Strange things are afoot at the Circle K...
--Theodore “Ted” Logan
I’ve recently learned that Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are planning a third installment in their film series that started with the famous (or infamous) Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The news brought a grin to my face and a whimsical impulse to visit the virtue of Excellence, as defined by that wonderful example of goofball 80s SciFi comedy movies.
Normally the word “excellence” brings to mind driving ambition and images of necks bestrewn with gold-medals. We think of Excellence as being a quality of perfect performance, often attained with great effort.
What I love about Bill and Ted is that they turn that notion of Excellence all around. Rather than Excellence implying a race in which combatants ambitiously elbow out their inferiors for recognition, Bill and Ted define Excellence as a way of behaving towards others with Kindness, as in, “Be excellent to each other!” (They follow this with a reminder to find Joy in life’s day-to-day: “Party on, dudes!”)
I have to admit, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is not my usual cup of tea. (My friends know that in fact I strongly prefer films with two of any of the following: Cute Boys, Giant Bugs, and Explosions. Men in Black, The Fifth Element, and Starship Troopers are the rare examples that can claim all three. Despite the rest of the world’s opinion to the contrary, I do NOT consider Keanu Reeves as meeting the “cute boy” requirement, even back then. He just doesn’t float my boat. But, I digress... ) Still, the film grows on you. Bill and Ted perfectly capitulate the Tarot archetype of the Fool, and their adventure the Fool’s Journey. There’s something so guileless about them that you can’t help but like them and root for them.
The Excellence that that Bill and Ted preach--mostly by example, at least until they apparently become the founders of an advanced society of the 27th Century--is an aggregate virtue (much like Honor, which we saw contains ingredients like Discipline, Courage, and Fidelity.) I think Excellence as Bill and Ted define it would include bits of Kindness, Joy, Simplicity, and Innocence.
As such, Excellence reminds me of the Buddhist virtue Maitri. Often translated as “loving-kindness,” Pema Chodron explains that Maitri might be better translated as “unconditional friendliness.” Bill and Ted indeed seem to espouse a simple Friendliness to the various characters they encounter in space and time. And that’s excellent!
So today, tap into your inner Ted or channel your higher Bill, and bring that Joyful Friendliness of Excellence to the people around you. How do your words and deeds tell people to be excellent to each other, and to party on?
May we see the gates of Excellence, and perhaps make a home there.
Oh, and: San Dimas High School Football RULES!