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A river runs through it 1


On the importance of religion for happiness

Of the father, his son says: To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – came by grace; & grace comes by art; & art does not come easy… If my father had his way, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.

The father teaches his two sons to cast on a metronome before allowing them to fish. But the older brother says that he grew up thinking that all the best fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly-fishermen. Of the education of the boys, not much is said. One day a week was given over wholly to religious instruction. Growing up, they were known as the preacher’s boys in their town, & that was said with a measure of respect.

The elder brother states their common opinion, that the world is full of bastards, whose numbers increase as one moves farther away from their hometown. He also says that they both were tough; & that they grew up as street-fighters. This is a childish pursuit, an officer later tells him. About himself, he says that his environment toughened him: fighting fires in the US Forest Service & logging before that, being too young for WWI. This is how he tells his story, he does not say why he took to the woods.

About his younger brother, he says that he was always a very spirited boy; their father could never bring himself to punish him or break this spiritedness. He grew up spending his summers as a lifeguard, watching girls in bathing suits & dating them for the late evenings. Both boys left for college; the older to the Northeast; the younger staying in Montana.

In the end, the father teaches about the need for God: he says, those closest to us elude us; but we can love them completely without having complete understanding. The father faces great loss with piety. He shows a deep experience of the needs & precariousness of the human beings. Without God, loss is not justified, suffering is not redeemed. This man’s suffering & the greatness of his soul cannot be understood without first understanding that he never used superlatives & that he always read Romantic poetry.

Man’s position in a world created by God is humble; as for the rest, let me quote a poet who understood these things better than I do: The world is charged with the grandeur of God. The father is said to have taken his two boys on walks through the hills in order to recharge his soul, when he was not in church. His two boys do not share in this fulfillment.

A movie of some use to the young. Find it. See it