Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Ethan Hawke Book Talk & "Rules for a Knight"

Photos by Kathryn Arion.

After seeing Drew Barrymore's book talk, I was inspired to go back to Sixth and I and see Ethan Hawke talk about his newest book Rules for a Knight.

Photo by Kathryn Arion.

Unlike Drew's talk, Ethan seemed to talk a lot more about his movies than his new book. There was a lot of discussion about the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset movies; I think I have only seen one of them, and I don't remember that much (I guess I need to see them again!). I think his most impactful movie is Gattaca (which I actually had to watch for school); it's fascinating to think how genomics and eugenics could play a role in the future years from now! While I was excited about his new book, I do know him best for his acting, so I was glad we got to hear more about his movies. And he didn't give too much away about his book, which I appreciated! I will say that it was annoying that his interviewer, The New Yorker's Margaret Talbot, kept interrupting and trying to impress the audience with her knowledge about his films. I wanted to shout, "No one cares how smart you are or what research you did on him! We're there to see him, not you!"

He told a funny story about recently thinking about another film. He's not into superhero movies (he said he definitely prefers indie films but wished they had larger budgets), but he contemplated taking a role in a superhero film since he has four kids to feed (which was funny, since I just saw a talk by photographer Joel Sartore, and he asked people to buy his books because "Baby needs shoes!" Just a funny coincidence.). Ethan said he was going to meet someone about the film, and as he was leaving his building, he tumbled down the stairs! He tried to play it cool, but he was bleeding from both legs and the director (or producer? anyway) insisted that he see a nurse, so the meeting never happened and he lost the role.You never know what's going to happen in life!

But Ethan does believe there are rules to live by, no matter what life throws at you, and that's what his newest book is about. He wrote the book for his children, and before every chapter there is a drawing of a bird. This of course makes sense for children, but historically his family were falconers (hence the name Hawke! That is his real name, by the way.); he also liked that birds are rather gender-neutral, since this book is both for boys and girls.

The book is actually somewhat of a translation that one of Ethan's ancestors wrote. He found this old, long letter at his great-grandmother's house. A specialist helped him with the literal translation, and then Ethan made it his own so that his kids could relate to it and understand what they were reading.

Each chapter focuses on a certain trait, like Honesty, Courage, Patience, etc. I enjoyed most of them, but some of the stories did not really fit well with the headers. The ones about Disciple and Equality really don't make sense for the "rule" they are trying to teach. But there were some particular quotes I did enjoy. Here are a few:

"There are only two possible outcomes whenever you compare yourself to another, vanity or bitterness, and both are without value."

I think this is a very important lesson, especially for young adults who are going through big changes mostly at the same time: getting jobs, getting other degrees in school, finding a place to live, finding a life partner, etc. Because my friends and I are mostly at the same point in life, it is very difficult not to compare myself to them, thinking, "Why is she engaged and I'm not?" or "She makes so much more money than I do!" But it really doesn't do any good to compare your life to someone else's. You have to do your own thing and do what's best for you. If you try to live life as if you were someone else, you won't be happy at all!
"Don't fear suffering. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire...[S]ometimes we have to be stirred and ripped apart so that the seeds of compassion, wisdom, and understanding can be firmly planted in us."

Inevitably, everyone is going to face hard times. This could mean losing a job or facing heartbreak or fighting with a loved one...Bad things happen. But you have to learn from those experiences and grow from them. You realize how much stronger you are when you face unfortunate circumstances and get through them. You also learn not to take the good times for granted! Facing adversity gives you the opportunity to become a better, stronger person, if you handle the situation in the right way.

"...[N]othing gives a young woman permission to be weak-minded, lazy, and dull as much as being considered beautiful."

Now I have to say this is a little unfair, seeing as there are plenty of beautiful women who are NOT weak, lazy, or boring. But I see where he's coming from: If you are beautiful and people are willing to do things for you just because of that, why wouldn't you take advantage of them? But it is better to be well-rounded rather than to have your looks be your one winning quality. Why not be smart, active, interesting, AND beautiful? That's what I do!

"Often we imagine that we will work hard until we arrive at some distance goal, and then we will be happy. This is a delusion. Happiness is the result of a life lived with purpose. Happiness is not an objective. It is the movement of life itself, a process, and an activity...Your life is your responsibility, and you always have the choice to do your best. Doing your best will bring happiness."

You don't just reach one point of happiness and it's all over. Happiness flows through your whole life (if you let it); it's not just one moment. And part of finding happiness is creating your own destiny. If you make the right choices that are right for you, then you will find happiness. I think it's interesting that both Ethan Hawke and Drew Barrymore said the same message for young people: Work hard, do your best, and everything will be fine. If you know you've done your best, you can't ask for anything more.

The book ends with a very long poem called, "The Ballad of the Forty-Four Pointed Red Deer." This poem is supposed to teach lessons like thinking of others, but at the surface-level it just seems like a call for veganism. I was never very good at interpreting poetry, so maybe I just missed the point... (no pun intended).

At the end of the book Ethan thanks other "knights." Some are fellow writers, like Emerson, Shakespeare, Whitman, and Dickinson. But others seemed somewhat random, like Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, and George Lucas (well, I guess the last one is involved with movies, too). And of course family members made the list, too.
Then was only on stage for an hour; he was very adamant about his time commitment. He made no speech beforehand, and there was no book signing afterward. He was so ready to get out of there and leave! So that was disappointing, especially for some of his big fans. But before he left he did make a shout-out to Veterans (since it was Veterans Day), which was humbling and very meaningful. He's a good guy!

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