Thursday, December 31, 2015

re: solution



This is the way of time:


Every year is made the same--
a pieced-together work
of given days
   and hours
      and minutes
         and seconds.


No more, no less.


Some will be good.
And some bad.


How I choose to see
is up to me.


How I choose to feel
is entirely in my heart.


What I choose to do
is all that I can do.


This is the way of my reality:





Monday, December 21, 2015

I Have a Good Feeling About This: The Essay About How It's Okay to Be a Star Wars Fan Again, And Why




I: What We Did to Pass the Time Before the Movie

We arrived at the Mall Cinemaplex, my daughters and I, three hours in advance of the 7:40 p.m. showing-time, as printed on our pre-purchased tickets.


There was a substantial line already forming outside the theater's entrance when we arrived, but it was for the 5:30 movie, it turns out. We were quite early; it was 4:30 in the afternoon, and we were in a mall, and we were hungry (or at least we were going to be by the time our showtime rolled around), and there were ample restaurants in the Food Court to choose from while we waited.


So...


Panera Bread, it was, we decided--our usual choice when in the mall.


No one was particularly hungry among the three of us at that time of day, but we forced a light meal down anyway--partly for whatever nourishment it could provide, I suppose, but also, admittedly, to simply pass the time.


We were in a mall, though. Passing time wasn't going to be too difficult. As we slowly strolled along the crowded walkways, with glittering storefronts flanking us and canned Christmas muzak piped in overhead--drowned amidst the noise of a Friday afternoon throng of teenagers noisily wandering parentless (faces framed in the dull glow from their cellphones) and shoppers milling amongst each other, one week before Christmas, to the day--my daughters and I chatted casually (or what passes for "casual chatter" these days, between a Dad and his two daughters--now young teens, 16 and 13), and we people-watched, and we darted into one store and then the next, pretending to look around for things we thought we might need, until we assumed we had spent enough time passing the time. And so we slowly made our way back toward the movie theater.


It was now 5:30 p.m. And as we walked up to the theater's entrance, another line was just beginning to form. As it turns out, this was the line we wanted--this line was ours, for the 7:40 p.m. showing of the new Star Wars movie--Episode VII: The Force Awakens--on the film's opening night.


We jumped at the chance, not to mention our good fortune, and established our place in line--maybe 15-20 people ahead of us already (not bad at all!) And we began the wait.

II: Interregnum and Backstory (Part I)

And this is the part of the essay that many will probably either want to skim, or scan, or skip altogether. After all, no one really cares too much to read about someone else's lifelong passion for something as seemingly trivial and insignificant as a series of films--a series of films with a markedly questionable and unequal stature, to be sure, as time has moved on. (But a lifelong passion, all the same.)

For those who are interested or just the slightest bit curious about my personal history and feelings with and toward the Star Wars saga, I can do you a favor and (rather than repeat myself verbatim or even half-ass paraphrase my own writing) refer you to another essay of mine, in which I talk about that in some detail.

[Aside: See the essay, "What Pete Townshend Seemed to Get Wrong About Dying and Growing Old." http://emptyshipoutward-bound.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-pete-townshend-seemed-to-get-wrong.html]

III: What It Means to Want Star Wars to Be Star Wars Again

We ended up, my daughters and I, snagging some choice seats (the oversized, rocking, reclining kind--they certainly don't make "going to the movies" the way they used to). We grabbed a prime spot--halfway up and in the middle--and sat down to await the previews, followed by our feature. The theater was quickly filling up. Given the size of the line that had formed behind us during the hour-and-a-half we had spent holding our place toward the queue's front, it was obvious there wouldn't be an empty seat in the house.

Which is no surprise when talking about a franchise like Star Wars. It's rather used to breaking records, after all--going all the way back to the first film's initial release so long ago in the feathered-hair and bell-bottomed days of 1977.


