The University of Northern Iowa once offered a general art course that included a most
unusual exercise. The teacher brought to class a shopping bag filled with lemons and gave
a lemon to each class member. The assignment was for the student to keep his lemon with
him day and night--smelling, handling, examining it. Next class period, without warning,
students were told to put their lemons back in the bag. Then each was asked to find his
lemon. Surprisingly, most did so without difficulty.
Ministry, September, 1984.
Years ago Father John Powell told the story of Norma Jean Mortenson: "Norma Jean
Mortenson. Remember that name? Norma Jean's mother, Mrs. Gladys Baker, was periodically
committed to a mental institution and Norma Jean spent much of her childhood in foster
homes. In one of those foster homes, when she was eight years old, one of the boarders
raped her and gave her a nickel.
He said, 'Here, Honey. Take this and don't ever tell anyone what I did to you.' When
little Norma Jean went to her foster mother to tell her what had happened she was beaten
badly. She was told, 'Our boarder pays good rent. Don't you ever say anything bad about
him!' Norma Jean at the age of eight had learned what it was to be used and given a nickel
and beaten for trying to express the hurt that was in her.
"Norma Jean turned into a very pretty young girl and people began to notice. Boys
whistled at her and she began to enjoy that, but she always wished they would notice she
was a person too--not just a body--or a pretty face--but a person.
"Then Norma Jean went to Hollywood and took a new name--Marilyn Monroe and the
publicity people told her, 'We are going to create a modern sex symbol out of you.' And
this was her reaction, 'A symbol? Aren't symbols things people hit together?'
They said, 'Honey, it doesn't matter, because we are going to make you the most
smoldering sex symbol that ever hit the celluloid.'
"She was an overnight smash success, but she kept asking, 'Did you also notice I
am a person? Would you please notice?' Then she was cast in the dumb blonde
"Everyone hated Marilyn Monroe. Everyone did.
"She would keep her crews waiting two hours on the set. She was regarded as a
selfish prima donna. What they didn't know was that she was in her dressing room vomiting
because she was so terrified.
"She kept saying, 'Will someone please notice I am a person. Please.' They didn't
notice. They wouldn't take her seriously." She went through three marriages--always
pleading, 'Take me seriously as a person.' Everyone kept saying, 'But you are a sex
symbol. You can't be other than that.'
"Marilyn kept saying 'I want to be a person. I want to be a serious actress.'
"And so on that Saturday night, at the age of 35 when all beautiful women are
supposed to be on the arm of a handsome escort, Marilyn Monroe took her own life. She
killed herself." When her maid found her body the next morning, she noticed the
telephone was off the hook. It was dangling there beside her.
Later investigation revealed that in the last moments of her life she had called a
Hollywood actor and told him she had taken enough sleeping pills to kill herself.
"He answered with the famous line of Rhett Butler, which I now edit for church,
'Frankly, my dear, I don't care!' That was the last word she heard. She dropped the
phone--left it dangling.
"Claire Booth Luce in a very sensitive article asked, 'What really killed Marilyn
Monroe, love goddess who never found any love?' She said she thought the dangling
telephone was the symbol of Marilyn Monroe's whole life. She died because she never got
through to anyone who understood.
Dynamic Preaching, June, 1990.
Commentary and Devotional
Familiarity and intimacy are not the same. Each has a value in life, certainly in
married life, but one is no substitute for the other. If one is confused for the other, we
have the basis for major human and marital unrest. In marriage, familiarity is
inescapable. It happens almost imperceptibly. Intimacy is usually hard to come by. It must
be deliberately sought and opened up and responded to. Familiarity brings a degree of ease
and comfort. Intimacy anxiously searches for deep understanding and personal appreciation.
Gordon Lester, Homemade, Vol. 4, No. 11.