Sunday, May 26, 2013

Truths sometimes universally acknowledged

I am an aesthete. I am someone who loves art, film, television and music simply for their own sake.

Over the past few days, while I was powering through the terrible Political Science readings I've been assigned the past couple of weeks, I managed to finish every last page. But not without having a moment of disbelief when one author tried to explain why Hamlet is better understood on a political rather than an aesthetic level. It was an interesting argument, yet my firm response was No, just no. Let's enjoy Hamlet for how it affects our emotions, how it makes us feel, what we ascertain as the inherent meaning of the story. Not because it relates to the story of King James I.

So why did this occur to me today, when I've set down the Poli Sci and picked up a couple of movies to watch purely for entertainment purposes? Well, because the films confirmed what I will fight forever to prove: That art's true value is in how it treats us to truths that we sometimes forget.

When these truths are spoken aloud to us, they make us feel whole. Like we're being personally reached out to as we proclaim: Yeah, Definitely, Uh-huh, Me too!

Today I watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Though for years I put off seeing these films, I had a sudden desire to screen them. In doing so, I felt as if thoughts that had been meandering through my brain were being somehow removed from my soul and placed onto my screen. Here, I will share a few of those thoughts with you.

You may find them insightful in your own personal ways. These are mine.

"I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between." - Celine (Before Sunrise)

Before I began questioning religion, I had a few long conversations with my father about why he didn't believe in God. He told me about what he perceived as a deity. It wasn't a Christian Lord or a Jewish G-d. It was the love between people. That's exactly how he expressed it to me. The feeling of compassion and love that exists between humans.

At the time that didn't quite resonate, but over the years I've understood more and more what it is that my dad was saying. If there is a God anywhere in this universe, it would have to undoubtedly exist in all that is good. A God would help us toward goodness, and the truest and most honest is goodness is that which we share between our neighbors, friends and family. I don't know what I believe in, and I feel as though my dad's perception of religion has become perhaps even more jaded than mine, but I do know that if there is a God, it would make sense that said deity exists among us in the love we share with others.

"You know what the worst thing about somebody breaking up with you? It's when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with and you realize that is how little they're thinking of you. You know, you'd like to think you're both in all this pain, but they're just like, 'Hey, I'm glad you're gone.'" - Jesse (Before Sunrise)

This is something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. How is it that once rejected, it is so easy to be forgotten, even when you feel that you were in love with someone?

After having my heart torn out a few months ago, I recently decided to step away from romance for a while. It wasn't so much by choice as by trial and error (I made a few mistakes along the way). By trying to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, I felt even worse. But the root of the problem was that I felt this nagging need to move on and forget the past to, in effect, mirror how he had done those things.

But looking elsewhere doesn't replace the fact that when you are broken up with you are the victim. You are the one who is no longer loved. It comes down to dealing with that fact and becoming happy with yourself, alone or otherwise. I don't need another boy to replace a previous boy, I just need me.

"People have these romantic projections they put on everything. That's not based on any kind of reality." - Jesse (Before Sunrise)

Picking up from the same issue, I feel that part of the reason I let myself fall so victim to the sting of rejection is that in the period following a break-up, I tend to be incredibly nonsensical in my understanding of the ruined relationship. I don't see the faults, I don't think of the ex-boyfriend in a bad light. I just wallow and consider all the lost opportunities.

In a way, the troubled experience becomes a romantic situation in itself. It's like I'm Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, and the destruction of a potential love story becomes a fantastical story of a lost soulmate. Oh, the possibilities. Oh, what could have been. When really, the best way to look at life is, Oh, what's next?

"Memories are wonderful things, if you don't have to deal with the past." - Celine (Before Sunset)

How wonderful would it be to remember people or events without being weighed down by the troubles associated with those things? I feel as though I can only come to a solid explanation of this through an anecdote.

I have so much trouble watching home movies. It's not because they're poorly edited or they're of sad or depressing things. It's because seeing my mom on the other side of them, beautiful and joyous and alive, is like being punched in the stomach. It's a reminder that even though the memories that are depicted in the home movies are wonderful and sweet and fun and reminiscent, they are also burdened by the fact that they deal in the past. They are not the present. They remind us of what was and is no longer. So even though I'm a nostalgic sort of person, I'm also hesitant to dig into my past because the hardest thing is thinking in terms of what you've lost. And that's what the past is. What's gone.

"When you talked earlier about after a few years how a couple would begin to hate each other by anticipating their reactions or getting tired of their mannerisms--I think it would be the opposite for me. I think I can really fall in love when I know everything about someone. The way he's going to part his hair, which shirt he's going to wear that day, knowing the exact story he'd tell in a given situation. I'm sure that's when I'll know I'm really in love." - Celine (Before Sunrise)

To end on a slightly lighter note, I truly value this quote from Before Sunrise, which serves as a testament to one of the many merits of love that I have and will always believe in.

There's this, in my opinion, mistaken belief that all love and passion grows stale. That eventually you grow tired of the one you're with and start searching for greener pastures. The grass is always greener on the other side, and all that.

But I have this feeling that when I truly find love - a fine, stout, healthy love (as Jane Austen described it in Pride & Prejudice) - it will be the little things that make the feeling last. After being with someone for a long time, getting to know them and to appreciate them equally for their wonderful qualities and for their faults, I will have truly found love. And if it is a reciprocated feeling, then that will be true love.

