What motivates you to get up, leave the house, and spend an obscene amount of coin for a ticket to see a movie in a theater?
I have been to maybe five or six movies a year, for the past few years. For me, the determining factor is usually whether or not I deem it “good.” I find it hard to justify entertainment for entertainment’s sake, when it comes to film. Several years ago, I had the same passion for movies & the art of directing as I do now for music & the art of producing. This was probably 10th or 11th grade. To build a successful career as a film auteur seemed so enticing to me…while I was proficient in my vocabulary and writing ability, there were visions in my head that simply could not be expressed with words. To tell a story through the very moving images imprinted within my mind…that was art, to me.
“I am going to
to see my own
name on a
screen, five feet
long and luminous
as the radioman says
it is 5 am
and the sun has charred
the other side of
the world and come
back to us”
This song will take you for a ride. I was hypnotized the first time I ever heard it. It had since become my go-to jukebox song when I would frequent my favorite college bar to play pool and drink Tom Collins’ with my billiards partner…a memory that, despite being well and away from that time, I will always look back on fondly. Those were the good times, when we just shot pool, sipped drinks, and let the music wash over us. No regrets.
With time, I did however begin to realize how lofty this ambition was. I remember reading a film history book of great stature and depth, where I learned a little nugget of truth in what determination means in that industry: the director who shot the critically acclaimed feature “Dances With Wolves” spent SEVENTEEN YEARS getting rejected at various points in the process before his masterpiece finally saw release. That caught my attention, and suddenly film school didn’t seem as enticing.
I doubted whether my passion & visions were strong enough to carry me through to relative success. After all, pretty much every other 16-year-old who dreams of “making movies” has the same thoughts and ideas, and only those with inordinate, often inherent talent (and connections, as I’ve learned about the world) will make enough to live on it. So the uniquely projected visions of the filmmaker are the everyman’s…what?
Escape. Intentionally or no, consciously or no, the whole process of consumption involved with proactively going to view a film yields a sense of escapism. There are very few other times in life when you are freely able (and encouraged, texters) to sit and do nothing but let the senses take in the sights and sounds directly in front of you, being projected at you, with zero accountability for them or how they affect/are perceived by those around you. That is freedom, and the freedom to immerse yourself in total escape.
Escape from what? That answer will vary greatly from person to person. Whether escaping into the complicated nuances of a detailed plot or escaping from everything outside the theater with an Adam Sandler assault on your frontal lobe, the point remains: when we choose to fully immerse ourselves in the act of watching a movie, we are removed from at least some other small part of life. I don’t think this practice is inherently “good” or “bad,” I think that’s simply a reality of engaging in it.
We need this. We need to escape from time to time, if only for two hours in a dimly lit cavern with a lap full of sodium. The obvious parallel I’m going to draw here is…that drugs and alcohol act to provide the same ends. Nobody shoots an armful of heroin because life is just so damn good. As I see it, most humans are absolutely terrified of simple, stark reality. Or they are disgusted by it, by the primal discourse that will unavoidably always run through the veins of society.
Once, when I was in maybe 11th grade, my high school art teacher motioned to me in the hallway. As I removed my earbuds and paused whatever live jamband set I was lost in, he said to me, “Thomas, you’ve always got those things in your ears. You’re gonna miss out on the whole world around you!” I didn’t really have a response for him. The bell rang, and in that moment I realized…I wanted to avoid the world around me. It wasn’t purely about my love for music. It was also because I deeply loathed my high school experience, and wanted to remove myself from it as often as possible, in whatever ways possible. It was just easier that way.
And so the same goes for addiction and abuse. It’s just easier. It’s not that smoking pot makes you lazy and useless…it’s that it makes you realize how frivolous and full of manic, worried stress almost everything in life is. But, again, as with almost everything in life…taking the shortcut rarely yields the fullest potential. Diving into the escape only works for so long, before you’re in too deep and find that you’ve lost all touch with reality. It is not sustainable.
What, then, is sustainable? There has to be a balance. Even with chemicals, stimulants, drugs – it is near-impossible to lead a life completely devoid of any and all substances. Think about how commonly our culture consumes coffee, cigarettes, tea, protein shakes, energy supplements, antidepressants, A.D.D. medication…the list goes on. Granted none of these compounds are responsible for tragically destroying human lives in the same way alcohol is, but we are still all getting altered. Technically, one could argue that we’re never in a true state of “sobriety” – even much of the food we eat today contains trace elements (if not wholly synthetic produce itself) of chemicals that linger in the bloodstream.
So I will continue on my path to accepting life on life’s terms, and work on a stable balance between the hardships and the distractions from them. No more running. Face Everything And Recover. And on that note, I am seven months sober as of today. Happy 4th. #MURRICA
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