There was a feeling running through the movie theater before the show began--an energy, a communal sense of good nature and good will, a wishful, expectant hope (not unlike the feeling, so common this time of year, of a young child approaching the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, to see what gifts Santa Claus has brought.) Everyone was smiling--adults with their young children, adults with their grown children, teens with friends, teens and young adults on dates, young adults with their elderly parents, everyone with buckets of popcorn, and with oversized cups of soda (does anyone need that much sugar, and caramel syrup, and carbonation in one sitting?), and with stretched-thin old Star Wars T-shirts--threadbare and showing some wear but oddly retro and "in" these days--as well as new T-shirts, freshly minted, emblazoned with the familiar Star Wars logo, followed by the added improvisation, "My Childhood Awakens."


Everyone was in this together, in other words. We were all fans--old and new--and we were here, on opening night, to try to recapture a bit of the original magic, a bit of our past, perhaps, and a bit of our youth.

It wasn't as if we were making this up, though. It wasn't as if we were blindly going into this without some forethought and without some strategic "worse-case-scenario" playing in our collective minds. We knew the odds. We knew the prequel trilogy, after all. We knew Jar-Jar Binks. And Hayden Christensen. (And his immortal line, "I don't like sand.") And we were all too familiar with compelling dialogue of trade disputes, and of senate gamesmanship, and of the Force's "chosen one." And we had all learned of midi-chlorians (whatever the fuck those were). And we had sat through the insipid vapidity of Jake Lloyd (who at least had the unintended good fortune of making Mark Hamill's performance in the original film stand out, in hindsight, like Shakespeare-in-the-Park.) And we had all endured sad Natalie Portman, sleepwalking through her role in what appeared to be a drug-induced stupor, remembering the not-so-distant days back then of Leon: The Professional, and believing, in the pit of her stomach, that she was inch-by-inch, line-by-line, scene-by-scene, episode-by-episode incrementally committing career suicide...

Yes, we were all fairly aware of the odds, entering the theater this night. But we were also aware of some substantial differences this time around:
  1. Three years previously, in 2012, George Lucas sold his rights/ownership of the Star Wars franchise entirely--including any future projects and/or productions--to the Disney Corporation. (A Faustian bargain, to be sure, as was assumed by a legion of old, faithful fans--the franchise was finished, we feared, swallowed by the evil Empire itself, and the future lie only in the past.)
  2. With George Lucas now out of the picture (and conveniently out of the way), almost immediately--and with absolutely zero sense of ironic coincidence--Disney announced plans to resurrect the somnambulant film series, under the guidance of hot, young director J.J. Abrams, as well as the famed and beloved screenwriter of the series' Episodes V and VI, Lawerence Kasdan.
  3. Rumors, and innuendo, and online theories in fan-chats across the world all worked together to feed the fire of excitement and anticipation. Months before the new film was to be in the theaters, teaser-trailers were cobbled together with available footage--edited with the artistic precision of mini-masterpieces--and released online to an explosion of enthusiasm. And within mere seconds of the trailers' release, the internet was owned by Star Wars. And talk began among fans, both of the serious kind and of the fairer-weather kind, of something good brewing. Serious talk, for the first time in a long time, that this time, finally, maybe, a new Star Wars film was going to be done right. And there was the sense, at long last, that Star Wars was back again--the way it used to be.
And as it turns out, thankfully, we were right. ("We" being the collective "we," here. The royal "we," encompassing all the loyal fans everywhere, I suppose. But more particularly that night "we" meaning myself, and my daughters, and my fellow moviegoers in theater #13 for the 7:40 p.m. showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.)


We were right to feel a sense of excitement that night--opening night. A sense of urgency. And a sense of hope. We were right to feel that a proverbial corner had perhaps been turned in the official canon of the Star Wars mythos.


This was going to be good, we had a sense going in. And that sense--that feeling--was communal and palpable. You could feel it in the air. We wanted to enjoy this new film. We wanted it to be as good as we had heard leaked rumors proclaiming it to be. We wanted this new film to make up for lost time, in a way, and to make up for whatever missteps may have occurred throughout the years in the series' oddly misshapen history.


We wanted the new movie to be Star Wars again.


