Sunday, November 2, 2014

no matter what happens tomorrow or for the rest of my life

I watched The Wizard of Oz synced up with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon today, and I toyed with the idea of syncing it up with Groundhog Day tonight, see what happens. I was operating, I think, under the assumption that I needed some new approach if I was going to watch this movie again. Another month of... other movies down, now Groundhog Day one more time. The thing is, I don’t need some novel approach, some clever take on the film using some new piece of research. Like I argued slasher films were like going home at one point in this past month of slasher films, watching Groundhog Day—well that is like home for me.

It occurs to me that I have not indexed this blog in a while. It also occurs to me, I do not feel like grabbing all the links to the past two month worth of entries. Oddly enough, I’ve been indexing titles and links (but not descriptions) for all the blog entries lately, preparing for work on my thesis.

(And still, I can notice something new. Namely, the guy who hits Phil with the shovel—the reason he isn’t looking where he’s going is he’s looking at a woman walking the other direction. She’s barely in the frame, but she’s there.)

But, going through my entries on When Harry Met Sally..., Moonstruck, The Mirror Has Two Faces and Pretty Woman, and all 33 slasher films I just watched... going through all of those and writing brief descriptions—I don’t feel like doing that right now. I guess in another month I’ll make an index for all those plus this upcoming month (back to four movies, a week each, by the way). I feel like doing a couple things. 1) conveying just what this feels like, watching this movie I am so very familiar with, once again, but a) it’s hard to do so and b) I’ve managed a bit of a headache tonight and that just makes it harder... still, I find I can just pause typing and watch just the movie and it’s comforting. I just had to switch screens—I had the movie playing on the television but switched to the computer monitor—because a weird psychological thing; it was bugging me that my daughter was behind me while I was writing. I don’t know why that bothered me. I guess, even after years of figuring out all the various things wrong with me, I still might not be entirely capable of avoiding each thing. Still, I can pause typing for a moment and just watch, and it feels...

I don’t know how it feels. I think it might be something like Phil is feeling right now, Day Three of the time loop (or maybe this will make more sense later in the loop)—it’s perplexing and confusing and maybe a little scary, but I bet there’s some comfort in knowing what day it is, knowing what’s going to happen, even if it’s a bit scary. And, I don’t mean really late in the time loop, when Phil’s got it all memorized. I mean just a few days in, once he’s recognized and accepted his place. But before he’s really got power over it. There’s still got to be some comfort there. Like waking up in the same bed each morning, going to the same office (or wherever you may work) each day. A basic comfort, something low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

It’s like an old friend I haven’t talked to has come to visit. There’s that moment where we’re not sure how things will be, we’re hesitant because we don’t quite know how much we’ve changed since last we spoke, but then the conversation gets started, and old rhythms and cadences get going and it’s like we were never apart. I can point out to Groundhog Day how showing the railroad tracks, and even an active train passing through, yet never bringing them up as a way for Phil to get out of town, is a little silly, and you’re lucky you got away with that. And, Groundhog Day isn’t offended. Groundhog Day just laughs, shrugs it off, and returns to watching me.

That last bit is a weird way to think about it, but, hey, the words that come are the words that come. I watch Groundhog Day and Groundhog Day watches me. I’m not sure if we missed each other since last time, but maybe that’s just because we knew we’d have this night together, to reminisce about old times, like remember that deja vu bit we did way back when? Yeah, that was funny. Remember that first time we brought Kozlovic into things, or all those times Benesh or Daughton or Bacha got cited? Good times. How about when Harold Ramis died? Or when you realized the year was almost over and you were afraid that without the ritual of this blog you might feel a little lost?

I don’t know if I would have actually felt lost without finding a way to continue this blog. I’ve got my kids and grad school and teaching and movies and TV and games and... life. Hell, since I already mentioned Maslow, it’s worth mentioning that lately, I think I’ve found myself a couple levels up in that pyramid, feeling secure enough in home and work that I’m starting to really look toward what will get me fulfillment and self-actualization. Teaching gets me some of that. But, I’m actually looking toward the future, and that’s not something I’m used to. I think I’ve mentioned that before. The future wasn’t much of an actual prospect for me as a kid. The world was supposed to be ending.

Phil’s starting to go for Rita right now—he just offered to buy her coffee... and a donut—and I’m reminded of something a student said to me this week. After asking if I had a stash of nerdy t-shirts at home—I kind of do, and I’ve been wearing different shirts each day of class—he asked if I had a nerdy girlfriend, too. I shook my head and he said I should get one. That would be cool. I don’t think I mentioned in this blog the couple times I went on dates a little over a year ago, in the first month or so of the Groundhog Day Project. I was on OKCupid—still have an account I’ll glance at from time to time, but don’t make much effort there lately—and talking to a few women, got a couple dates out of it, then got busy with this blog, with grad school, with life back living with my kids, with everything, and dating didn’t seem so important anymore. I think I was just trying to fill an empty space with whatever might fit. Lately there have been moments where I think that particular empty space is wanting again. But, then I get busy with more important things. It’s the reason Maslow puts belonging above safety but below esteem (if you’re not familiar with Maslow, in this case, since it’s a pyramid, the most immediate concerns are at the bottom—physiological needs); being a part of what I am already a part of, being loved, and loving in return, taking care of those close to me (and letting them take care of me when need be)—these are more important than esteem of self-actualization. Of course, I say this in a blog which ostensibly exists at least on some level to get attention.

