Celebrating with “Her”.

Her

“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”

I moved into an apartment about a month ago after spending a few years living in my parents’ basement again. I did what I had to do to get through college, I guess. This move has had its ups and downs, mostly ups because there’s nothing wrong with living here. I like it in fact. The downs come from me, usually. The apartment just facilitates the space and the time alone for me to let it sit in my head to fester and metastasize. I’ve struggled with being on my own and feeling isolated from the world and the depression that hasn’t really left me since June of last year.

I guess you could say I’ve been lonely.

Today is my birthday and I did everything I could to avoid any sort of interaction with people. I don’t like celebrating my birthday and I like being around people in a social setting even less, lately. So, I stayed in my room and tried to fend off my brain with what I could find for entertainment on Netflix and tried to find some way of getting out of going to my parents’ house because they want to celebrate my birthday. I eventually gave up trying that, just so you know. Anyway, I remembered there was a movie I wanted to see and decided to go alone. I decided to go to the 12:55 showing of this movie and when the time came I tossed on my clothes, my boots and my leather jacket and went to the theatre.

Going out in public by myself has always been easier in a lot of ways. Most people like to talk, but I don’t like to talk much. Talk is so cheap sometimes, especially to me and especially on my birthday. I guess I was disappointed too many times as a kid and this is another manifestation of the psychological damage done by my father when he abandoned me 15 years ago. Or maybe it’s just the winter. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I was really happy to have gone alone. I bought my ticket and went in and grabbed my seat.

[Unrelated to the topic at hand but I’m pretty sure I saw someone I went to high school with and had a thing for. It’s weird to see people you knew when the years have caused them to swell and balloon]

The movie I had come to see was a Spike Jonze film called “Her”. I was hoping for something good but, instead, I got to see something special.

Never has the future looked good dressed in red cardigans and plaid. The movie’s premise is that of a melancholy writer named Theodore. As the film progresses, you discover that he is going through a divorce and is having a difficult and lonely time of coping. He spends his time playing video games and having what amounts to kinky phone sex (where his partner asks him to strangle her with a cat) to fill the time. He has some friends and he attempts to date but nothing seems to work for him. In the midst of this he is introduced to a new product that is the first artificially intelligent operating system called OS 1. A clever little nod to Apple, I felt, considering their integration of Siri into their mobile OS.

Theodore installs this new operating system and, almost immediately, you are charmed by her warmth despite the fact that she is part of his computer. Scarlett Johansson does a wonderful job as the voice of Samantha, the OS. Very quickly, she begins to learn more about human nature and her own and she and Theodore develop the closest thing to a human relationship as possible. At moments it is sad because, as part of the audience, I felt like Samantha could be real. In the story, both Theodore and Samantha mention how much they both wish she had a body and could be next to him.

As they tend to do, doubt and jealousy begin to strain this relationship. This is where everything fell into place for me. Good films are artistic. The films that matter most are the ones where you can see yourself in them, the ones you can relate to. I found myself very much in Theodore’s shoes through most of his story. This movie was not one about technology for me and how its replacing social activity in our society. An argument could be made for that but, for me, this movie was about distance. It was about caring for someone who is essentially just a voice at the end of a line and wanting them, so badly, to be there with you.

It reminded me of my own experience with long distance relationships.

I can’t spoil the ending for you because I want you to see it for yourself and make your own judgements about how well put-together this movie is. I will say this: I know what it’s like to love someone who is, in one capacity, far away or inaccessible. And I know the problems it can create with jealousy and communication with that person and I know what it feels like when it all falls apart and you’re left with nothing.

My heart felt stimulated for the first time in a very long time. I think good art will do that to you, no matter the medium. In a world where classic movie remakes and TV show reboots are the money making scheme in film, it felt really good to see someone taking the time to assemble a cast and write a script that created a unique experience that tells a tale I’m sure almost anyone can relate to. It felt really good to be inspired again. And, for some reason, it felt really good to experience that by myself. I didn’t have to give my opinion afterwards or try to instantly analyze what I saw. I got to soak it up and process it.

And that has made all the difference.