And as soon as the previews were over, and the screen went dark, and the words appeared on the screen: "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." followed by the iconic gold logo, STAR WARS, set to the crashing chords of John Williams' legendary opening fanfare, and the crawling prologue--traditionally wordy, and overwrought, and lovely--receding slowly into a star-filled void, to disappear amidst the unfolding action in space, the sold-out movie theater (#13 at the Mall Cinemaplex) erupted in honest and heartfelt applause and cheers.


It was really pretty cool.

IV: Almost Like Church, Really


And so what happened by the end of it all? Well, roughly two-and-a-half hours later, as the film's last dramatic scene faded to black and the credits began to roll, there was more applause, followed by an almost inexplicable and reverential feeling of calm, and peace, and happiness.


Now, I'm not trying to sound too "We Are the World," here, or draw some sort of unlikely comparison to a Woodstock vibe, or anything like that.


[Aside: But when I stop to think of it, maybe the comparison to the proverbial "Woodstock vibe" isn't really all that far off the mark.]


No, what I'm getting at more than anything, I think, is that as the long-awaited film drew to its close, there was practically a sigh of relief in the theater. There was a feeling of satisfaction bordering on elation that the film turned out as good as it did, and while half of the room's viewers immediately got up to leave and to beat the crushing flow of everyone exiting at once, the other half of the room didn't move but instead remained in their seats (their comfortable seats that reclined and rocked back and forth) and did one of four things (or any combination thereof):
  1. Got on their cellphones to text and/or call someone, anyone, with their immediate knee-jerk review of the film.
  2. Turned and visited with friends and loved ones seated next to them, sharing reactions and responses to the film.
  3. Turned and visited with complete strangers seated next to them or a seat over or in the  next row behind or in front, sharing reactions and responses to the film.
  4. Sat in silence, listening to the well-known strains of John Williams' classic score, watching as the end credits scrolled by, letting it all sink in, meditatively, and finding a way, somehow, to be at one with the moment.
Those who remained behind--roughly half of the viewing audience that night--didn't need to explain why they stayed where they were. It was clear to everyone.


No one wanted to leave. No one wanted the moment to end. No one wanted the experience--the experience of their first viewing of the new Star Wars movie on opening night--to draw to a close. To do so would mean getting up from their comfortable seat, and checking their coats and pockets for all essentials--to make sure such things as wallets, and purses, and cellphones hadn't slipped out and fallen down between the theater's seating. And to do so would mean walking out of the dim lighting of the theater's auditorium and into, again, the garish neon/fluorescent glow of the cinemaplex's lobby, and further out into the mall's crowded walkways and bustling Food Court, and re-entering the world of Christmas, and of shopping, and of credit cards, and of bills, and of work, and of upcoming travel plans, and of who gets the children first for Christmas--Mom or Dad--and of exactly how many Christmases the kids are going to get this year, and of wondering if this is to be the year, by the way, that the kids stop believing in such a thing as Santa Claus altogether, no more tumbling out of bed early on a cold Christmas morning, rubbing sleep from their soft, tender eyes, and shuffling softly to the tree, to see what gifts lie below.


The magic.


Leaving the theater meant leaving the ethereal world of a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, and reemerging, once more, into the all-too-solid world of the here and now.


The real world.


And so we stayed behind, those of us who did. I hung back and visited with my daughters about the movie--fielding questions from them, trying my best to provide some sort of answers, asking them what their impressions were, laughing together, smiling together, loving the moment.


And the thing is, it wasn't just us doing that. It was everyone around us. Countless conversations. Countless smiles. Countless memories in the making. Countless people doing their best to battle loneliness, and emptiness, and sadness, and to find some sort of solace and communion--even if it was only for two-and-a-half hours at a movie, surrounded in the intimacy of a darkened room filled with strangers and loved ones sharing the same experience together.


There was a sense of reverence about the whole evening, as it played out. And when it was all over, the girls and I collected our things, and it was almost like bidding "goodbye" to close friends as we made our way down the row of seats, and down the stairs, and down the aisle, and out of the theater, and back outside, and away from the warmth of recycled air, and into the cold of a December night--our breath in front of us in three little clouds--and the quickened walk to my car, cold from 6 hours of resting in the parking lot.


