Richard Burton: Give Up Or Surrender?
Ann: Hi Richard, I have been watching your film, Lovespell, and reading about you.
Richard: I see that you have. Why I don’t know, as such gossipy stuff has very little to add to our relationship and the work we do here – not to mention that that film was a disaster.
Ann: I beg to disagree. You were not a disaster in the film, and Kate Mulgrew was also good. It was the kindness that radiated from you from the distance of your wider understanding when faced with her as a young actor and in a role that struck many of the same notes.
Richard: Yes, she was a lovely girl and had my utmost respect. But we couldn’t make something out of nothing no matter how hard we tried.
I had reached a point in my life at that time where that I did not have the energy or desire to try to turn over a new leaf or even another corner, so I pretty much gave up and let the chips fall. I had no pride left. Who was I to lord it over others who struggled with their challenges since I could not surmount my own - most of which were of my own making? So I gave up. At the time it seemed that there was nothing else to do because I felt powerless, and nothing seem to make a difference.
Ann: She said you made a difference for her. And you continue to do so now for me, really for all of us.
Richard: Yes, but I am coming from a very different perspective now.
Ann: Are you? You see from a distance the big picture that is hidden to us, just as you did for her and, I suspect, for others on occasion at that time in your life.
Richard: You mean on the rare occasion I could rise to the task? But you may be on to something. Now I see the difference between giving up and surrender. Giving up quits in exhaustion and defeat when faced with intractable human appetites and compulsions. Surrender bows its head in delight at the recognition of the light and love that surrounds us at every turn.
When we surrender, though we release what we had or may have hoped to have, though we "do not hope to turn again, desiring this man’s gift or that man’s scope,"* underneath it all we can find a satisfaction in what we have been given.
For what in the world would I do with another man’s gift or scope when my job is to make the best of my own? And so that loss of ambition, that surrender, as it were, becomes a gift in itself.
When I see you starting to succumb to giving up rather than the glorious act of self-surrender, I am brought back to the hopelessness in my heart at that time of my life to which you have referred - and this is why I can call you out on it when it tries to creep into your own.
What we need here is a good dose of John McCain followed by a tincture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg…. So glad I didn’t know her when I was “living”, she would have seen right through me.
Ann: As you do me.
Richard: Yes, that’s what we bring to each other. You have found that an attachment had been allowed to grow out of the bounds of simplicity and propriety and suffered a setback that set you straight again. And now you are able to return to work with a more balanced mind, letting the work evolve without a prearranged plan for its future.
Odd how we have to fight this battle over and over again. Letting go, letting go, letting go....
So, well enough for the moment. Goodnight, Madame.
Ann: Goodnight, Richard.
December 12, 2020
*T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday, 1930.