The Tao of Eastwood

Chapter 24

Not Knowing

I don’t know nothin’. Not one damn thing.

Chief Red Garnett | A Perfect World

Knowing you don’t know is wholeness.
Thinking you know is a disease.
Only by recognizing that you have an illness
can you move to seek a cure.

The Master is whole because she sees her illnesses and treats them,
and thus is able to remain whole.

Tao Te Ching | from verse 71

At the very end of the film, Texas Ranger Chief Garnett is thrown into a situation so foreign, so outside what he understood of how things “should work,” he struggles to believe it.

The Universe is so old and so large; it is beyond what even the wisest among us can imagine. We can calculate it, discuss it, study it, but we can never really know why it’s here or how it works. After thousands of years of trying, there are still as many questions as ever.

You can’t know it, but you can be in awe of it. You can sit still and experience the incredible harmony of it all. Then you begin to realize there is nothing to know. Or maybe what we do know is such an infinitesimal slice of the whole, we have to admit we really know nothing.

A Perfect World is one of the first films where Eastwood plays against the outwardly imposed image of shoot ‘em up cop. Garnett is a patient, even compassionate man. He is trying hard to throttle his hard-liner, trigger happy colleagues who presume they understand the situation. Without even wanting to know the whole truth, they have decided Butch Haynes, a small time hoodlum with a troubled past, must be killed.

Butch (played brilliantly by Kevin Costner) has kidnapped a young boy, who he befriends despite their desperate situation. Garnett is empathetic to the plight of this societal misfit. Understanding that the failures of the system we live in are as much to blame as Haynes reckless choices.

If we could all just step back and take a long look at what is going on, with less arrogant belief we already know, maybe we can find a better Way.