Sunday, July 31, 2005

You must be careful who you pretend to be, because in the end you are who you pretend to be.

One of my favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut. There is just something about his approach to life and work that really appeals to me. The other day I was browsing through the Movie listings on my Tivo and I saw an entry for a movie called Mother Night. I had to stop and check it out. Could this really be an adaptation of Vonnegut's book? It was. I looked and saw that there were a couple of showings coming up and I taped one. I watched it and it was great. If you have never read the book, it's the story of a person, born in America, but raised in Germany from the age of 13. He became heavily involved in the pre WWII German culture and even became a famous playwright, married to a beautiful German actress. Just prior to the start of the war, he is approached to act as a spy for the Americans from within Germany during the coming war. He agrees and during the war, he rises to a place of prominence as a radio announcer broadcasting anti Ally propaganda in English. He is very good at his job, but he knows that in addition to the obvious content of his broadcast, he knows that there is a code hidden with his choreographed vocal tics, stops and pauses. The movie follows him as he deals with the fact that nobody will confirm his role as a spy and thus a hero to the Allied cause. He is seen as one of the worst war criminals of the Nazi war machine. The rest of the movie deals with the moral dilemma he faces. Is he a hero or a war criminal? Arguments can be made for both sides. I generally don't like stories with morals, especially obvious ones, but Vonnegut manages to give the story a moral without making it end with a trite happy ending. As the title states, "You must be careful who you pretend to be, because in the end you are who you pretend to be."

I think that statement has great import. It is a great warning as well as a great piece of wisdom. It's a warning in the same vein of, "If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas". Its a great piece of wisdom in that in that one of the best ways to become something that you want to be is to act like that thing. In either case you will eventually become what you are acting like.

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