Scene from Man Facing Southeast
Man Facing Southeast is a 1986 film from Argentina. It depicts a man who commits himself to a mental hospital, while claiming to be an extraterrestrial. Every day, he stands in the same place in the hospital yard, facing southeast, contemplating or communicating with his planet of origin.
As I write this, it suddenly occurs to me I do the same thing during my morning prayers on our deck, facing southeast while seated, contemplating and “communicating” with my point of origin, as well as yours! But this is not why I’m writing this post.
Wednesdays, after promoting my blog on 30 or so relevant organizational Facebook pages, I walk in nearby Grant Park, a walk I used to take with Hobbes. Over the past month or so, I have encountered a man standing in the same place along my path: a 30-ish African American, neatly dressed in vintage clothing, a roller bag at his side, maybe homeless, and intently gazing straight ahead. Sometimes he has something in hand, his free hand gesturing, occasionally moving his lips. Sometimes he is standing motionless and staring straight ahead. I try to acknowledge him with a simple nod or a one-word greeting as I pass, not wanting to interrupt his focus.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed he was holding a clump of pages from a Bible. He looked as if he was soundlessly mouthing words, his free hand motioning to an unseen audience, and it occurred to me that perhaps he was practicing a sermon. I wondered if he served a congregation, or if, as a modern-day Saint Francis, he was offering his words to the birds in the branches of the tall old trees before him.
This man facing northwest made me think of the movie Man Facing Southeast. I wondered if he too was in contemplation and communication with his place of origin.
I was shown the film by my friend Scott Rogo, who thought I would appreciate its spiritual intimations. To this day I have the video copy he gave me after we watched it together. Scott wrote 30 books as a parapsychologist, his interest in the paranormal initiated by an out-of-body experience in high school.
Scott and I had barely known each other then. He was in band and I was in choir in adjacent classrooms. Our first semester in college, we happened to take the same “Man’s Religions” course, and my Pollyanna spirituality seemed distasteful to his skeptically agnostic view.
A decade later, our mutual concern about the AIDS epidemic led to meeting again “as if for the first time,” learning each other was gay. He was already a published author and I was trying to complete my first book, and our shared interest in very different expressions of spirituality prompted us to meet every couple of weeks for lunch. He once visited the church I served, but felt more comfortable in the familiar surroundings of his home synagogue, though he did not attend regularly.
He was as an early reader of my first book, giving me its title, Uncommon Calling, and encouraging me to write its hopeful epilogue, observing that throughout the book I had followed every “crucifixion” with a “resurrection,” and I should do the same with its conclusion.
I wrote about our unique friendship and his shocking murder at age 4o in my last published book, The Final Deadline: What Death Has Taught Me about Life.
So Man Facing Southeast means a lot to me.
The doctor treating its protagonist comes to question his own science, as he “recognizes his new patient’s special abilities and contagiously humanitarian outlook on life,” in the words of one reviewer.
No wonder people thought Jesus was an “extraterrestrial.”
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Copyright © 2016 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.