Last Tuesday, in Message #325, I tried to talk you into reading a really great book. I argued that since you probably have very little time to devote to pleasurable reading, the books you read should be the kind that will give you the most pleasure. I said that there are two kinds of books — simple and complex. I suggested that a complex one is more difficult to get into but also is more likely to give you a lot in return.
There is an old saying that goes something like this: “If you want to take pearls from Arabia, you have to bring pearls in.” I never understood what it meant before, but now I think I do. I believe it applies to this phenomenon: Like it or not, life gives us a just return on our investments. Cheap thrills come fast, but they go fast too. The pleasures that last come out of energy and effort.
I am going to hope that either (1) you know this to be true and are already reading good books or (2) you have gone ahead and started a great book and have found it GREAT. If so, you will find this next suggestion sensible. Locate several “Best Movies” lists. There are plenty in the library and on the Internet. Scan a few of them and select a movie that is highly rated. If possible, choose one that is highly rated by more than one expert. Rent the movie and watch it.
What I hope your will discover is this: There is a reason why some movies are consistently rated “great.” Great movies, like great books, are sometimes a little difficult to get into. They tend to be a bit more complicated or a bit more austere. They require more of your mental energy — more participation from you. But the rewards are much greater too. A good movie will give you thoughts and feelings you’d never before experienced in that particular way. And its images will stay with you for weeks, months, and even years.
Great movies, like great books, provide complex pleasures. They manipulate your emotions in a gratifying way. They stimulate your thinking so that some ideas just won’t leave you. And they stun your aesthetic sensibility, even if you never thought you had one.
If you want to get started immediately — before you have time to do the proper research — here is a list of five great movies that I can’t imagine you wouldn’t love:
1. “Mutiny on the Bounty” (the old MGM version starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton)
2. “It Happened One Night”
3. “The Graduate”
4. “Five Easy Pieces”
5. “The Godfather”
I’ll make a special plea here for the older movies, the black-and-whites in particular. Like black-and-white photography, they take a little more work on your part before they sink in, but if you let them, they will stay with you a lot longer.