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4.26.03 Cider House Rules

"Cider House Rules": good movie I resisted seeing for a long time.

It left J. and I discussing the significance of the "cider house rules" themselves. The 5 rules were posted on the wall of the dormitory where the migrant apple-pickers slept. No one could read them. When they were finally read aloud, they were mocked: don't smoke in bed, don't operate the press while drunk, and 3 rules about not going up on the roof. The migrants just laughed and said they were not about to obey rules they had no part in writing.

So what is the larger significance in this movie about orphanages, abortion, duty, jobs, war, incest, first loves, families?

Some of my thoughts:

+ It wasn't a bad set of rules, just irrelevant to the big moral choices that life presents.

+ There are rules. Then there is life. Life is messy: complicated and unpredictable.

+ The characters had no use for rules yet each seemed to live by a set of principles informed by their sense of duty. Nobody much cared if you smoked in bed, but throwing a cigarette butt into the cider barrel meant you didn't "understand what business you were in."

+ That sense of duty and "knowing what business you are in" isn't imposed from the outside (or even conferred by university degrees). It's something you have to work out for yourself.

+ The "good guys" in the movie were non-judgmental. They let others find their own "business." There is no judgment passed on the women who come to the orphanage either to have an illegal abortion or to leave a baby behind. Or about the picky adoptive parents. They are all just making choices, then living with the consequences.

+ Even incest. The young man presented the incestuous father with the facts and gave him the choice to "make himself useful" or not. The father realized the evil of his acts on his own and figured out what he needed to do to bring about justice.

+ Life is about choices, not about rules. The choices play themselves out naturally, especially if you have a finely developed sense of duty -- if you know what "business" you're in.

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