The Things I Know

Listen, if I didn’t have so much of this life all wrong… I would have gotten it right by now. I talk a whole bunch but I really only know a few things so I ain’t saying to follow along verbatim here. I’ll just tell you the things I tell myself, the things I know. You can see what sticks. – Buddy Wakefield, “The Information Man”

I spend a lot of time being wrong. I’ve spent a lot of time with my nose in books and researching things that seem to catch my eye and finding out that my preconceived notions about a topic were incorrect.  The customers I talk to on the phone at my job spend a lot of time telling me I’m wrong or I will look into a problem and find out that what I told the person was incorrect.  It is then up to me to swallow my pride and let my customer know that I was wrong. It’s not easy to do but it’s a lot easier because I don’t have to do it face to face. I purposely stay quiet out of what I call humility during conversations and classroom discussions sometimes but I’m not really humble, I just don’t want to be wrong. I think everyone has, to a greater or lesser extent, an innate fear of being wrong. It’s just part of being broken and prideful that we, as the center of the universe, cannot be wrong.

The thing I’ve discovered about being wrong a lot of the time is that I only know a few things. The things that I know are things that I can always be certain of and maintain my confidence that at least in the things I know I can’t be told that I’m wrong.  I was thinking about this today after I shook the sleep out of my eyes at the crack of noon today after staying up too late watching a movie.  I can’t tell you how I got down this road of thought because it’s just more proof that I’m wrong a lot of the time but I decided to entertain the thought process that followed.  I was able to come up with three things that I know with great certainty, without a doubt, 100% foolproof. Just do me a favor and don’t try and prove me wrong with these three things.  They’re all I’ve got.

The first has a lot to do with my personality and talents.  First of all, I’m really good at being overly analytical.  I will scrutinize something down to its most basic molecules if I have to. I will understand what I am analyzing and I will make sense of it even if it drives me to the brink of insanity. I’m pretty sure this is why I’m single but we won’t go into great detail about that.  Second, I am really good at reading people and sometimes even empathic.  I can’t tell you how many times this particular portion of my gifting has decided to rear its head.  I can’t really control it, per se, but I can decipher the signals it sends to my brain however I sense things. I have been able to tell when people are depressed, anxious, or just trying to lie to me.  It’s just been something I’ve always been able to do. It’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting when Skylar (Minnie Driver) asks Will (Matt Damon) how he figures things out in minutes that takes her hours to comprehend. He goes into this long explanation that used Beethoven and Mozart’s understanding of the piano about how they could just play and when it came to the understanding the difficulties produced by Ivy League academia he says, “When it came to stuff like that, I could just play”.  That’s the best I can describe it: I can just play.

Now when you combine analytical abilities with my interpersonal skills and severe empathy and you get a man who has easily been able to discern what a person is like, things they’ve done or something as weird as how many siblings they have and what gender those siblings are. It’s weird, really, really weird to me sometimes when things like that come to me so easily especially when, just by looking at one of my friends, I was able to tell that she had been a part of a mutual friend’s infidelity.  It is stuff like that I really don’t want to know.

What’s really frustrating is that there are times and there are people when these abilities carry absolutely no weight. It’s like someone just emptied my head or flipped off some kind of switch.  Some people are just really hard to read.  I would like to think that through my abilities I have gained some sort of insight into the inner workings of the human psyche and, to some degree, it has. I know a lot more about people than they realize a lot of the time.  But then I will see things that make absolutely no logical sense and it becomes unbearably frustrating.

This leads me to the first thing that I can tell you that I know without a doubt: There are some things I will never understand.  I will never understand why people who had a horrible go around when they dated will break up and then get back together. I will never understand why at the age of 25 I was diagnosed with a heart condition that’s typical in people in their 50’s.  I don’t understand why people hate, why people can’t be honest and why it took me so long to figure this out.  Some things just will not make any sense.  But at least I know it and someday, if you don’t, you might understand this particular truth.

