Thursday, April 7, 2011

With Apologies to Mr. White

Dear Reader(s),

Blogs are fascinating creatures. They often resemble the diary, that secret place where one spills out thoughts, memories, and incalculable moments simply for the sake of grasping at a sense of permanence. But the blog is public. It is often the id set alight onto the world. I guess that makes sense in this postmodern world, where authenticity is praised far above anything else. Sometimes I think that blogs are a bad thing, particularly for me, in that it further breeds thoughts of self-importance and self-adulation, crimes I surely am perennially guilty of committing. More on this below...

I've been a wuss when it comes to film watching of late.

Last week I happened upon a Hallmark channel-esque made-for-tv movie that was playing at like 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon; popcorn drivel at best. The story followed this 40-something dude whose business deal brings him back in contact with his first love from High School. Inevitably, the ridiculously telegraphed plot and corny as hell dialogue all led up to the former lovebirds reuniting in wedded bliss. Nevertheless, right at the tail end of the soapcapade, a scene starring the woman's 'current' fiance (the 'good, safe and comfortable' guy she's with before her High School love comes back into the picture) somehow got to me. The fiance-man accidentally walked in on the former lovebirds sharing a difficult conversation. Later that night, he and the girl are out for a nice dinner. He tells her that he saw the way she looked at the other guy, and that she never looks at him that way. Then, with an air of cool that I could never hope to attain for myself, he tells his fiance that it is alright. He tells her that all he wants for her is for her to be happy. The situation has proven itself that she would be happier if she could be with her childhood sweetheart. And so he breaks up with her.

Just like that I found myself all disconfigured in my inner being. I got all emotional alone in my apartment at 2pm on a Tuesday. Damn Hallmark films! This character, this 'fiance', was only ever a plot devise. He was created by the writer to be an obstacle for the lovers to get around. If this were Shakespeare, he would have had to have been undermined and slain by our protagonist. But here, in this gentle, predestined universe, he simply slays himself. Once he tells the girl to break up with him, she does, (in fact all she says is "thank you") and promptly runs out to chase her 'real' man. The camera follows her, and we never see this selfless 'fiance' again.

What got to me about this framework of a character is that no matter how shallow a plot device he was, he committed a selfless act that I probably will never live up to. If I were in that dude's shoes I would fight. I would beg. I would plead. I would do anything to try to keep the girl -- telling myself that because I loved her I should try my darndest to be with her.

Shoot, I was hoping that writing that story out would somehow make it hold more weight. Nope. Still sounds dorky.

Another incident of my wussy responses to art of late is a bit more legitimate. Rabbit Hole. The film's title alone had me committed. I had no idea how a title like that could relate to a movie about parent's dealing with the accidental death of their only child. I wanted to know what exact rabbit hole these characters were going to fall through. The well-crafted film plays much in vain of To Kill a Mockingbird*, relying heavily on moments of innocence to get us through the unthinkable. The film is driven by this child's death; he ran into the middle of the road chasing after his dog. He is killed by a teenage driver that didn't respond quickly enough. We then are given a first hand lesson in grieving. Perhaps understandably, the mother of the dead child, and the teenage driver who killed him, form a bond. It makes sense. Both have had their lives irreplaceably altered by the same cataclysmic event. Both feel responsible for the death of this innocent child. Both are damaged. To be clear, their relationship is never sexual, not remotely, but perhaps in some way they fall in love with each other. They love each other because of the bond they share.

We all love based on experience. We love because we are taught to love. We love because we share life together. We love because we feel bond to other by commonalities. Christians historically call one another brother and sister because we acknowledge that we share the same Father. St. Francis took this to an extreme by calling all of creation by familial terminology, for no where in creation can you find a being created by God who is not our mutual Father Creator. Even the Lord Himself, bond not only in His choosing to be incarnated as the Christ, also chose to create man "In His image." We also share that bond with God.

A recent Scientific American article gives me further physical evidence that it is by our rite-of-binding one another together that bridges us to love. The article talks of experiments and studies that suggest that we have 'concept neurons' devoted to specific memories, specific things, and specific people. In one of the experiments an assortment of pictures of Jennifer Aniston are shown to a testee that is familiar with the actress. No matter what the photo: swimming, posing, twenty years old, whatever --- whatever the case, a core bundle of neurons fired off in recognition. The idea then is translated as this: our friends, our family, anyone who makes an impression on our lives, literally change who we are.

Little Platonic Ideals of everyone we ever remember are running around in our brains. We each are imprinted by one another. That kinda strikes me as a heap of obligation. Every impression I make, every friendship form, every love pursued -- those actions of mine are subtly molding the physical make-up of another person. Yikes!

Perhaps this help explains why death is so painful for those left behind. You see, when someone we know dies, well, then physically, a little part of ourselves is physically dying as well. Likewise, those neurons of that dead now are altered as well. It's probably then literally true to say that parts of us die too when our loved ones die.

What I fail at most in life, I reckon, is not any one little sin like lying or lusting. Sins of that ilk are of course crude and insidious in their own light, but honestly, I think more often then not they are merely signals of the larger sin.
"Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”**
Too often I love myself more than my God, and more than my neighbor. These are my arch sins.

Sometimes I think that writing a blog is a bad thing. Sometimes I think that maybe it's a by-way for self-worship. Sometimes I think. 

I also think about this idea of 'collective experience'. Movies are very much separated from books because of this collectivity. Books generally are experienced by individuals, but movies! Nay, they can be experienced simultaneously by hundreds -- millions if you count television and the like. Yes, my reflections on art, film, and life in general can be an exercise (and from time-to-time undoubtedly will be) in futile self-absorption, but it is also a concerted effort to find those things that bind us together. My exercise of bloggingness helps me digest that with which my eyes have already inhaled, with the aspiration that through consideration something tangible can come forth, a thought, moment, or insight that can harness what I've experienced and make it something that can be used to build bridges between my conscious thoughts and someone else's. Hopefully, that bridge is formed through conversation in real-time (!!!), but if it also happens here online, then the benefit is amplified. 

Dear Reader(s), 
I pray that the words you read here connect you and I in such a way that we are bonded by thought, and that this bond strengthens us collectively to further love our neighbors and love our God. May your words, deeds and thoughts be lifted up for the same cause. Amen***

Peace be the Journey,
Dante Stack

*Though it lacks the profundity and heroicism that cements Mockingbird as a forever loved classic.
**Matthew 22:36-39 NIV
***I feel a tinge of weirdness in writing all this, and am slightly concerned that my whole neuron shtick came off as some sort of mini-pantheism. For the record, I am not asserting pantheism, nor do I mean for this particular blog entry to seem uber-self-important. Good day.

1 comment:

  1. No doubt that blogs are often self indulgent exercises or quests for solidarity amongst the masses. Yet for a man in your position, doing the work of the Lord, these means surely justify the ends of a more well thought out idea of ones self. I enjoy reading this blog, which was here long before I even happened upon it, precisely because it is a sort of diary. You are a deep, albeit occasionally troubled, thinker who's thoughts make for an interesting read. I look forward to our future rendezvous and look forward to the day we might ponder them in person, perhaps over a glass of Ayran. Until then...