The Voices in Your Head

Cheryl and I watched The Beaver recently, a strange piece of movie-making starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster (who directed it). It did poorly in theaters and is certainly not flying off shelves in DVD format. Gibson turns in an Oscar-worthy performance, though his current persona non grata status in Hollywood rules out any such recognition. And anyway, it’s an odd tale, at points straining credibility: a domestic drama by turns goofy and tragic. In places, it is dark as a Hamlet, and in others as preposterous as a Marx Brothers slapstick.

            The story: Walter Black (Mel Gibson) has been in a two-year depression so deep that he’s lost all bearings. He sits and stares. His exasperated wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster), gives him the boot, to the dismay of their younger son and the approval of their older one. Walter plans to drink himself into a stupor and then end it all. But on his course to oblivion, he discovers in a dumpsterThe Beaver – a toothy whiskered hand puppet with coal-black eyes and fake mangy fur. Fitted onto his left hand, The Beaver takes on a life of its own. It begins talking to Walter in an Aussie accent, scolding, consoling, cajoling. Suddenly, Walter is back, and then some: ideal father, romantic husband, brilliant corporate executive, overnight media sensation. Only, it’s not really Walter: the sad little man is still curled up deep inside himself, terrified and bewildered. It’s The Beaver, who speaks for Walter and to him.

            Well, 2 hours of this gets a bit much.

            But all through, I kept thinking of David’s thrice-repeated refrain in Psalms 42 and 43:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God (42:5,11; 43:5).

David is talking to David. David’s God-soaked self is talking to David’s God-starved self. The man who can’t get out of bed is being chided and coaxed, prodded and wooed, welcomed and challenged, by the man who can advance troops and scale walls (Psalm 18:29). The man who’s met God exhorts the man who’s lost him. The man who knows he’s loved whispers to the man who feels abandoned.

            I do this. I don’t resort to hand puppets for it, but I let that part of me who is intimate with God speak to that part of me who is estranged from him. If I don’t, I stumble into darkness. If I hand the bullhorn to that part of me that is doubtful, confused, self-pitying, blaming (you get the idea), I am in big trouble before noon. But if I put the microphone at the lips of that part of me that is trusting, clear-minded, confident, responsible, we do just fine.

            Admit it: we all have voices in our head.

            Which one do you let do the talking?

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