I think we should adopt the word “Karl” as a code word to indicate that we love someone deeply, even as we live flawed lives. Whether we like to admit it or not, even when we are comfortable with people, ‘love’ is a catch in our throats, often reluctant to escape.
“Sling Blade” is an iconic movie. Each time I watch it, I see it from a different point of view, and not only because I am not quite the same person as the last time I watched it. As tragic as it is, it is evocative of a life of connections that I would cherish.
After Doyle kicks Karl out of the house, Linda drives up as Karl is shuffling away. “You light him up in his eyes, I’ve seen it. He wouldn’t know what to do without ye….” Karl tells Linda, referring to her son Frank. Linda calls out, “Karl?” as he leaves.
When Karl leaves Frank his books, the sum total of everything he holds to be valuable in life; inside is a bookmark with the words “You will be happy” written on it. As Karl walks away, Frank turns to the trees and shouts, “Karl?”
Karl knocks on Vaughan’s door and hands him all the money he has in the world when the door opens. He tells Vaughan that he would be a good daddy to Frank and that he won’t be judged for who he is. “That boy lives inside of his own heart. It’s an awful big place….” Karl says and ambles away. Vaughan calls out, “Karl?”
Of course, Doyle looks up off-screen at Karl as he raises the sharpened lawnmower blade to kill him: “Karl?” Doyle asks, after talking calmly with Karl about being killed by him.
The last spoken word in the movie by Doyle, Vaughan, Frank, and Linda is the same: “Karl…?”
As broken as Karl’s life was, he managed to touch each of those people’s souls by his words and presence. In response, each one was powerless to respond at the same level with Karl.
I think we should agree to use “Karl?” as a code word in our daily lives. Using it would be a signal that conveys our deep understanding of who and what the person with whom we are speaking means to us.
Some words are like knives passing our lips, even when coated with the warmest regard and sincerity.
Honesty is a sharp weapon and truth is a hard master. Even in love.
“Karl,” I whisper to you all.