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The Happy Faith—Rock Hudson

I promised to talk about my faith and it is too late to go back on my word. But I surely wish I hadn’t. Discussing his spiritual beliefs, a man really leaves himself naked. Even though I did give my word, I don’t think I’d go through with it if it involved an affiliation with a particular church. Every member of that church might get the feeling I was talking for him and explaining his views. This, I have no right to do.

It happens, however, that I cannot label my religion. I can hardly explain it, to tell the truth. The best I can do is define it as a sort of warm feeling within, mysterious but helpful, and in its essence optimistic.

It cannot be classified by its doctrine but I can say that its effect on me is to create the feeling that no matter what happens, all is for the best, all will be all right.

I suppose this sounds terribly informal as a religion; too simple, perhaps, or even too easy to follow, but there it is and it has given me all the spiritual comfort I have ever wanted.

It should be plain that I have great confidence in my belief.

There have been bad times in my life. But never, because of my faith, have there been any hopeless ones. There never will be.

I think the groundwork on which I have built my spiritual views was started with an incident that occurred when I was six years old. After a Sunday lunch my grandfather went out to burn some prairie grass off his land and I tagged along to watch. Somehow, I found myself with my back against a fence, angry, crackling flames closing in on me. I could not escape. The fence was too high for me to climb and everywhere else were flames as high as my head. It takes a six-year-old to get himself into a mess like this. Yet, as I remember, I wasn’t worried. I just knew that I had to be saved and I knew that someone certainly would save me. I didn’t understand then that this somebody should really be designated Somebody, a deity. God was just a word to me then, and not a particularly significant one, I think. But I was certain that someone was looking after me. And I was right.

What actually happened was that my grandfather came charging through the fire, caught me up and slung me over the fence—and then he managed to climb over after me.

But there remained in my mind the feeling that Grandfather had just been the agent of the Someone I knew I had relied on. And between myself and this Someone, at that moment, was fostered a very personal relationship. At least, I have always felt this. It has seemed to me that the intimacy of this relationship is threatened every time I begin to think of this Someone as One to be identified only with this or that religion. Many religions tend to consider Someone their personal property.

I know Hey well that this sounds rather selfish, like an exclusive arrangement between God and me. But perhaps in this regard, and only in this regard, every man has a right to exclusive relationship. Considered this way, I hope it doesn’t sound too bad. In any case, I didn’t plan it this way. This is how it came about; this is how it is and must be with me.

I remember that my grandmother used to talk to me a great deal about the church into which I was born and which I used to attend. She made it come alive for me, made it a place where I felt I could belong. But my grandmother died when I was eleven. I remember that at her funeral I had my first and last (I hope) case of hysterics. After her death, I couldn’t continue any longer asa member of any specific church.

The religious ritual of any church interests me and often inspires me. I never count myself a stranger when I attend services; I believe that prayers offered up to the Lord encompass all and not just a selected few.

As I interpret my own particular faith,it is a benevolent one, completely. It has to fear or threat of any kind. It may be that I have conceived for myself a very convenient religion, but I have never had the sense of creating it; it has taken whatever form it has naturally.

My faith to me is like the water I swim. I do not see water as an element in which sinking is possible, but as one which has the power to buoy me up. How else could anyone swim? How else and why else would I trust myself to Someone treat and beyond if I were not certain of his love and support? Before I got to thinking about this, such phrases as Love is strength” meant nothing to me; terward, they meant everything.

The help I get from my faith is positive. My confidence in it has helped me a say, during a bad crisis, “Okay, let things turn bad. There’ll be good to fellow.

To replace the love I lost came a freedom; not only the passive freedom releasing me from the heaviness in my heart, but an active freedom to go out and experience again the great wide world I had lost sight of during my love and heartbreak.

