Monday, May 2, 2011

Your red balloon awaits

Last night, I found and watched one of my all-time favorite childhood movies, Le Ballon Rouge [The Red Balloon], on Netflix. I remembered it from a Kugla-Fran-and-Ollie CBS Children's Film Festival episode.

Set in mid 1950s Paris, the half-hour almost non-verbal film traces the adventures of a young boy who "happens" upon a luscious and tempting giant red balloon. It's unlike normal balloons in that it's wider, rounder, redder, shinier and is just waiting for this particular boy. Of course, he's smitten and immediately takes the rein. He knows it's his. As he approaches school, he asks someone in the street to hold it while he's in class. He needn't have bothered because the balloon waits for the boy and is always within his reach when it desires to be. It hovers around the second story when the boy's nanny whisks it out the window. It's ready for him mornings when he goes to school and again when it lets out. It comes when he calls. Obviously, it instills envy in other boys who try and fail to collect the balloon. As it mysteriously eludes them, the boys' resolve intensifies. Eventually, they capture the balloon and tether it to a rock. The boy to whom the balloon belongs spies it over a garden fence and wonders why it doesn't come when he calls. He discovers it's chained and undoes the lashing. Too late he the opens the gate and finds the boys pelting it with rocks. One hits the balloon and it begins to shrink, turning warty and dull. Just as it exhausts its next-to-last wind, an unkind leg squashes the thing into the ground. The small boy is left alone to mourn. The cameras pan to locations throughout Paris where dozens of balloons of all colors escape from children, vendors and shops, collecting and flying to land just within the lone boy's grasp. He ties them around himself and they lift him away.

I was so moved last night at the metaphor of the red balloon being our biggest dream or deepest desire. It waits for us until we are ready, when we can find it. It is our dream and no one else's. People can and do make fun of it, envy it, and try to banish it, yet they can't seem to separate us from our red balloon. It is always with us, hovering nearby if we are engaged otherwise. It lifts us, amuses us and totally engages us. We follow it willingly.

Then, some day, someone does manage to deflate it. We are devastated, alone and grieving. And yet, that's not the end. If we're patient, a new dream emerges, one even grander, bigger and more encompassing. One we could never have imagined. It lifts us off the ground and transports us somewhere else. Somewhere dreams are possible.

But only if we pay attention and see it waiting or us.

• What's my red balloon?
• How did I find it waiting for me?
• How have I had to protect it?
• How have I been faithful in following it?
• What has grown up out of a red balloon that has burst?

one day, you just notice it
never mind that it has been hatching, forming and waiting
until you were ready

it's just there, clear as day
glinting and glistening to the point
you can't ignore it.

the only action is to claim it 
proudly, boldly and with
everything you have

trust where it will take you

Le Ballon Rouge highlights:

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