Which brings me to 2)

I wanted to talk about this blog and the prospectus for my thesis, due next week (the prospectus, not the thesis). I’ve got a draft done; it involves Weick’s sensemaking and autoethnography and suggests a longer paper about using a blog as therapy. But, I’m bringing into it a bit of Goffman’s presentational self, particularly to look at how we present ourselves online. Even more specifically, how bloggers present ourselves, how I present myself. I mean, there is a strange sense of anonymity as I write these entries that exists right alongside the expectation that someone, anyone, can read it. There’s even a hope that a huge audience will someday find this blog and follow along, not just the handful that I know read it regularly. But, there’s a disconnect between the possibility of an audience and the reality of sitting here writing this entry or any other entry...

And, there’s a stranger side to things now, as well, knowing that I will be writing formally about writing this blog, I have to be careful what I say in an entry like this one, because I know I can quote it later to make a point, which may or may not be particularly fair.

Still, I must say that the ritual of this blog is important to me. Watching a movie every day, whatever movie it may be on any particular day since my year of Groundhog Day ended—that’s something I not only enjoy but that I find, for lack of a better term, scholarly comfort in. Movies explain us. Watching movies provides opportunity to explore that explanation, to get to know ourselves better. Sometimes I will see a particular movie, and connect with it so well that it inspires me to want to make movies again. I wanted to make movies once upon a time. I still wouldn’t mind it. But, these days, my link to movies is something... else. I am a Communication Studies major, not a Television Film (the other option out of our Communication department), but I think it would be best described to say that I study film now. I study the way I watch film, the way I experience film, the way film interacts with the real world. It’s not always deeply philosophical or decisively commentative on, say, gender relations or what have you, but film always has something to say. Phil is about to die for the first time, and I can say, without a doubt, that this film has something to say about death, something to say about life, about figuring out what really matters so that... What’s that line from Thoreau?

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to is lowest terms.

Life is so dear.

Amazingly simple, yet something I think we forget sometimes. We get stuck in what we think we want, get distracted by what we’re told to want, and we don’t, taking Thoreau’s words to heart, live. At least, we don’t live deep. We don’t suck out all the marrow of life... And, I must explain that I don’t take that phrase to mean that we seize at every single thing that comes our way, put all our energy into trying everything that is new, everything that it occurs to us to try. What we are already doing may be enough, if we just let it be enough. Really experience it. “Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone,” as Mr. Keating says in Dead Poets Society. But it does mean a hell of a lot more than just going through the motions of each day, rote activity.

Nor do we need to live Spartan-like to appreciate life. We just need to be more mindful.

This blog, this movie—they are not just therapy for me. They are meditation. Who and what I am comes into focus, the good, the bad, the ugly. I am who I am.

I’ve worn my WWPCD? bracelet every day since I put it on (well, to be fair, I had to switch to a second bracelet after the first one broke) a week or two before Day 365. At first it was sort of an ironic sort of smartass gesture, but I think it really means something to me. Not the sentiment, necessarily, but the existence of the bracelet, the idea of this thing the connects me at all times to something important to me. Like the way I thought of my wedding ring when my wife and I were together, and I wish I had something similar to connect with my kids... I do have a tattoo in mind...

My point is this—and it’s part of why I enjoy teaching public speaking and coaching for the speech and debate team: expressing one’s self, letting the world know who you are—this is vital to psychological stability and social survival. My advice: find your voice, find your medium, and speak, sing, dance, write, draw, whatever it is that your voice turns out to be.

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting post, sir. I can totally sympathise with what you say about groundhog day feeling like home (the "g" on my laptop keyboard doesn't work so I have to cut and paste a "g", and that makes capital g's a pain...especially when writing about god, g.k. Chesterton, or groundhog Day, which I tend to do a lot). Home is EXACTLY what the movie feels like to me. In so many ways I can't enumerate them. The climate, the decor, the pace, the architecture, the social interactions between minor characters....all of them are exactly to my liking and make the film seem like an outer expression of my inner climate, so to speak. Even little things like the way the Pennsylvania Polka hangs and echoes in the air.

    I'm glad you specified that a Thoreauvian, Spartan existence is not necessarily a mindful existence. His famous claim that "the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation" has always seemed to me presumptuous and snooty in the extreme. I also think a lot about the hierarcy of needs and specifically about the need for self-expression and self-actuation. (Question for you, that I've asked other movie nuts without a good answer; can you think of many movies whose theme is the quest to discover one's identity, like The Vow and Regarding Henry?) I know you have mixed feelings about small towns, and the small town idyll, but I think part of the small town idyll is the idea of having an identity-- oh, he's the guy who sits on that park bench and reads Rolling Stone magazine every Saturday morning, that kind of thing.

    I have also found that writing is a form of meditation for me-- much more so than trying to clear my mind, however that's done (I've never succeeded).

    Finally-- well noticed on the spade moment! I never would have caught that!!

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    1. lately, i must admit, i think just about every movie has some part about discover's one's identity, but you mean as a primary theme. i think regarding henry is a bit too literal in its plot, but also ends up having a story about the same thing, so that is a great example. exact answers to your question don't spring to mind right away, but instead i find myself thinking of life as a house or garden state, and even memento. none of these is really ABOUT discovering one's identity, but they bear a lot of the same details as a film about that would.

      by the way, regardless of what i have said about small towns in this blog--and for the record, i was probably writing about them in terms of how movies treat them--i like small towns, and i agree with you; in a small town, it seems like you would have a better grasp of who you are

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