It seems to me that one of the greatest signs of the existence of a divine plan in our lives is the way hard luck and suffering can return unexpected compensations. Whoever invented the wheel must have had a backache first from the strain of the heavy loads he was carrying on it. And by his inspiration the backs of countless millions of men have ached that much less. Many of mankind’s problems and troubles are well-disguised blessings.

I remember last summer thinking that I should take some time off and away from the studio to think over my life in general and my career in particular; I needed some objective thinking and planning. In acting, the lucky break is very important, but it never hurts to look ahead and lay a course. The trouble was that I never could seem to get time off to do this.

Then, one fine afternoon, I had a bad I went swimming at Laguna Beach, tangled with a rock, and broke a collarbone. After it was set I was resting and wondering why my luck was so stinking, when I suddenly realized that the convalescent period facing me was exactly what I had been looking for. It meant time, time to think ahead and do my planning. It may well be that some of the decisions I made during this period are among the most important ones in my life. (One of them was to stay away from rocks when swimming in the ocean. The wave that threw me in on my shoulder could just as well have tossed me in on my head!)

I have had the experience of losing out on a role I wanted in one picture, only to get a better role in another picture—because I was available. It’s getting so that when anything bad happens I find myself automatically awaiting the good break which always seems to follow naturally on its heels.

Down through the ages, religious arguments have turned on one question—can God be proved? Never, apparently, has one man proved this to another man. But there are many men, I believe—and I am one of them—who are confident they have felt His existence as a palpable force in their lives.

In many ways, at times of emergency and even in quiet periods, I have been utterly conscious of a Presence. I remember when I faced an abdominal operation. With modern day surgery there would seem to be little danger. Yet, like most people, I did have to say to myself, “Well, I could die. It is possible.” Having said I could, I was quite convinced, warmly and serenely convinced, that I wouldn’t. It is hard to explain how sure I was; surer than I am of my name.

In Magnificent Obsession I play the part of the surgeon. For technical advice we engaged a nurse from the county hospital and I asked her a lot of questions about surgery procedure. One of the things she told me which I shall never forget is that at all operations the doctors and nurses sense a spiritual presence.

“When a surgeon finishes an operation he feels that he deserves neither credit nor blame. He has only been an agent of the real Doctor,” she said.

It reminded me of my grandfather’s rescuing me from the fire and that I had the feeling then that he had been delegated by the Someone I had depended on to save me.

Although I do not belong to any specific church I am strongly attracted to them when I travel. When I was in England one of my first visits was to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I also attended services at Westminster Abbey. Standing in St. Paul’s I found myself thinking not so much of the church as of the people who had built it. As I watched them in their house of worship, quietly praying, as they had through all the bombings, through the years of their austerity economy, and even now when things were easing up a bit for them, I began to get a small measure of the strength of their character and their devotion.

When I get a yearning for this sort of spiritual inspiration in Hollywood I generally pay a visit to one of the big churches in the old part of Los Angeles, often the Third Congregational Church. I think that which I am seeking (that which we all seek, probably), is confirmation that life is a blessed experience and not just a phenomenon that could have no ultimate meaning.

I never wanted such assurance so badly as when I attended the funeral services of a beloved friend and teacher, Sophie Rosenstein, who had been the drama coach at Universal-International. Her appreciation and understanding, not only of talent, but of the hopes and fears that fill the heart of a young newcomer to the studios, was, it seemed to me, and I believe the others would agree, almost Heaven-inspired.

Standing there in Forest Lawn with the other boys and girls who had known Sophie, I recalled the warmth of her voice, the sympathetic, inspired insight into human nature she had revealed, and I became convinced that no mere combination of chemical elements called the human body could produce this kind of personality. There had to be something more to make a Sophie Rosenstein, and that something could never be destroyed.

The moment this thought came to my mind the sadness of the occasion lifted. If that part of Sophie, the best and most significant part of her, were not gone, we need not feel bereaved. Rather, we should think of her in terms of the living qualities she had left with us. There was no death as long as these lived on as they did in our hearts.





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