Which provides absolutely no segue in to my next paragraph so I’ll just bumble into it.  I’m not a pro at this, I just speak what’s on my mind and heart and hope it makes sense.  I’ve always been that way, I guess.  I’ve been writing prose and poetry since 7th grade.  That was when the ability to communicate via paper and pencil was really unlocked. I had the most fantastic English teacher in Miss Fischer, a woman whom half the guys in the class had a crush on. I came to know her as more of a friend because she treated me like a human instead of the freak that everyone thought I was. I was a loner back then and writing was kind of my gateway out of that mindset.  Just as I’m doing now, I would write down how I was feeling and eventually I found someone influences that really altered and gave me a stronger voice. Self-expression is necessary, I think, for everyone. It manifests itself in many ways but it’s always there.

I’m still a loner now and I still write as is evident by the 1,200 words I’ve spewed forth thus far. And I still retreat to a form of writing to make sense of things in life. I’m really good at feeling alone in a room full of friends still.  It just goes to show you that some things never change.  And that is the second thing that I know.  I know that no matter what happens in your life, my life and everyone else’s life there are some things that will never change.  In a world where “the only thing that stays the same is change,” there are actually a few things that are not blanketed by that statement. Autumn will always be marked by the colors changing of the leaves, the tides will always be affected by the moon and even though their positions may apparently alter slightly, the stars will always shine in the sky when the sun sets.

There is something else that never changes.  You know, as much of a heathen as I have been through the span of my life I have always believed in God.  He may not have looked or acted like the God that I’ve studied and believe in now but he has always been there. In theological terms, people like to say that God is immutable, that is, he is not changing or able to be changed. This is something I know about God.  It’s hard to comprehend but it is indeed the truth.

My friend Ben says he’s wrong 20% of the time but that’s only because the other 80% of the time he’s talking about Jesus. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  I believe Jesus came down in the form of a human and was tempted like we are tempted every day. And I think even worse because Satan himself really went after him first in the wilderness and then through Judas Iscariot who turned Jesus over to the authorities to ultimately be crucified.  In theological terms, Jesus’ nature can be defined by the hypostatic union, that Jesus is fully man and fully God.  Because of the former it was written in the letter to the Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus is that high priest.

With all of this in mind, I think there’s really only one more thing I can say I truly know.  While I know that some things I will never understand and there are some things that will never change, I think I’ve discovered something that is ultimately far more important. I know that God understands and he never changes.  That’s something, above all else, that I can cling to and tell people I know.  All other issues are unimportant by themselves.  When you add them up, however, and lay them like bricks in front of you the end result, because what I’m telling you is the truth, the road you build will lead you to the God I speak of.  I know that it’s narrow and there are few that will find it.  If it’s truth you seek, if it’s understanding you desire, then there is a God who knows you more intimately than any person ever could because he knew you before you were formed in the womb and before you were born he called you out and he wants you to know him.

Mistress Music

I wanted to sing a song to myself, pull out an old, familiar tune to set my heart to in hopes of lifting this soaking wet curtain from around my head.  But the notes fell on deaf ears.  That music just won’t move me like it used to.  So, I picked up my 6 string accoustic assistant that goes by the name of Alice.  She’s dark and beautiful and, normally, we make the night time dance to the melodies that resonate from the action of my fingers across her strings.  But every note sounded sour and out of tune, so I put her away before my frustration with the notes that won’t play and the songs I can’t hear or write for whatever reason.
For having been so close for so long, mistress music, you seem light years in distance from where I’m sitting now.  Having lost my grip on anything that strikes my ears in the ways that they used to, I’ve resorted to silence and writing this letter to you.
Since childhood, I’ve been in love with your magic in the absence of silence.  Popping cassettes into my mom’s boombox from days before I was born and losing myself to the sounds of a million different voices that resonated smoke filled rooms and outdoor arenas when my mom was my age.  You were still a stranger then, madam, but you still infected me with sonic invention and prepared me for what would come later.
Teenage years is when I came into my own tastes with the gritty guitars of punk rock.  Popping in that first dubbed cassette and hearing AFI come through the stereo for the first time and I new it was love and it was because it was me that I heard through those cheap speakers, that was my anger and my outrage in those years when friends were few, the school days were long and the summer days were even longer.  You… you brought a new concept to my heart and to my mind that there were people out there who knew what it was like to be me and their feelings known through the buzzsaw guitars and buzzsaw drum beats with snare hits like gunshots.  It was there I found acceptance in you when I couldn’t find it from my peers.  I belonged somewhere and, while the people who were like me weren’t tangible, at least I knew they existed and I wasn’t the only alien.
Punk rock fed my fury into heavier music and that was where I learned the true extent of the expression of the darkest parts of myself that I thought no one would want to see.  When you’re a musician, you bear it all or you go home.  It’s that simple.  When I picked up my guitar, I felt you and I couldn’t take the onslaught or the fury and so I expelled what I could of you in my violent motions.  You were my muse then and you taught me to feel what I was playing and put my heart, mind and soul into it.
So, for all the cassettes, CD’s, LP’s and DVD’s and the countless hours of listening, writing and practicing I find myself run dry and empty.  I wonder where you have gone and why, oh why, mistress music, you have foresaken me?  You don’t strike my heart like a hammer to hot iron but like a hammer straight to the anvil.  And it hurts sometimes.  Is this something you can grow out of or has my soul just gone colder than it has in a long time and I just haven’t noticed?  I have always been the person to get so buried in music that, even through the stereo, I have to find my way to the top again to catch a breath.  Now, it’s all a memory.  Where did all the passion go?

