How Bill Murray is Like E. E. Cummings

I was reading more from E.E. Cummings’ six nonlectures and he was briefly recounting his experiences in a French Concentration camp during World War I. Apparently he was thrown in there after writing a letter home about how the Germans were not such bad people after all. (John Poindexter would be proud.)

This was apparently while he was serving as a volunteer ambluance driver near the front lines. And then I was reminded about my favorite movie, 1984’s The Razor’s Edge, and my favorite guilty-pleasure film comedian Bill Murray. I gained a lot of respect for Murray, who agreed to act in Ghostbusters on the condition that they finance this remake that he co-wrote the screenplay for. If this story meant that much to him, it must be at least in some part about who he is.

Anyway, his character, Larry Darrel, does a stint as an ambulance driver in World War I and the trauma from his experiences send him off on a quest to find himself and the meaning of life. Darrel’s experiences roughly (very) resemble those of Hesse’s Siddhartha. And it has my favorite movie line ever, spoken by Murray’s Darrel upon leaving a Tibetan Buddhist monastery where he had been meditating, seeking meaning. He said “Anyone can be a holy man on a mountain.” which is, like, my rallying cry for my own homespun elbows-deep-in-the-world personal spiritual philosophy for years now.

But I digress. Why is Murray’s Darrel (and therefore Murray himself) like Cummings? Well the ambulance driver connection caught my attention, but ulitmately, it’s the smirk.

The Bill Murray Smirk. Doesn’t matter what the boy acts in, or how serious he tries to be, he cannot get rid of that trademark goofy-smarmy-deadpan smirk of his. It suggests that, no matter how earnest he is, he has a bit of distance, a bemused perspective on life that will not let go of the little knowing smile. He looks like he gets the joke, even though there may not be one.

That’s exactly the feeling I get about E.E. Cummings when I read his poetry. He gets Spiritual, he gets angry, he gets romantic, horny even, but he always retains a playful, bemused, almost childlike persepctive. That’s something I’d like to have, be it from Murray or from Cummings.

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