieves emotional pain manifested as physical ailment. But they both give. They both wield their share of the universal energy to give what their level of consciousness allows them to give. The feel good “Christianity Lite” speaker that builds a mega church and spreads his “positive thinking” through tiny digestible tidbits does no more good than the silently meditating Buddhist that contemplates peace every morning before breakfast.
To pass judgment is destruction of the spirit. To love and accept and encourage is the path to God.