"That was almost like church, really, wasn't it," I said to my daughters, sitting in the cold car, waiting for the engine's parts to get used to one another again, and for the heater inside the cabin to begin to realize its sole purpose. I had sort of half-laughed when I said it--and I recognized that I had said it not as a question but more as a statement of fact. The half of me that wasn't laughing when I said it, though, probably meant it even more than I was aware at the time.


My daughters only nodded, cold and shuddering, wanting it to be warmer faster, and said, "Yeah," in unison.

V: Interregnum and Backstory (Part II)


I am admittedly a bit of a hypocrite. I might as well come clean on that right now. I have been spending a lot of time and space extolling the virtues of the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, filling in all the details (and more) of my perceptions and my experience attending the opening-night showing of Episode VII: The Force Awakens with my two teenage daughters, all the while mocking in a semi-disparaging tone the most recent films up to this time (written and directed by none other than Lucas himself) of the Star Wars universe--a series of films that have been and will be referred to from here on out as either: The Prequel Trilogy; Episodes I-III; or just simply "the prequels," otherwise known to the world as The Phantom Menace (1999), The Attack of the Clones (2002), and The Revenge of the Sith (2005).


Now, I remember going to the opening of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, just like all the rest of the old, traditional fans who had likewise grown up with the original trilogy back in the late-'70s and the early-'80s.


I remember, back in 1999, the palpable thrill in the air months before the release of Episode I. Granted, this was in the days just on the cusp of the internet exploding into our social and cultural consciousness, but for those of us old enough to remember a world without such contrivances as computers and the internet, it will come as no surprise to know that the word was still out on this new Star Wars movie--the first (at that time) in 16 years, since 1983's Return of the Jedi had brought to a close the first set of films, referred to from here on out as either: The Original Trilogy; Episodes IV-VI; or just simply "the classics," otherwise known to the world as A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and, again, Return of the Jedi (1983).


This was all a long time ago, of course. And for those of us who were diehard fans from the beginning--those of us "in the know," so to speak--there had always been cryptic talk from George Lucas of his somehow telling a three-generational tale of a classic fall/redemption, broken into nine separate film-chapters. Pretty daunting stuff, really, and more than just a little ballsy of him. Of course, as time went on, his enthusiasm would wane for his original epic blueprint.


First was the issue of technology. While it is true Lucas (and his special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic) created what wasn't there in the 1970s to fill a much-needed void and to tell his early space opera in the best way possible, in the wake of the classic trilogy being told, his energy as a storyteller was spent, and the existing film technology did not make it possible for Lucas, yet, to pursue the other episodes of his grand story, and to put his vision on the large screen.


The second factor, of course, was his wanting, at that time, to pursue other interests, primarily in the role of film-producer. So, at the close of his classic trilogy, Lucas decided to take a much-needed break from the Star Wars universe, and he chose to explore other interests for a while--primarily the Indiana Jones trilogy (1981-1989) with his friend, Steven Spielberg, and other such lucrative works of art, like 1986's grand day out, Howard the Duck.


Inevitably, however, time would move on, and film technology--along the lines of digital graphics and the use of digital film--would eventually catch up with Lucas' imagination. And in turn his creative spirit would kick-start again, and the desire to re-enter the world he had already created and made legend would ignite, once more, his original vision. And so began talk of another set of films, this time (as he had supposedly always planned) to tell the story of the "before times"--the tragic story of Annakin Skywalker, who would grow up from a boy to a man, and who, in time, would evolve into the fearsome, mythic figure of Darth Vader.


And thus the prequels were born. And, as I said earlier, though it was 1999, and though the world was a more innocent world that had not yet heard of something called "social media," or YouTube, or MySpace, or Facebook,  or Twitter, talk was still circulating like mad of Lucas' return to his saga, and the excitement was pitched higher (perhaps in some ways, and in other ways not) than it is today.


