Police Sergeant Polhaus: “Heavy. What is it?”
Detective Sam Spade: “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”
Police Sergeant Polhaus: “Huh?”
Last lines of the 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon
In the movie, The Maltese Falcon, which Roger Ebert names as one of the greatest films of all time, Humphrey Bogart plays cold, hard detective Sam Spade who is suspected by police of murder. It is difficult to miss how Spade’s name fittingly describes his character.
As the movie opens, the falcon is shown by light angled from a corner casting the bird’s dark shadow on a wall. The movie begins by giving a brief history of the figurine and describing it as “a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels.”
In the movie, the falcon serves as a MacGuffin. MacGuffins are used in fictional writing as an object that acts as a plot device and motivator for the characters throughout the story. When a fictional story contains a MacGuffin, the protagonist and other characters in the story are willing to do almost anything to pursue, protect, sacrifice or control the object.
The MacGuffin causes the characters to be consumed by their passions. MacGuffins can also be more abstract as in an idea, belief or philosophy, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Two famous tangible MacGuffins include the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the one ring in the trilogy, Lord of the Rings.
As Michelle and I pack up, store, sell, trash and get rid of much of our “stuff” (see photo) I am reminded that our “stuff” is what dreams are made of. I remember one day in Pasadena, CA where Michelle and I met and dated, that we looked into one another’s eyes and Michelle told me that I was the one she wanted to grow old with. After marriage we began building our dreams with “stuff” – little things that reminded us of our lives together, which grew into larger stuff such as pictures, collections, furniture, vehicles, a mobile
home and a house. [Continued below picture]
That “stuff” holds power over us. We cannot let “stuff” (material things) control our lives – yet if you are like us, we do it all too often. What is it we would have difficulty parting with? Is it a memento? A collectible? A treasure? A person?
If you’ve watched the television show, “Hoarders” you have seen “stuff” on steroids to the point it becomes a form of mental illness. It is sad to watch people desperately hold on to things and fear letting go of it. Our tendency is to claim, “I’m not that bad.” Yet when we start to part with something, a little voice goes off in our heads, “I need that.” Or “It means so much to me.”
As in life, in the last scene of The Maltese Falcon the iconic falcon turns out to be a fake. Yet the figurine was used by the writers to illuminate the hearts of the characters in the story. Through the entire movie the characters pursued what they thought would bring happiness and security to their lives, while in reality it was only a fake, not genuine, a hoax and a deceitful glimmer.
In the closing scene, police sergeant Polhaus picks up the heavy Maltese falcon, turns to Bogart and says, “Heavy. What is it?” Bogart responds with a line that according to some websites he actually came up with on the set that is borrowed from Scene IV of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”
The movie teaches a great lesson. In life we need to search for the truth and not chase illusive dreams that hold no value or substance, and in the end are fraudulent fakes. Webster’s online dictionary defines Truth as “in accordance with the actual state of things, real, genuine, pure, faithful, unwavering, conformable to fact.”
An amazing statement was made one time, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Jesus was saying in our language today, “I AM the real deal. I am genuine. You can trust me. I am faithful and unwavering. I am not a fake or fairy tale like the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.”
God did not leave His creation with some intangible, abstract teachings found in religion or philosophy. He went well beyond that – He sent His son. Truth became a person – tangible and real.
The “stuff” that reality is made of is Jesus, the Rock of Salvation upon Whom you can put your trust and rest from the stuff in the world. He loves you and desires a relationship with you. He will change your life and your world.