Getting Older With Keanu Reeves and the Two-fifths Solution

I was watching the streaming version of HBO the other night and noticed that Keanu Reeves’s latest movie John Wick 3: Parabellum was available for viewing on my TV. In addition to the movie, HBO offered a First Look behind-the-scenes video with interviews and clips explaining what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with this action film and how much effort the actors, director, producers, and crew put into making the movie.

Keanu Reeves as the title character in John Wick 3: Parabellum. Photo by Mark Rogers / Lionsgate

According to one of the filmmakers, Keanu Reeves trained exhaustively for five months before shooting the film and does 98 percent of his own stunts. And this film features him on screen in nearly frame doing mixed martial arts (Japanese jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tactical three-gun, and standing judo), hand-to-hand combat, and fighting while riding a motorcycle. And Keanu Reeves was 54 years old when he shot this movie. We are around the same age! How wonderful to know that people who have gone around the block a few times are capable of such physical feats of derring-do.

And Keanu Reeves is not just a run-of-the-mill film star. Unlike other male celebrities who date women who are 20, 30, or 40 years younger than them, Reeves has been photographed over the past year at red-carpet events holding hands with a lovely visual artist named Alexandra Grant who is around his age and who does not dye her gray hair. How refreshing and inspiring! On her Instagram page, Ms. Grant reacted to a Newsweek article linking permanent hair dye to breast cancer and she explained why she no longer dyes her hair:

Wow. Today’s news… The numbers are staggering, especially for womxn of color. I went gray prematurely in my early 20’s… and dyed my hair every color along the way until I couldn’t tolerate the toxicity of the dyes any more. In my 30’s I let my hair turn “blonde”… I love and support that every womxn can choose how she wants to look at every age. But/and, if womxn are perishing from beauty standards… then let’s talk about those beauty standards. Love to all womxn!

Alexandra Grant, Instagram

Keanu and Alexandra also produced two books together: Ode to Happiness, a 2011 picture book illustrated by Ms. Grant, and the 2016 book Shadows, with Reeves writing text to accompany her art and photography.

As Keanu Reeves has richly demonstrated: people in middle age can be active, healthy, creative, intellectually curious, and spend their time with other old-souls-from-the-start who intend to be indefinitely young together and live passionately throughout their lives. Yes, count me in for that!

When he first captured my imagination 20 years ago, Reeves starred in one of my favorite movies, the 1999 blockbuster film The Matrix. Keanu was cast as the savior of humanity as a renegade hacker named Neo (change the letters around and you get the “One”) who fought the organized, mechanized evil that was controlling humankind and found his soulmate in a fellow freedom fighter named Trinity. The movie’s main themes mirror my beliefs:

Living authentically in the real world is more fulfilling than living in a plastic fantasy world that sucks the life from human beings.

The highest calling of humankind is to love and to work together for the good of all.

A woman is just as tough and courageous as a man.

Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in.

Work together with people who share your dream and do not waste time on the people who do not.

Evil wins when good people do nothing.

These truths are not self-evident in a country where corruption is sanctioned at the highest levels. Today I have read that the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate will collectively close their metaphorical eyes tightly in a “see no evil” fetal position, unwilling to risk losing their power in order to call out a President who yearns to be above the law, who yearns to be an American king.

This country has actually had only one true King—the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.—and he was assassinated at the age of 39 by a white supremacist’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee, and am deeply chagrined that Dr. King was killed in my home state. As his Wikipedia page states, Dr. Martin Luther King was “a Christian minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968”. James Earl Ray killed the man, but he did not kill his dream that every man and woman, no matter the color of his or her skin, could have a chance to pursue their God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at home in 1956. Photo: George Tames, The New York Times

Although our nation’s original Constitution allowed Southern states to count their black slaves as three-fifths of a person for taxation and representation in Congress, I think Martin Luther King sought what could be called a two-fifths solution that would bring peace and healing to our nation that, since its founding in the late 18th Century, has wrestled with slavery.

Treating other humans as property did not work out well for our young country as we fought a bitter Civil War from 1861 to 1865. We have been fighting an uncivil war ever since. It is not only the slave that is in bondage in the owner-slave relationship. And it is not only our current President and his sycophants that are enslaved to their myopia. We all suffer from their unquenchable thirst for power over their fellow men and women. 

The Matrix envisaged a world where all humans are enslaved to the powerful anti-human, computerized “matrix” with human-like enforcers to kill anyone who does not conform to the norm. Keanu Reeves as Neo said:

I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.

The Matrix, 1999, screenwriters Lana and Lily Wachowski

Wanting control over our lives is something we can all agree on, yet we disagree on how to make a coexistent system work. In his final words in the movie, Keanu Reeves as Neo spoke directly to the matrix power structure and perhaps also to the people in thrall to it:

I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid . . . You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how its going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without . . . borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you. 

The Matrix, 1999, Lana and Lily Wachowski

During all the eras of humankind, beginning perhaps with art on a cave wall, artistic creativity as a human expression has pointed a way forward. And anthropologists have found evidence of a spiritual life beyond what we can see in front of us as early humans left funereal tributes to their dead loved ones. Let us take up the charge of our fellow American Martin Luther King Jr.–as well as the Protestant reformer Martin Luther, for that matter–and Keanu Reeves to stand for the right against the expedient and the merely powerful. What will history say about us if we do not stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if we cannot bring ourselves to stand for what is just?

~ Anna – 1/31/2020

About aamontgomery

Seeing new possibilities in everyday things
This entry was posted in Courage, Happiness, Ideas, Love, Op/Ed Thoughts, Screen and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Getting Older With Keanu Reeves and the Two-fifths Solution

  1. Kurt Weiss says:

    Yes, we need to stand for what is just in our society.

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