And I was there in 1999, just like everyone else, caught up in the frenzy and the fun of Star Wars-mania once again. It was like the summer of 1977, in several ways. Except instead of being a 10 year-old boy (like I was when the original film was released), I was now a young man, a married man in those days--nearing 3 years married at that time, in the summer of '99 when The Phantom Menace was released. My wife and I didn't have children yet. And I was doing some teaching still. And I was 32 years-old--a young man, a young husband, not yet a father, my life so much before me, reliving the joy of my youth with talk of other Star Wars films being resurrected.


It was a fun time in my life, I remember. And words cannot adequately express how excited I was--how excited the world was--to revisit an old story in a whole new form.

VI: Where Exactly Are We, And How Exactly Did We Get Here?

If you're paying attention at all at this point, you've got to be saying to yourself something along the lines of: "How disingenuous of you, to make fun of the prequels after-the-fact, when truth be told you were thrilled beyond measure at the time of their release, much like the enthusiasm you spent the first half of this whole fucking essay describing, when you detailed your memories of opening night for the new Episode VII. What an arrogant, petulant, short-memoried, bandwagoning piece-of-shit you are."

[Aside: And that would be very insightful of you. Though...am I really petulant, do you think?]


Granted, it is disingenuous of me now, in 2015--another 16 years since the reappearance of the Star Wars films with Episode I: The Phantom Menace--to so crassly and coldly today turn my back on those three films (a series of movies which I, and countless other old-school fans, eagerly embraced upon their release).

So, what's up with that? What happened during those 16 years between Episode I and this day? What went wrong, so to speak? Where exactly are we, and how exactly did we get here?

It's very simple, really: Time moves on. I grew older. My tastes as a cineaste have evolved over the years--grown more complicated, and more refined, perhaps, and certainly more selective. I love movies. I love the art of film. I am, at heart, a movie buff from way back. Interestingly enough--and with no surprise at all--I can point to Lucas' original set of films as an integral part of my life as a movie-enthusiast and as a student of film. The classic Star Wars trilogy was and is a seminal part of my life.

[Aside: To this day, I can still remember going to the theater as a 10 year-old boy back in May, 1977, to see the original Star Wars. It is one of those moments in my life I will never forget. It's that important to me.]

But time moves on. I am not the same person I was when I was a 10 year-old boy, standing in line in 1977 to see Star Wars, (no matter how much, in many ways, I probably wish I could be.) I am not the same person I was when I was a 32 year-old young man, standing in line in 1999 to see The Phantom Menace, (no matter how much, in many ways, I probably wish I could be.)

I have changed. My life has gone in directions I could never have predicted--as everyone's does, I know. And, like everyone, over time my tastes have changed. Some things from my youth I still cherish and hold close to me. Some things I still love, and always will. And some things I do not.


I (and other lifelong Star Wars fans like me) loved The Phantom Menace when it first made its appearance on the big screen 16 years ago. We loved it because of our memories of loving the original trilogy. We loved the new movie back then because the three previous Star Wars movies--the classic trilogy--had moved us so much, and shaped us, and lifted us from our lives when we were lonely 10 year-old boys.


Star Wars fans loved The Phantom Menace because we felt, more than anything, that we had to. It was canon now, after all. This was official stuff. And though, as the films progressed and we perhaps noticed (deep inside) the stiffness and the clunkiness and the pains produced by the incomprehensible plot twists and inane characters, at times, we refused to give full voice to our frustration and unease. We said things, instead, like: "Well, this is a different sort of story that Lucas is trying to tell this time around. This one is more serious, more tragic, and so therefore more formal in its telling."


And we were okay with that. And we believed that.

[Aside: And in fact, to this day, I can still see making that argument. It makes sense in many ways. The prequels are, in fact, telling a much more serious story than the original trilogy told. The prequels are a tragedy. They are the dark and gloomy story of the fall, while the classic trilogy tells the more uplifting story of redemption. In that way, then, a very honest analogy can be made to Lucas' prequels as serving the role of the Old Testament in the Judao-Christian faith (at least of the first two books--Genesis and Exodus). The story told in the Star Wars prequels is a classic story of high-mindedness, with an overly serious-tone, and an almost didactic, "preachy" sort of style--it details, after all, the tragedy of a man, and a republic, and a galaxy all falling under the sway of evil. Just in summarizing it in that way, it certainly doesn't sound like a very "fun" story to tell, albeit a necessary and essential story to tell. But the classic trilogy, on the other hand, could almost be said to serve the role of the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament, detailing the life and teachings of Christ)--again, according to the Judao-Christian tradition. As such, the original films tell much more of a spirited, and fast-moving, and action-packed tale, full of recognizable characters, and light and darkness, and heroes and villains, and suffering and salvation. And all of it--ultimately, finally--with a somewhat traditional, happy ending, of sorts.]

