“And I don’t know what love is, and I don’t know who I am. And if I ever wanna find out–I’ll watch the movie, ‘cause it’s not me. I’m just like everybody else my age.” – Chem 6a by Switchfoot
I really wish my life was a movie.
If it was, I think I’d still have problems and be a loser and everything, but I’d be polished–the silverscreen version of loser. I probably wouldn’t get a terrible acne breakout if I cried too much. My hair would probably be less frizzy-I’m-a-Viking-woman-grrr, and more long and gorgeous and doesn’t-this-remind-you-of-gorgeous-wavy-Galadriel-hair?
The character Joy would write her blog posts in an adorable, knee-to-chin position, while sipping healthy tea. She would be focused and diligent and her hair would be combed. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be sprawled in a pile of textbooks with watery hot chocolate, jumping up every five minutes to go see how long she can sit upside down in a chair before her head throbs.
The best thing about being a character in a movie, however, would be the fact that I could live my whole life in less than two hours, disregarding the possibility of a sequel. CharacterJoy would find that thing that makes her life worth living, do it, and change the world. (All while looking beautiful and being charmingly witty.) Once she overcame her polished-loser self and became President/created a new music genre/wrote a bestseller/hiked to the top of a mountain where she rescued her one true love from being sacrificed to a dragon/or destroyed a really bad ring, then resolution would come. There would be some really touching scene where she’s like, “I can’t believe I did this. I finished my mission, dudes,” and the camera would pan out to people all over the world smiling and hugging, and little kids playing in clear water and stuff. Then the credits would roll.
Unfortunately, I am not CharacterJoy. Instead, I spend tons of hours doing homework, reading books, imitating YouTube musicians, and practicing a pseudo-Scottish accent. And while I hope to live a good life, I still feel sad every now and then that I’m not on a silverscreen, headed towards a climatic moment when everything will be at stake and then wham! Everything is resolved.
Life has lots of loose ends. I’ve parted ways with several friends–people who I thought would always be a part of my story. If this was any kind of movie, I would reconcile with those people (or they would come back as my nemesis.) But the truth is, I tried the reconciliation thing, and most of them don’t want it. They are happy without me.
We pursue things that come to nothing. I know individuals who have literally spent half of their life trying to become someone important or famous. Even if the life is difficult, it is so exciting at first, because they are thinking of themselves in silverscreen terms, headed toward a great resolution. But then it doesn’t come. They end up as waitresses or working for the postal service.
In American obsession with entertainment, we’ve gotten all kinds of messed up philosophies concerning life. Among other things, we think that we ought to have plot lines that revolve around us. We think that heroes are people who rise above the mundane. The way we act indicates that we give people their worth depending on the role they play in our story. (Acquaintances that have snubbed us are treated like expendable red-shirts.)
But life itself is infinitely better than a movie. You can cry at a scene in which a kid is bullied, but it’s another thing entirely to watch it unfold–watch the blood drip dribble over his lips and down his chin, and the self-loathing look of fear as an another kid yells expletives into his face. It’s one thing to see two hours of someone falling in love, and it’s another thing to see a whole lifetime of it–the dark times when they wound one another, the way they come back again, the peace of them in later years when they know what the other one needs without even asking.
There are so many characters in life that would be overlooked in a movie. Some of my favorite people in this world are nobodies, extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances. I will never forget a man I met on an airplane with my sister seven years ago named Peter Buick. He was pretty ordinary, a Dutch cowboy-wannabe that had an inconsequential job. But he was so kind. We sat on the plane and ate cookies Dutch cookies together and he seemed truly interested in my boring, introverted self. I don’t think I will ever forget him.
The silverscreen is a beautiful lie with elements of truth. I like movies just as much as anyone, and some of them have impacted me in profound ways. But I’m cautious of the damage it does to our world view.
People often tell me that my life sounds interesting, but in movie-terms, it’s pretty lame and ugly. There isn’t much resolution and there’s a whole lot of chaos.
But if I look back, as though watching it in third person, some things take my breath away. There are scenes of my life that stand out powerfully. A moment when I almost kissed a boy who had another girlfriend…and chose not to. A moment where I stood by a small fire watching my favorite books burn. A moment where I danced with a Londoner in Los Angeles and he told me I was beautiful, but a terrible dancer. A moment where I punched a boy right in the eye for bullying another girl, screaming, “Don’t you ever hit a girl!” A moment where I sang a capella in front of three hundred people who didn’t even understand my language.
And nothing is enhanced or polished, they string along in seemingly random order. Sometimes many important scenes happen at once, and then there are yawning stretches of years and years where nothing happens. It all seems like absolute nonsensical chaos at times.
But speaking of chaos, today I read an old article describing chaos and order in physics. Most of it was over my head (having only a rudimentary knowledge of physics), but I did know that a bowed violin string is a harmonic oscillator. The experiment used pendulums in the place of the oscillators, and the discovery was that when the pendulums were pushed with a rhythm, they swung completely out of sync. But when pushed with seemingly random disorder, the pendulums began to swing in sync with one another.
Besides the fact that blows my mind–it also makes me wonder about the mystery of the universe, and the apparently erratic lives we all lead. Like Peter Buick in his cowboy gear meeting me on the plane and making me feel like I amounted to something. Or trying to reconcile with an old friend and finding they’ve moved past me. Finding a copy of The Beautiful Letdown in my sister’s box of giveaway stuff, almost seven years ago, and picking it up because it sounded cool in a weird way.
Maybe something way more beautiful than a two-hour plot line is going on around us. Maybe the pendulums are being pushed at irregular, bizarre moments–but there is an undercurrent of rhythm, and they all line up to a single point. Maybe the pat resolution that is perpetuated in movies is just a front, and resolution is really something that is happening all the time, even when we’re just pumping gas or making spaghetti. Maybe every breath we take is the outcome of the breath we took before it.
Think about it. Because if it’s true, then even the most boring life is a whole lot more exciting than the most epic movie.