Thursday, September 15, 2016

You're a good man, Jack

In the Netflix series, “Jack Taylor,” ex-cop Jack Taylor is a rebellious, hard drinking, scruffy guy who plays by his own rules, which are often questionable. Although he’s no longer a police officer, fired for unruly conduct, he still stumbles into situations where people need and want his help with some crime that’s been committed. He doesn’t always solve them, and he leaves plenty of debris along the way.

He has a tough, rugged presence. And he’s a mess of a person. But inside the man, there beats a true heart for humanity.

He lives in Mrs. Bailey’s Bed and Breakfast. It’s a lovely place that you would not expect to see the likes of Jack Taylor. But Mrs. Bailey took Jack in when he was disgracefully dismissed from the police force. He loved being a cop/detective. He fought for the underdog and the forgotten and the cheated. And the loss of his job sent him spiraling into a drunken bewilderment. He had no income but at Mrs. Bailey’s he found safety, welcome, clean sheets, an elegant living space, and homemade food. One’s environment can often make the difference in who we decide to be. Mrs. Bailey’s grace and care gave Jack Taylor a new perspective. She sees through his tough guy persona and instead of that threatening him, it allows him to be loyal and kind to her.

In one episode, after a grueling period of working on the murders of several young women, the perpetrator is caught and killed because of Jack’s relentless pursuit. As the episode ends Jack is walking out of Mrs. Bailey’s B&B ready to face another day. In the entryway he pauses and looks at her. She smiles and says, “I like having you here, Jack. You’re a good man.” He sighs a moment and says, “I don’t know about that.” Mrs. Bailey says, “Of course you don’t. That’s part of your goodness.”

Psychologists write about “self-actualized” people, those who have come to accept themselves and are working to be in harmony with who they are and the world they live in. This line of thought believes we are not just blindly reacting to life situations, but that we are trying to accomplish something greater. Something authentic, human, and real. Something good and decent and that contributes to making life better for ourselves and for others.

You don’t have to be a perfect person to achieve this. Some of the most self-actualized people I know wrestle openly and honestly with their own frailties, weaknesses, faults. They don’t try to hide their humanness; they fully accept it and live out of it.

Mrs. Bailey seems to be an emotionally healthy person. She exudes confidence but there is no arrogance in it. She is happy and caring and expresses genuine concern for others. And she has the insights of someone who understands herself and so is capable of generosity and compassion.

Jack Taylor, who appears opposite of that, actually is not. He clearly sees his own blunders, that he can be a smart ass, that he is angry about being fired from a job he loved, that he drinks too much, that he lacks self-control, and that he has no patience with elitists, snobs, know-it-alls, and the self-righteous. But that self-awareness also humbles him in ways that make him want to help people in trouble, people who have been tricked and mistreated and hurt.

Perhaps he identifies with them as someone who himself has been misunderstood and rejected and considered a derelict and an incompetent.

Here’s the thing. We do well in life if we can get to the place where we are honest about ourselves; to admit our faults and keep from hiding behind masks and pretensions and fearing things that make us vulnerable. Jack Taylor was a hot head detective who plowed through people and ignored rules without thought. When he hit bottom he realized he had a lot of work to do on himself.

He’s still a mess. But he knows it. He’s not sure he is a good man. But as Mrs. Bailey understood, that almost guarantees he can be.

© 2016 Timothy Moody

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