Star Wars fans were apologists for the prequel films--for years--when the prequels were all we had to look to as the continuing arc of Lucas' epic story. We were willing to overlook their many weaknesses--weaknesses which were harder to hide and grew ever more annoyingly apparent as the years wore on.

Time has not been particularly kind to Lucas' prequels, in other words, nor to the entrusted vision of his overall story.

The films' weaknesses have made themselves outrageously obvious (to me anyway) just over the course of the past month, as I dusted them off in my DVD collection and put them in to watch--a planned Star Wars marathon, to refresh my memory and to more fully prepare for the upcoming Episode VII. In all honesty, I can't remember the last time I had felt like watching the prequels. It never occurs to me these days. The urge to do so never crosses my mind. There are so many other films on my list to watch. Movies I want to see. Things I want to learn from them. And life is short, and time is precious, and... Well, you know.

Sitting down to watch Episode I: The Phantom Menace this time, I knew going into it at least two things were going to happen:
  1. I was not going to like the character of Jar-Jar Binks. (But to be fair, I have never liked the character of Jar-Jar Binks. There may be, somewhere--and I'm practically certain there has to be--a fan club appreciating this asinine character, but I can't imagine why.)
  2. I was going to have an averse reaction--possibly bordering on an allergic reaction these days--to the "acting" of little Jake Lloyd. And, no, it's not unfair to criticize him. There have been, throughout the long history of cinema, a number of great child-actors. (Dare I bring up again, ironically, Natalie Portman in 1994's brilliant Leon: The Professional? She was a natural in it, bordering on genius, really. I rest my case.) I'm going to put this as simply as possible: Jake Lloyd fucking sucks, and he practically single-handedly (since he is, after all, carrying what could be called the "lead character") brings the film to its knees. 
But in all fairness, there are scenes and sequences in all of the prequel films that are entertaining and solid in a refreshing and naturally "good" sort of way:
  • The pod-race scene, and the climactic lightsaber duel(s) in Episode I. Fun and very well done (with some great, operatic music from Williams during the lightsaber duel--but unfortunately a case of too little and too late).
  • The scenes in Episode II set on Tatooine, detailing Annakin's return home, and his search for his mother, and his sad discovery of her having been sold into bondage to the Sand People, and  his decision--really a key moment in the entire saga, actually--to slay her captors in an act of selfish anger, and fear, and retribution. This scene stands apart for me, primarily because it is so integral in the dissolution of Annakin's strong, moral Jedi-mindedness. We're watching him lose his soul, here, which is obviously what the whole prequel trilogy is about.
  • And, really, Episode III is not terrible to me. It has more redeeming moments than the first two films. It is guilty of being clunky and mechanical and overweighted, yes. But at least it is not unbearable. And if I don't ever feel like watching the whole thing again, at least I know this much: The last act of Episode III--probably the last 30-40 minutes of film time--is really pretty strong, comparatively. The rise of the Emperor and of the Galactic Empire, in perfect synchrony with the fall of Annakin Skywalker to the Dark Side of the Force, is genuine Star Wars territory. And I like it. I find it pretty compelling, actually. The scenes of the final duel between Obi-Wan and Annakin are heartbreaking and (for the most part) pretty well done. Similarly, the film's closing scenes are impressive, but only so because it can't help but pluck the strings in our memory of the approaching Episode IV, and of the introduction of characters (though only babies) that we have been patiently waiting for all along.
Overall, I do not like the prequels now. I couldn't always say that before, but I can now. And I can say it now because they're not good movies.