I hate to keep going back to Sonnet 116, but as Shakespeare said - "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

So, we come full circle to Shakespeare once again. Not to return to the understanding of Hamlet based on historical/political events, but an interpretation of art based on what is internal and personal.

For movies that are almost entirely consumed by dialogue, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset have some of the most profound and unpretentious moments I've ever seen in any work of art. They were films that made me think, but not because they were trying so hard to do so, but because they depicted a gritty reality of love, loss and loneliness. And that's what art is supposed to do, I think. It doesn't have to make you aware of its presence in a historical context, though if it does that's fine. Its actual purpose, however, is to draw you in and to make you feel.

As an aesthete, I feel a lot. If you take away my art, you take away my ability to let those feelings free. Instead, come with me and enjoy the luxuries of universal truths that will make you feel for yourself.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Your baby I'll be

They say that time heals all wounds. That in a matter of days, weeks or months, the trials of the past will wither away until they no longer taunt us, no longer make us reminisce sadly. Instead, we can focus on the good, the positive going forward and the happy memories.

It's been five years since my mother passed away and for the most part, time has healed my wound.

I still think about her every day. In so many ways, she still affects my decisions. Where others might say "What would Jesus do?" I ask myself what my mom would do, or what she'd want me to do. It doesn't always steer me away from making idiotic choices, but it certainly makes me consider how I act with a wisdom that I, unfortunately, will never be able to access again now that she's gone.

Still, I think there's something about being my mother's daughter that is intricately woven into the fabric of my being. If you were to take it out, then I'd cease to be me. Because in our short-lived time together (which will soon be vastly less than the full number of years I'll live on past her existence), she gave me so many standards to live by, so much knowledge of the world, so many things to go on and cherish, to pass on to others.

Last Mother's Day (in 2012), I wrote a list of all the things I learned from my mother. From treasuring the little things in life to living for the present, she gave me certain standards to live by so that I would grow up to become a well-adjusted teenager and (now) an adult.

To think that she never really got to see me live my full teenaged years, to watch me go to college or see me turn 20, is a crazy thought. Yet, throughout the entire experience of my life, I felt she's been there. A spirit, hovering over me, looking out for my every step and occasionally letting me mess up so I can learn a lesson or two.

But even though she's still in my heart every day of my life, the loss of someone so important is impossible to completely relieve yourself of. And this is where the "time heals all wounds" quote falters.

A few years ago, I was visiting my grandparents in Florida when they found a bunch of old video tapes that my dad had sent over with images of me as a toddler running around like a crazy person. We proceeded to watch the family movies and reminisce about good times.

Then we came upon a clip of my infancy. My mom didn't show up on camera, yet we could hear her voice speaking from behind it. And I started to sob. This was a few years after her passing, when the sting was no longer as fresh. However, in that instant, it all came back to me.

Because the feeling of losing someone is two-fold, really. And this is why it's impossible to completely heal the wound of loss.

The first thing that you lose is, of course, the person herself. You no longer have the opportunity to see that person, to interact with them, to have them love you back the way you love them. Figuratively, yes. But not in reality. There's no way to call up the deceased and create new experiences with them.

Losing those aspects is terrible, haunting, even destructive at times. But eventually we all grow. We find other people to distract us, to spend our time with, to speak our minds with, to exchange affectionate words with. It doesn't quite fill the void, but it softens the blow.

The second part, however, is what continues to bother me to this day. The fact is, I will never get to have a future with my mother. And worse than the loss of what's past (what was and now isn't), is what could have been.

Sometimes I picture her visiting me at college or coming to my graduation. I imagine her meeting my boyfriends or giving me advice on subjects we never got to talk about because by the time I lost her I was still very young and immature. I imagine getting to repair the damage I inflicted on our relationship, taking back those years when I neglected her and didn't treat her the way a daughter ought to treat a mother.

But the thing that doesn't heal is that nagging feeling that those dreams, those ideals, cannot and will not come true.

It kills me. And it's a wound that I haven't yet found a fix for.

On a day like today, I try my best to focus on the good times. To remember all that my mom gave to me. To forgive myself for my mistakes and to enjoy the fact that I got to know her as well as I did in as little time as I had to do so. By the time I was 11, I knew most of her back story. I'd talked to her about a lot of pressing subjects. I understood her morals, her hopes, her aspirations, her dreams for herself and for me. And that well of information has never run dry, never felt deplete. I am always remembering the wisdom she gave me at such a young age.

Then of course, I remember that as much as I did learn about her, there are infinitesimal amounts of information that I didn't get to find out. And those lost conversations, trapped in the netherworld of space and time, are what gnaw at my soul.

That being said, today is not a day for personal wallowing. It is a celebration. And though I've been feeling lonely in my losses, I am glad. I am glad that I had my mother. I am glad that she taught me well. I am glad that she gave me opportunities. I am glad that she was mine.

Because one thing that will never change, will never go away, is that we belong to each other in life and in death.

When I was young my mom used to read me the story I'll Love You Forever, I'll Like You For Always. It's a heart-wrenching book, the kind you don't really consider the significance of until you're much older. But today I remembered it and I am appreciative of the message it unconsciously translated to me at a young age.

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living your baby I'll be.

Thank you, Mommy. Happy Mother's Day.