I wanted to sing a song to myself, pull out an old, familiar tune to set my heart to in hopes of lifting this soaking wet curtain from around my head.  But the notes fell on deaf ears.  That music just won’t move me like it used to.  So, I picked up my 6 string accoustic assistant that goes by the name of Alice.  She’s dark and beautiful and, normally, we make the night time dance to the melodies that resonate from the action of my fingers across her strings.  But every note sounded sour and out of tune, so I put her away before my frustration with the notes that won’t play and the songs I can’t hear or write for whatever reason pushed me to do something drastic.

For having been so close for so long, mistress music, you seem light years in distance from where I’m sitting now.  Having lost my grip on anything that strikes my ears in the ways that they used to, I’ve resorted to silence and writing this letter to you.

Since childhood, I’ve been in love with your magic in the absence of silence.  Popping cassettes into my mom’s boombox from days before I was born and losing myself to the sounds of a million different voices that resonated smoke filled rooms and outdoor arenas when my mom was my age.  You were still a stranger then, madam, but you still infected me with sonic invention and prepared me for what would come later.

Teenage years is when I came into my own tastes with the gritty guitars of punk rock.  Popping in that first dubbed cassette and hearing AFI come through the stereo for the first time and I new it was love and it was because it was me that I heard through those cheap speakers, that was my anger and my outrage in those years when friends were few, the school days were long and the summer days were even longer.  You… you brought a new concept to my heart and to my mind that there were people out there who knew what it was like to be me and their feelings known through the buzzsaw guitars and buzzsaw drum beats with snare hits like gunshots.  It was there I found acceptance in you when I couldn’t find it from my peers.  I belonged somewhere and, while the people who were like me weren’t tangible, at least I knew they existed and I wasn’t the only alien.

Punk rock fed my fury into heavier music and that was where I learned the true extent of the expression of the darkest parts of myself that I thought no one would want to see.  When you’re a musician, you bear it all or you go home.  It’s that simple.  When I picked up my guitar, I felt you and I couldn’t take the onslaught or the fury and so I expelled what I could of you in my violent motions.  You were my muse then and you taught me to feel what I was playing and put my heart, mind and soul into it.

So, for all the cassettes, CD’s, LP’s and DVD’s and the countless hours of listening, writing and practicing I find myself run dry and empty.  I wonder where you have gone and why, oh why, mistress music, you have foresaken me?  You don’t strike my heart like a hammer to hot iron but like a hammer straight to the anvil.  And it hurts sometimes.  Is this something you can grow out of or has my soul just gone colder than it has in a long time and I just haven’t noticed?  I have always been the person to get so buried in music that, even through the stereo, I have to find my way to the top again to catch a breath.  Now, it’s all a memory.  Where did all the passion go?