I have always been an unironic fan of the actor known as Matthew McConaughey. Even before I thought of myself as a cinephile or, God forbid, a movie critic (heck, I even ran a semi successful movie blog back home for a good couple of years), I liked the man, even in his most terrible choices. It was part of his charm, the part of himself that bled into so many of his characters in all his rom-coms: charming to a fault, a little dangerous, could talk you into anything. And yes, why deny it, he was always one of those dudes I wish I could be, what with all the fame, and the women, and the good looks.
Now, as he is about to turn 51, just one year, eight months and 13 days before my 50th, he is riding high again, not because of a new movie –his last true hit, at least from a box office point of view, was 2014’s Interstellar—but because he is now a published author. His memoir, Greenlights, just came out eight days ago, on October 20th. I found out two weeks ago. I didn’t even think about it. I pre-ordered the audiobook and, in a rare case of commitment, proceeded to listen to the entire thing in four days.
That should tell you I loved it, but I’d like to expand a bit. Matthew (yes, I address him common, even though I’m sure if I’m ever lucky enough to meet the man I’d be Mister McCon-Con-Conaughey sir) reveals himself as a gifted raconteur. And like all of them, many of his wild tales I should take with a grain or two of salt: he states that once his dad revived a dead bird with mouth to, er, beak; he says he built a thirteen-story treehouse out of stolen wood; he says he wrestled in Africa, walked the desert, loved countless women… OK, that part has to be true. And it’s the ones that have to be true that equally fascinate me. How he got humbled after not preparing for a movie role; how convinced directors he was the natural choice for a movie; how he met and fell in love with his wife, Camila; how he wrote this book, after he sat down to read the journals he’d been keeping for almost forty years.
I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges—how to get relative with the inevitable—you can enjoy a state of success I call ‘catching greenlights.’
So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.
That’s where the title comes from: his philosophy that “a green light is an affirmation, setting yourself up for success”, as he said in a recent radio interview. “A greenlight can be as simple as putting your coffee in the coffee filter before you go to bed so tomorrow morning all you’ve got to do is push the button.”
It’s easy to think this is one huge ego trip –-heck, I can basically see the twinkle in the eye in the tallest of stories, not to mention the regaling of all his successes—but Greenlight gives off another vibe, at least for me. It made me question whether I’ve been doing enough with my life. Whether I’ve been able to turn the red lights into green long enough, or if I am living to my fullest potential. Yes, it has that kind of effect on you. Even John Cena, sixteen time wrestling champion and positive-doer himself, says so. And Matthew is a fan of Cena himself.
But then again, I’ve had a very different life. I grew middle class Venezuela, he grew rural, working-class Texas. His father believed in tough love, the toughest of loves, divorced his mother twice, married her three times; my father believes in loving discipline, conversation, education. Matthew is a wandering soul; I’m a stay-at-home dude through and through (though I wouldn’t mind driving cross-country in a trailer). I think the biggest difference is Matthew was driven to find more, to get his greenlights (“The arrow does not heat the target; the target draws the arrow”, he writes). I was always too afraid, too comfortable.
Will Greenlights change my life? Will that be the book that inspires me to go further, work harder, be better? I certainly can’t stop thinking about it, or blabbing about it to anyone I might think will read it (and I do intend to buy a readable copy, not just have the audiobook –easier to study this way). Of course, it might just be my man-crush for Matthew; to hear his tales (tall or otherwise) is just… fun. He is a man that has embraced life at his fullest. Be it a student, an actor, a poet, a movie star, a father, a husband, a traveler or a poet, he does not go at anything “half-assedly”. He embraces challenges, lives for them.
Isn’t that an inspiration, after all?