Garden State

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Have you ever had that moment where a movie, or book, or any other piece of entertainment which you once hated has become the epitome of your life? Well for me, that piece of entertainment is Zach Braff’s opus Garden state.

Many moons ago, many of my peers in high school were enamored by this movie. Here comes this quirky, comedy-drama about the state we live in, and everyone was on board. Who wouldn’t be, after all the soundtrack was subversive, and great, and how often is there a movie about New freakin’ Jersey? Being the person I was back then, I had deemed the movie as  a piece of shit.

Fast forward about ten years, and I can’t help but relate to the opening dream sequence. All of New Jersey’s unique quirks, and aesthetics are completely present in the film. (Adults being completely unable to afford housing. Check.) And now, in a strange way, it’s become an entirely relatable experience. These kinds of creations usually make me think the most.

Garden State reminds me of The Catcher In The Rye. Both stories follow characters who are having mental breakdowns. What’s interesting about Catcher In The Rye though, is that if someone relates to Holden, they’re probably in need of a therapist. Unfortunately, what’s even more intriguing is that plenty of people feel that Holden is  being whiney, which is a great representation of how most people respond to someone going through a mental breakdown.

With Garden State, the problem is similar, yet the reactions are completely different. Zach Braff’s character, Andrew, is completely misdiagnosed, and thusly overmedicated. Instead of having a mental breakdown, he’s having an odd mental awakening. However, this isn’t any different than a mental breakdown, because his whole life dissolves anyway, and he is stuck being unable to react.  Both creations have identical conflicts,  except they go in reverse. Interesting ways to look at a mental collapse, no?

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A Return To Form

It’s been a while. After taking oneself away from the surrounding world, jumping back in can seem a little daunting. To me, this is great analogy for social media. It’s a torrent of opinions, and memes, and generally a whole slew of topics, and  strange entities. Once, all of those pieces were the objects that created “Nerd Culture” and now all of those parts have just become everyday culture.

As someone who grew up on forums, and around the internet in the old days, it’s such a strange site to see. Everyone, so it seems, is linking memes, going on news aggregates disguised as forums, and ranting about something on Facebook. Sometimes I’m not sure if what’s going on is how people actually feel, or if everything is clever manipulation of emotions in that particular moment. For example, a politician will say something wild to which everyone will react immediately.

Whereas many years ago, something crazy would happen, and you had time to process your feelings, or more importantly, your judgement couldn’t be so quickly documented. Even 9/11 was something that no student in school could fathom. Then on that day we all came home from school and watched it happen on television. One of the defining moments of a generation of people, and no one believe it happened until they saw it on television. At that time, the reactions were all over the place, and people were understandably upset. However, people also were slow to react.

Was the world better off before information went into hyper-speed, and moved from one part of the world to another in mere seconds? Can anyone honestly say whether it was? I don’t know, but often being present is less fun than not. With so many stories, and opinions, and reactions around, maybe ignorance truly is bliss.

 

Relationships And Stuff

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Western society teaches those who grow up in it, that love is about finding “The One” or however you would like to phrase it. This mentality does exist in many other societies, but it is a strong reoccurring theme in western culture. Everything from books, to movies, to music is full of examples of this kind of love. Our notion of “The One”, is very romantic, and surprisingly practical. At some point, it becomes difficult to manage so many relationships, romantic or otherwise.

Not that finding true love isn’t difficult, but it feels to me much more dependent on the person who is looking. Some people are ready for it, others are not. If there is any takeaway from life in your 20’s that should be it. It’s cliche, but to love someone else, one must love themselves first.

With employment, and many other of our obligations, this is not always the easiest thing to do. Especially if you are in a field where everyone is secretly sleeping with one another. That kind of environment is not always so conducive to having a great relationship.

All of that aside, what is also important is knowing what you want. In my observation, and in large part due to society, many women in their twenties struggle with knowing. Not that men don’t either, it’s just my observation that more women have a hard time discerning what they want. Many people knowing what they want, and many not knowing at all what they want, always seems like a recipe for disaster. If only the vetting process didn’t leave us so prone to disappointment.

Gifted

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Talent is a word with a weird connotation. Often people define that word, in speech, as a natural entity. One is born with talent, and gains a skill. This thought is a common perception.

Malcolm Gladwell, though he certainly didn’t invent it, popularized the 10,000 hour rule. In his book Outliers,  he argued that natural talent is a myth. He also argued that IQ bears no weight in gaining skills, or societal status. Both of these ideas are opposed to conventional wisdom.

