Elizabeth Taylor: We Alter and We Run the World

Elizabeth Taylor in 1986/Neal Preston

Interview with Elizabeth Taylor
Conducted by James Grissom
Hotel Carlyle
New York City

Life is a great gift--I believe that--but it also comes with a grave and a great responsibility. I believe that we are required to pay rent for the life we are privileged to live, in whatever way we can, whatever amount we can spare. I'm in the payback years right now, and I'm happier than I've ever been. I'm grateful that I became something--someone--that people wanted to see and meet and touch and talk to, because I'm out there every single day raising money and doing my best to make things better for people.

I am no longer blind to things.

My mother, thinking she was protecting me and raising me in a healthy Christian Science state of mind, hid the world from me. We proudly and successfully denied the existence of evil and cruelty and lack and despair, and I wandered about, my mind free and clear, my face open and unmarked by thought or time. That time had to come to an end, even though I'm grateful for the strength of mind it instilled in me.

When I converted to Judaism--and I didn't do that on a whim, or without some serious study--I learned that as a good Jew--a true Jew, as friends put it--I had to really see what was in the world, what was done to other people. I never thought I would look at photographs of atrocities and crimes and desperation, but I did. I tried to feel the loss and the fear and the horror of those people. I adopted those people spiritually and vowed to take care of them and any others who suffered as they did.  I educated myself and pulled myself from the protected cocoon in which I had lived for so long. I could have my home and my life with its comforts--for me and my family--but I had to slice the pie in such a way that others shared in my bounty. 

I had to begin paying some rent to the world.

I now have causes that occupy my mind and my heart, and for which I go to work. Listen, whatever you wish to call your divine power is sending you signals every minute of every day, to help others, to hold out a hand, to feed a person, to pray and care and move some mountains, and it's time for all of us to get big and do the big and the right thing. We can no longer turn our eyes away from what is happening across the globe: We have to turn our hearts and our actions and our wallets toward those people. They are our family; they live on the planet; they are tenants in my heart.

All of the energy I put into making movies and hitting marks and making a scene under the lights is dedicated now to changing and healing the world. Make all the jokes you want, but I'm here to be big, to do big things, to really pay everything back.

We alter and we run the world--if we choose to.

© 2014  James Grissom


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