[Aside: And when I say they're "not good movies," I don't mean merely that they're "not good Star Wars movies." I mean they are not good movies in the sense that they are quite simply terrible movies. Embarrassingly written. Unbearably acted. Unforgivably directed. Unendingly edited. They are bad movies. After my latest encounter with them, I can fairly say it may be my last full encounter with them. If I watch them again, it will be in segments, in parts only. They do not stand the test of time. They do not hold up. And they are almost entirely unwatchable.]


And, okay, this may make me disingenuous. It may make me hypocritical. But I don't think so. Not really. What it does make me, I feel--after a long time of living in denial--is honest.


As a Star Wars fan, I can say it now. And that's all right. (The first step, after all, of addressing any problem is first admitting there is a problem.)

VII: Home


Here's the deal: They're just movies. And yet they're not just movies.


Anyone who is a fan (and possibly even some non-fans out there who have very well-developed attributes in the area of empathy) can understand what I mean by this.


It's okay to be a fan of anything and of anyone. It's okay to love something beyond reason--like a movie, perhaps, or a piece of music, or a piece of writing, or a piece of art, or a beautiful gesture, a beautiful face, a beautiful act.


It's okay to love anything beyond reason, really. I know such a sentiment would never pass as an actual denotative definition of the word "love," but here it goes anyway: Maybe real love has nothing at all to do with reason. Maybe that's what it is at its root. Maybe that's all it is. Maybe to love something or someone requires you to set aside your head and rely on your emotions a little more than you normally would, a little more than you're normally comfortable doing, perhaps--that all-natural "gut instinct" that everyone talks about so much.


Maybe love has nothing to do with reason at all, and so loving something unreasonably is simply the natural order of things. The way it's meant to be. Perfectly inescapable and totally unavoidable.


The way you love another person. Or should. An act beyond explanation. Beyond a need for explaining.


The love of something and of someone goes so much further beyond simply keeping track of who did what, and of who said what, and of who was right, and of who was wrong. Love has a relaxed grip on memory--it doesn't forget the past, but it lets it go, and it doesn't regret or second-guess the letting go. Love allows mistakes, and it forgives, and it allows you to look beyond the mistakes of yesterday, and to enjoy the pleasures of today, and to look ahead, with eagerness, to the future.


I know... Too mystical, perhaps? Edging too close to that treacly "We Are the World" territory, that mythological "Woodstock vibe" I hinted at earlier? Am I still talking about a movie, after all?


Well...maybe.


But maybe there's something bigger than all that. I don't know. Something bigger lying behind the path my life has taken since I was a lonely 10 year-old boy watching a great movie in a darkened theater-auditorium with a roomful of strangers, all of us gathered together to share something we didn't even know how to put into words.


Maybe there's something bigger lying behind my divorce from my wife eleven years ago, my daughters only 5 and 2 years old at the time, respectively--another seminal moment in my life, to be sure, taking me down paths, again--some good, some not so good, I suppose--which I never could have foreseen as a younger man.


People I've loved. People who have loved me. Mistakes I've made. And mistakes they've made against me. Memories now, etched like a picture, burned like an image on a roll of film, played on an endless loop on a bare wall, like shadows of the truth.


My daughters, teenagers now, sitting with me in our comfortable seats in the darkened room of theater #13 at the Mall Cinemaplex, sharing a movie together, a moment together, a memory of opening night at the latest chapter in the ongoing Star Wars saga. A realization that, among other things, some things do live up to their hype. Some things are as good as you had hoped they would be. Second chances do exist. Second acts can happen (despite Fitzgerald's iconic and profound warning). Some dreams never die, and shouldn't. And forgiving, and forgetting, and moving on in the world is not only the way of sanity, it's the way of hope. And the comfortable, reassuring knowledge that when we come to a place and to a person that we recognize as an extension of ourselves, with all calmness of heart (like the by-now familiar and already-beloved line from a new film showing to millions of eager viewers, young and old) we can say, with all certainty: "We're home."


Am I still talking about a movie? Maybe.


And then again, maybe I never was.