Everything has a purpose, even machines… They do what they are meant to do… Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me so sad, they can’t do what they are meant to do… Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose… it’s like you’re broken. ~ Brian Selznick (spoken by Hugo Cabret in The Invention of Hugo Cabret)
In the summer of 2006 my bride and I set out to repair a broken house. Rosslyn, a stately but crumbling old home, boathouse, ice house and carriage barn needed us. We could save them. We should save them. We would reawaken a property that had lost its purpose. We would pump our passion, our time, and our limited loot into repairing the broken property.
If You Lose Your Purpose
But over time we came to understand that we were at least as broken as Rosslyn. We had both lost our purpose, and we were both foundering. Leaping into an adventure as feckless and risky as moving our lives and work from New York City to the Adirondacks while renovating four buildings many decades past their “best if used by” dates nearly destroyed us. Emotionally. Economically. Physically. And yet, little by little we discovered that Rosslyn could (and eventually would) repair us. The broken, purposeless wreck we set out to rebuild ultimately rebuilt us.
Two years ago I holed up in a remote abbey in the New Mexico desert to sort through my recollections and artifacts from the years of renovation. A month alone reading and revising. One night I watched Hugo for a refreshing distraction. A children’s movie. Sort of. Sort of not. I was enchanted. Something happened to me that had never taken place before (nor since). As the movie ended, I restarted it and watched the entire film through a second time. Double header. Better the second time than the first. It resonated profoundly with the book I was trying to write, a memoir about the years spent rehab’ing (aka “historic rehabilitating“) Rosslyn.
It’s Like You’re Broken
Hugo is one of the best films i’ve seen in a long time. Be forewarned though, this is not your typical fantasy movie… The movie reveals the darkest times and how fear can be the driving force in everything we do… Also the fragile nature of human beings can be at any age and the limitations we have are only the ones that we put on ourselves. ~ Melissa Arditti (Windsor Square)
I’m not sure that Hugo is one of the best films I’ve seen, but it was the perfect narrative at the perfect time. And I will watch it again. Soon. I need to, in part, because I’m still grappling with this idea of a what it means to lose your purpose. I’m still working on repairing the broken machine. Rosslyn. And within. I’m reawakening purpose. Thank you for assisting me along the journey.
If you haven’t seen Hugo yet, here’s a teaser, the passage that still appeals to me two years after first experiencing it.
Purpose Lost & Purpose Found
As a storyteller and writer I’m conscious of the temptation to “find” purpose where it isn’t, and to ascribe purpose where and how it fits best. How I’d like it to be. Not always how it is. Or how it should be.
Over the past decade I’ve been trying to unlearn the habit. More curiosity. Fewer assumptions. And if/when I alter the original purpose, when I repurpose, I’m striving to realize the difference. To own it.
Rosslyn Redux, marriage, small town life, the joys and woes of midlife, and the rapidly evolving world of publishing have served as my tutors. I’m confident that I’m beginning to make headway. Two final quotations from Hugo offer the optimistic note I’m hoping to achieve in my closing, and they both offer a glimpse into the view from where I am lately.
I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too. ~ Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
In that moment, the machinery of the world lined up. Somewhere a clock struck midnight, and Hugo’s future seemed to fall perfectly into place. ~ Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The machinery is still aligning, but I’m confident that soon it will all fall into place.
Word to the wise? If you lose your purpose, hold off on plunging into the sort of adventure we undertook. First watch Hugo. And then… plunge!