JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Getting somewhere

The "click".

The "click".

There's a famous scene in the movie adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof where Paul Newman's character Brick is grilled by his father, Big Daddy, as to why he drinks so much.

Newman says it's out of disgust for the mendacity that surrounds his life. It's a great scene in a truly great movie, a film which demonstrates just about everything that can be done in cinema with a tiny cast and (as you'd expect from its stage roots) a fairly limited set.

Later in the movie, as father and son try to resolves their differences, Big Daddy asks Brick what's wrong with him and Brick says he's waiting for the click in his head.

Big Daddy: Did you say "click"?

Brick: Yes sir, the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.

Big Daddy: Boy, sometimes you worry me.

Brick: It's like a switch, clickin' off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on, and all of a sudden there's peace.

Big Daddy: Boy, you're, you're a real alcoholic!

Brick: That is the truth. Yes, sir, I am an alcoholic.

It's a magnificent film - despite the removal of the homosexual themes threaded through the original play -with ball-tearing performances from Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Burl Ives, Judith Anderson and Jack Carson.

I like a drink and I think about that "click" a lot some days, not because it turns the hot light off and the cool one on. It's so I can silence the argument in my head about what the hell I'm meant to be doing with my life.

That used to seem obvious - get a job, earn money, breed, etc - until I read Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn about 25 years ago and met the character Grover Watrous, a born-again Christian with a club foot who'd received "an illumination".

"Yes, it happened in the twinkling of an eye, which is the only way that anything important ever does happen. Overnight all Grover's preconceived values were thrown overboard. Suddenly, just like that, he ceased moving as other people move. He put the brakes on and he kept the motor running," writes Miller.

"If once, like other people, he had thought it was necessary to get somewhere now he knew that somewhere was anywhere and therefore right here and so why move? Why not park the car and keep the motor running? Meanwhile the earth itself is turning and Grover knew it was turning and knew that he was turning with it.

"Is the earth getting anywhere? Grover must undoubtedly have asked himself this question and must undoubtedly have satisfied himself that it was not getting anywhere. Who, then, had said that we must get somewhere?

"Grover would inquire of this one and that where they were heading for and the strange thing was that although they were all heading for their individual destinations none of them ever stopped to reflect that the one inevitable destination for all alike was the grave."

I think of this passage often as I sit on a bus or a train or in traffic watching the world struggling to get to a place they're already at.

We spend so much time striving, as Miller wrote in Tropic of Capricorn - "alive and empty, which is so close to Godhood that it is crazy".

"In the same way, having accepted death, death too dropped out of Grover's mind. Having seized on the single certainty of death all the uncertain ties vanished. The rest of the world was now limping along with club-footed uncertainties and Grover Watrous alone was free and unimpeded," writes Miller.

"Grover Watrous was the personification of certainty. He may have been wrong, but he was certain. And what good does it do to be right if one has to limp along with a club foot? Only a few men have ever realized the truth of this and their names have become very great names.

"Grover Watrous will probably never be known, but he is very great just the same. This is probably the reason why I write about him - just the fact that I had enough sense to realize that Grover had achieved greatness even though nobody else will admit it."

This might be a little too much for y'all on Tuesday morning, so I might just dig out the Glenfiddich and wait for the click and see if Grover replies to my text message.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.


  • I reckon the only place you need to get to is one where you like who you are and what you do. Figuring out what the hell that is is the bloody hard part though.

    hired goon
    Date and time
    May 27, 2013, 9:36PM
    • My moment has been the Elegy written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray in an old book of poetry for school from the 1930's. I have relied on this stanza a bit too much to allow me to accept defeat and failure.
      "The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
      And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
      Await alike th' inevitable hour.
      The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
      I would just like to have a comfortable life, a job and perhaps someone to share it with.
      Perhaps the click moment is lower on the scale. No Scotch, no drugs, no therapy. Just the slow putting together of the parts and remnants not to resemble the previous, but to enable me to live such a life.
      You have to examine your entrails as they are spread out, tuck some bits in and heal the wounds.

      The Old Guy
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 11:29PM
      • The river of life eventually pours out into the sea of death. If you are lucky, your river may first flow and then linger into an estuary where a second chance at a different kind of life can emerge before entering the sea of death. After figuring out who one is and what one is here for (first half of life), one can take this knowledge and really live out one's intended destiny to the fullest (second half of life). The estuary is where your past and future collide, fresh water mixed with salt water...not living in reaction to the things that happen to us, not dead, just gloriously living with true purpose and strength - where the river meets the sea.

        all heart
        Date and time
        May 28, 2013, 3:18AM
        • The commies have got a fair point. Most things are just crap, your job is most likely crap and unnecessary. Now our dicks are stuck in computers, oooo it's got a 4.7" screen! Now, I'm off to use the word mendacity, then see the other person's face say "wtf is mendacity?"

          Date and time
          May 28, 2013, 7:00AM
          • Well, of course the common destination is the grave - the important thing is how you get there. And the idea that no-one else has considered that the common destination is preposterous -- it forms the basis for a signficant portion of art, religion, philosophy, and probably several other disciplines.

            It doesn't matter where you end up, or what you have, or what you achieve...what matters is the kind of person you become. Do you want to be an honest person or a deceitful one? Do you want to be a good partner or someone who doesn't want to try and so pretends that monogamy is not the natural human state? Do want to be a good parent, or someone who lives through their kids? Do you want to be someone who supports people or someone who tears them down? Do you want to stay still with the engine running because steering is oh-so-hard, or do you want to accept responsibility for your own life? And all the other either/ors....

            Date and time
            May 28, 2013, 7:02AM
            • Oh, JEQP ... if it were only so simple to either stay still with the engine running because steering is oh-so-hard. You right abouyt the grave; except since there is nothing much we can do about that we tend to take the next least option. I wish I could think of something insightful or witty in rejoiner to you thoughts. But i can't. Good poiunt though.

              Date and time
              May 28, 2013, 4:42PM
          • My “illumination” occurred early December 2000 when I was carjacked at gunpoint, the entire ordeal only lasted about 2 minutes, I was scarily calm and peaceful, so much time to think and evaluate my life and all those around me, on those few minutes lots of decisions were made which I still live by today.

            Victorious Painter
            Date and time
            May 28, 2013, 8:27AM
            • I quite like the idea of getting to Phuket next week. I hope this helps to maintain the high standard of comments I have come to expect from your subscribers. Cheers

              airport lounge
              Date and time
              May 28, 2013, 9:03AM
              • This article just changed my Tuesday, and possibly the rest of my week from about a 2.5 out of 10 to at least a 6. Thankyou, Sam.

                I've always loved, "you can't beat death, but you can beat death in life, sometimes. and the more often you learn to do it, the more light there will be." one of C.B's less grouchy musings.

                Date and time
                May 28, 2013, 10:44AM
                • As long as you get there with more toys than anybody else!

                  Date and time
                  May 28, 2013, 11:10AM

                  More comments

                  Comments are now closed
                  Featured advertisers
                  Executive Style newsletter signup

                  Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

                  Sign up now