Thursday, December 19, 2013

it's led you here

I saw About Time again today, and I was reading over my entry here about that film, and I noticed an error. POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD… Taking the protagonist’s do-each-day-twice methodology and twisting it together with Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, I suggested the following:

1) live each day as if it were the specific day you had time traveled to, as if it's the most important day you have and 2) do with that day only things you would be willing to do again and again and again. I'm certainly not suggesting that eternal recurrence is real, but it's a great way to look at the present. If something isn't worth doing again, why do it once?

And, no, that’s not the mistake. I still like the idea of that now, about five weeks later. And, considering this blog (and Groundhog Day is so often about the passage of time, it’s remarkable how recent that blog entry seems to me. But, anyway, I do think the day can be so much better if you both relax into it and make the effort to make the most of it. Do stuff for yourself, do stuff for others, do stuff to make the world a better place. But, anyway, I was getting to my mistake. The About Time entry at The Groundhog Day Project, 15 November 2013, continues:

In that light, there are moments I'd travel to if I had Tim's ability, moments I would want to fix. But, I don't think I'd want the time loop Phil Connors has. There's this moment in About Time, after Tim has explained how he lives each day twice, where he's on a train with his wife and kids and he says some days he doesn't repeat. I forget the phrasing in the voiceover, but the implication was that a perfect moment is perfect perhaps because it's fleeting.

Perhaps it was I thought about the meaning of that voiceover line and the shot accompanying it before I realized the context, perhaps it’s because that “implication” is still true regardless of the mistake, but, no, that line is not to imply the moment on the train is a “perfect moment” that is perfect because it is fleeting. That moment is Tim and his family on the way to his father’s funeral. He doesn’t want to repeat it because it’s not a happy day.

Still, I do think the “implication” is true, nonetheless. Before, I went on to say:

For me, a few moments like that come to mind right away, lying in a park in San Francisco, a motel bed in Winnetka... but I don't want to think about such things right now. But, I think that I believe both Tim's approach to each day and the value of what is temporary are both valid. That's why I like his solution later; living each day for each day, paying attention to all the details, all the beautiful things you might miss because you're on your way to work or school.

Now, I marvel at the moments fixed in my mind because of their fleeting nature, things both right and wrong that I wouldn’t change because they make the memory more unique from all the other days. On the drive to Vegas to get married, my son Kieran, all of two years old, standing up in his car seat (and, don’t worry, there was traffic due to roadwork so he wasn’t in danger)—I wouldn’t change that because it’s a detail that makes the memory more interesting (as if running off to Vegas to get married weren’t already interesting). My daughter Hayley, nearly seven, begging for a break when we were walking home from the museum… actually, I’d change that. In retrospect, I’d say we take a break or I’d put her on my shoulders sooner. But, as it is, it’s a vivid detail that puts me in that time, January 2002, and that place, Pittsburgh, PA. Similarly, Hayley again, but a year or two later, asking why we paid to kill ourselves on the Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier. Or, my daughter Saer, when she was nearly seven, meowing for the crowd as we waited for the award ceremony to start after the Watson-Lancer tournament. I’d get a gold medal in debate that day but before the awards, to pass the time, they did a contest of animal sounds from the audience. A bunch of college students and my kid, and she won. For me, a rant during a debate that very morning stands out. If I were repeating that day, that rant wouldn’t have the energy, wouldn’t have the spontaneity… of course, it might have made a little more sense and had better structure. But, it’s a more powerful thing in my head because of what it was, not what it could have been. Falling asleep on a bench on the Point Loma campus between rounds—that’s a unique memory for me. If the day were repeating, I wouldn’t be so mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted, maybe, and I wouldn’t have that. Blanking on a single line in a cultural artifact speech—“Hegemonic decline be damned”—and taking 3rd place (and losing the cash prize of $100)—that’s something I’d probably fix if I was in a time loop, or something I might fix on a whim if I had the ability Tim has in About Time. But, really, what’s $100 versus the story I’ve told about that moment numerous times? What’s $100 versus one of the more memorable events in my four years of speech and debate competition? That $100 would be long gone, but that moment will be with me until I am old and grey and forgetful.

I wonder what moments stick with Phil Connors. Late in the loop, does he still go drinking with Gus and Ralph and does he reminisce about the first time he tried sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist? Does he remember every time Rita slapped him (10 times that we see, but maybe more)? Does he remember his first report from Gobbler’s Knob (the year of the time loop, that is, but also from three years before)? Does he ever stop to regret mishandling his relationship with Stephanie?

(That’s the ex who curses him when Rubin and Ramis were attempting to explain the time loop. She’s not in the movie at all.)

It may seem trite, but I like that “moment” is an instant in time and it is also importance. I like that it comes from the Latin momentum for movement. A moment is not about movement at all, at least the way we think of it, but I suppose that’s what gives it moment (i.e. importance). Each moment is a tiny piece of the forward progression of our lives, the movement of time. The moment itself goes nowhere, and so often lingers on and on in our heads. But, each moment… as Phil says to Rita on date night, “It's led you here.” She started off studying 19th-century French poetry in college but for some reason moved on to maybe journalism, maybe film, whatever got her to producing the news. What she studied before is neither good for a laugh nor irrelevant to who she is in the present. Recently, in one of my graduate school classes, some of my fellow students were surprised to learn I was communication studies major and not a television and film major (the class involved both groups) because of this blog, because my prospectus was about the cinematic Christ-Figure… When I first went to college (as I mentioned before), I wanted to major in film. And, obviously, I like film. I obsess about the Oscars every year and I watch more movies than most people I know. That is still a huge part of who I am. And, I’ve got plenty of memories wrapped up in movies, so much so I could probably frame my autobiography around them someday like Nick Hornby framed Fever Pitch.

Deliberately setting the movie section of the newspaper in front of my father to get him to take me to see Project X—that’s a memory that sticks with me.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to live it in such a way that every memory sticks with me, no filler. And to watch all the movies I’ve still never seen. All of them.

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