Some of his ideas, ironically, are debunked by his own examples. The Beatles being the main example, and debunkers. (Success took much less than 10,000 hours of them being a band. None of them had even practiced music for 10,000 hours by this time either.) Whatever you believe of Gladwell’s arguments, his book brought up great ideas to ponder on. Is there a such thing as natural talent. Is time all we need?

In my career flux, these are the fun topics to think about. If nature built us to have certain skills, then why do we struggle to get there? Why aren’t we sorted like pieces of mail, and thus freed of our supposed struggle to find that natural ability? Surely our methods leave many without discovering their “inherent” abilities before they die.

No, natural talent isn’t a part of my beliefs. But sometimes it’s just uncanny how talented some people become in shorts amount of time. Do those people just have high self-esteem, and believe in themselves? Do those people practice four hours on end? Who knows.

Outliers is a pretty sensational book, and an enjoyable read. One thing Malcolm Gladwell is right about, which I and many of my friends are finding out, is that opportunity is important. Bill Gates, The Beatles, and many others found, and gained the opportunities to learn in a way that few people in their time were able to emulate.

Recently, one of my friends expressed dismay at this notion because it begets something few people seem to like: nepotism. Famous people breed and create famous sons and daughters, and this goes on forever. Some might think nepotism is unfair, and many hate being labeled as a nepotist. Either way, is there really a better opportunity to take advantage of than one you were born into? Plus, it’s not as if people choose to be born.

Maybe everything just comes down to opportunity first, then talent second. Perhaps it’s the talent that creates the opportunity. Whichever way it goes, being gifted doesn’t seem to play a role in anything. The struggling light always manages to escape the dark room after all.

The Hunt For Meaning

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Based on every trip to a bookstore, and based on how popular spirituality is, it seems that many of us in the United Stated hunt for meaning. Growing up here, the endeavor to find meaning seems like a necessary rite of passage. Realistically, this is why numerous cults recruit their members at college campuses. So many young people are searching for something to believe, that college is perfectly fertile ground.

Relax, this isn’t about cults or anything. It’s more about our strange obesession with finding meaning. One has to wonder whether this exists as strongly elsewhere, as it does here in the United States, but it seems to me that it does. Every culture has a few prominent religions. In the United States however, there are mass quantities of  spirituality books, religious texts, and religions. Some people, it seems to me, are addicted to the hunt for meaning.

Maybe it’s a bit of irony as this blog can come across as a spiritual blog, but at some point the hunt for meaning has to stop, right? How can you try every belief that is out there and not stop eventually? Even if you couldn’t find one particular belief system, wouldn’t it be more productive at some point to create a collage? A bit of Buddhism, a touch of Christianity, maybe some Hindu.

Part of the problem with spirituality, is that it’s  often used to mask a hole in a person’s life. Maybe an ex-lover that you can’t quite get over. Maybe a career path that didn’t quite pan out. Who knows.

This isn’t to say that everyone should blindly pick a system and stick to it. Giving thought to one’s own beliefs are important. Just try not to end in a weird loop where you are switching out spiritualities like they’re worn out socks. We all have to live by some code after all. Maybe there won’t be much meaning to the code, but what’s important are the actions based off of the code.

Hope

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Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus

If you ever have the opportunity to get swept up in an ambitious undertaking, there will be many moments where all hope seems lost. Thus is the nature of doing big things. You have everything to lose when you put yourself out there, but also have twice as much to gain. Being passionate means being vulnerable. This is just the way it goes.

Some say success is a ladder. Others say it’s a long curvy road. While success is definitively subjective, it seems to me from stories, and from experience, success is more like a giant set of stairs which you can only climb with your hands. If you fall down a ladder you are fucked. And the road analogy works, except that it doesn’t portray failure correctly.

Climbing stairs with your bare hands is difficult. And when you get tired, or falter, you’ll get stuck on those stairs. In that period of being stuck, you’re left to ruminate on your next course of action. What could be the problem? Money, random bouts of self-deprecation,  a familialcrisis, procrastination?

Problems are numerous and come in many different forms. In the problematic moments, you have to dig deep and find that initial spark of hope that got you going in the first place. Fuck if that is easy to do. Fortunately, it gets easier and easier every time. Then you end up crafting a method to finding that spark. It’s a horribly wonderful thing. But it only ever comes with refusing to give up. Hope is like that secret ingredient in a dish. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to make any sense.