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.

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