Most people would not see any connection between the newly released film Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, and a film from earlier this year called Jeff, Who Lives at Home. I saw the former in the theater last week and watched the latter on DVD a few days ago. Very different films. I liked both of them a lot.

Hope Springs is about a couple that after 31 years together go to Great Hope Springs, Maine to work with a famous therapist to try to rediscover the reasons why they married so long ago.

In the other film, Jason Segel plays Jeff who is simply looking for meaning in his life. He is a stoner slacker who has been pretty much written off by his brother and mother, but he knows that signs are leading him towards meaning.

The connections are signs.

Jeff was powerfully influenced by the film Signs. That’s a film that focuses,in  B-movie thriller style, on an alien-invasion and was directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable).

The film tracks a series of signs and portents that come to a  family in Pennsylvania who wake up one morning to find a 500-foot crop circle in their backyard. The news tells them that crop circles are being found all over the world.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home was directed by the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, who have directed some rather eccentric and funny films like The Puffy Chair, Baghead and Cyrus.  Jeff, Who Lives at Home  is more of a major studio, major names film, but it is still an odd one in all the best ways.

Kay and Arnold have been married for 31 years. Jeff has been on the planet for 30 years.They are both searching for answers because they can see the signs.

The couple has a therapist as a guide. Jeff has only himself to interpret the signs. He reminds me of the father in the TV show Touch that I wrote about earlier who is trying to find the red thread that his son sees.

Everything is connected. Everything has a purpose.

Jeff is living in his mom’s Baton Rouge basement. He watches TV, smokes pot, eats junk food and does not go out into the world. One critic said that Jeff,  in his soul, is a “character out of Dostoevsky – a holy fool.”

Random events ( a television infomercial, a wrong number, a stranger on a bus) are not random. There are no accidents in the universe.

More than ten years ago, I read the book There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives by Robert H. Hopcke. Hopcke is a Jungian marriage and family psychotherapist. (A therapist, like in Hope Springs – coincidence? Of course not.)

The book explores the nature and role of synchronicity.  It was Carl Jung who coined the term “synchronicity” to describe those odd “coincidences” and events that seem to tell us something, teach us and sometimes turn our lives around. They make life a  grand, mysterious story.

But how do you identify these coincidences as signs and uncover their significance so that they turn our lives towards greater meaning.

Some of the stories in the book – a woman is set up on a blind date with the same man twice, years apart, on two different coasts; a singer’s career changes direction when she walks into the wrong audition; a man gives his wife an unexpected gift, after she repeatedly dreams about that very same item – will trigger memories of your own synchronicities.

One of Jung’s favorite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice:

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards. The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.’

‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.

‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’

‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’

‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first–‘

‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’

‘–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’

‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’

‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.

Advertisements