Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime

With the recent release of the latest installment of the Twilight series I have realized a few things. First, and most important, I don’t understand Twilight much like I don’t understand much of “popular” culture these days. Second, I don’t care to make fun of people who enjoy these stories because there’s really no point and, actually, some of them are startlingly vicious defenders of this teen book series turned film. Third, my bent towards anything in story form has put it in my heart that there is nothing new under the sun especially when it comes to movies, this fad will have its time, and it will, like all things, fade away. But there’s something else about it that has got the wheels in my head turning and it’s a facet of the reality that is story.

People fall in love with certain stories for a reason.

I can remember sometime in March, 2004 going to a theatre to see a movie that my friend and I had been wondering about after seeing the preview at a film we saw months before. I saw a lot of movies in the theatres those days, actually. I don’t know if that was just the time for great film or if my friend and I were just consistently bored living in a town of less than 4,000 people and having to commute to do anything that was close to entertaining. Anyway, we walked into the darkened and mostly empty theatre one evening to see the latest Jim Carrey flick. I had been a fan of his from the outset of his major film career with “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, then later discovered his apocryphal 80’s work like “Earth Girls are Easy” and “Once Bitten”. I was an all around fan and not just of his comedies so I was excited to see him in another, more dramatic role.

If you don’t remember March  2004 then you probably don’t know what movie I’m talking about. The film was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It was my introduction to the work of both Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry. That coupled with a stellar cast that consisted of names like Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst made for what would be one of the most prophetic, cinematic experiences I think I will ever have in my life. That sounds really, well, dramatic doesn’t it? Well, this is what I’m talking about. There are reasons people fall in love with movies the way they do.

I believe a good movie acts as a mirror in which you see your self.

This movie became so significant to me as much then as it is now because of Joel Barish, the protagonist in this oddball romantic… I don’t know what he is to be honest with you. What I can tell you is that I connected with the main character within minutes of the film starting because of the opening voice over while Joel makes a trek to and around Montauk. I’m revealing a part of myself here that not many get to see because it has gotten me in trouble in more ways than I choose to count. But I felt an instant connection to the character and the movie when I heard the words, “Why do I fall in love with every girl who shows me the slightest bit of attention?” It was much more so then than it is now but that was how I felt being 18 and very much a hopeless romantic. He is neurotic, caring and introverted.

It was like watching myself on the silver screen.

With that in mind I take a look at what some of these other people are watching and what their interests are in media and wonder if they realize how much of their heart they show when they become fanatic about something. Some people have been honest and said that they see what they want in their relationship when they finally find that right person. But then I think about that and it makes me kind of sad in a way.

I’m a big proponent of following your dreams but if your dream guy or gal is somehow personified in something so unrealistic as Twilight or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind I think, perhaps, you ought to take a step back. As perfect or imperfect as the characters might be geared to attract the hearts of the viewers, aren’t they imperfect shadows of people because they’re fictional characters? As much as I love the character of Clementine I know from experience that it may be unrealistic to think anyone like that exists.

Part of me has a hard time realizing that truth.

But then I think about the story of my life and what may actually fit me and I honestly have no idea. I think we love movies and we love stories with characters that personify the things we see in ourselves and wish we see in others and we construct this sort of ivory tower experience that we think we’ll be ideal. But to extents we can’t even fathom we don’t write our story. We make decisions that affect, shape, advance, reverse and revamp our story. Why try and write our story based around the words of men, as wonderful as they are, when there’s an author who knows our story and knows what the real ideal is for us?

I think he gives us stories to fall in love with to act as shadows of the real thing, that minute taste we get when a story touches our hearts, our souls, so we will know the real thing when it finally crosses our path.

Stop looking, stop seeking. Live. Love. Don’t let someone else write what has already been written. We are not characters on a screen. This is no scripts, no holds barred life and your expectations and ideals will oft be flattened by the reality of God’s love for you and for me because it’s just that big.

I wish I remembered that more often.


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