Love and Reality

From the movie Her

From the movie Her

I recently saw the movie Her with Joquin Phoenix and it really got me thinking.  Rough cut of the movie line: it’s a love story, about a man and a Operating System (OS).  But past that simple description, it asks us to take a look at how we narrowly define love and on a deeper level, what is ‘real’.  Culture seems to have the job of creating norms and rules about things that aren’t always easily definable.  Love can be simply defined, but it also has intangible qualities that are much more difficult to quantify.  It requires us to put language to feelings.  Reality is equally as hard to nail down.

love [luhv] noun

– a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
– a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
– sexual passion or desire.
– a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
(used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, my love?

reality [ree-al-i-tee] noun

– the state or quality of being real.
– resemblance to what is real, a real thing or fact.
– real things, facts, or events taken as a whole; state of affairs: the reality of the business world; vacationing to escape reality.
Philosophy of Reality
– something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive.

These are probably good definitions, but are these definitions really the totality of these complex words?  What does love feel like?  Does love happen in reality or is it a construct of our minds?  How do you know it’s a “true love,” rather than a superficial “I’m so in love with ice cream” kind of love?  And who am I to judge if you’re not really so in love with ice cream?  In turn, what is Reality?  What does it mean that Reality exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive?  What are the nuances of a feeling real?  Is there a better way to love?  Or a worse way?  Do we attempt to make these deep philosophical ideas into black and white issues, easily defined, to fit in the boxes we like, so we can be comfortable?  While I understand that our cultural perspective does define these concepts, under what perimeters should love or reality be defined for anyone, given that few of us are from the same exact culture?

In Her, a man falls in love with a computer operating system (OS).  The OS is a learning, thinking, questioning, and growing being.  It has a great personality, but for most of us, it’s not what we think of as a “real person,” and therefore we might wonder, is he having a real relationship?  There were several places in the movie that I felt myself cringe when he talked about his girlfriend, and then explained she was an OS.  Yet the love felt real, at least to the man, and for me, the movie stretches the idea of what constitutes real love anyway?  At what point is love “real,” or valid?  Do we limit other peoples emotional lives when we foist our cultural judgements, our contextual thinking, and perceptions of reality of right or wrong doing, onto their reality?  Who gets to decide for everyone anyway?  Given that so many people are lonely and learning to love is powerful to our lives, why would we stop love from existing in any form that doesn’t harm anyone?

The movie also explores the idea of what make any of us real.  Is the OS real?  As in a sentient personhood sort of real? Is the OS more real than say a Corporation, which in the US we have given personhood and now Corporations have the rights of a real person, even though I’m pretty sure that Corporations don’t have souls. This is a similar question that was asked in the movie Blade Runner, At what point is something ‘real’?  More human than human was the sales pitch for the Replicants.  We could create ‘people’ but they had no rights, no souls, they weren’t real independently from our need or use of them, the Replicants were commodities.  Yet they evolved over time to have feelings, physical and emotional, and memories, and relationships, and they wanted ‘more life’ and to be considered real.  And, even today it’s amazing how many people have cyber relationships going on in virtual worlds?  Real people are behind the avatars, but they often haven’t met in the reality we call meeting ‘in person’, yet they can really know each other and they talk, have friendships, and dare one say even fall in love sometimes.

What if love and reality are big things, so big that we can only ever see a tiny bit and we think we’re seeing the whole thing, but the whole thing is so vast that there is no way from our small place in the universe to see it all?  What about that?  From this perspective of vastness, it may just be that we probably know next to nothing.  And, we create cultural constructs of our knowledge and try and make the whole vast infinite universe fit in our tiny little boxes.  I am reminded of a line from the movie Lion in Winter, “I know, You know that I know, and I know that you know that I know, we are a very knowledgeable family…”  But, the line might have been more true if we just said, “I don’t know, you don’t know, I don’t know what you know and you don’t know what I know, and we are all just making stuff up all the time pretending to be knowledgeable, it’s what our family does.”  That would have been funny.  In fact that’s the only thing I know is true… really.

Potty Mouth… Intent and Impact

*Disclaimer: Again, if curse words continue to offend you, please do not read this blog posting. In fact you should shut your eyes right now and back slowly off the page.  This goes for you if you’re under 18.  Back away slowly, and then run.  Of course if you’re 18, you could probably teach me some creative curses.  But, scoot on off this page before you turn to salt.

David Sedaris Quote

We’ve all met them, you know, the people you drop fuck into every other word in any and all sentences.  They say things like, “I haven’t seen you in fucking forever, fuck me, how have you fucking been?” or “One fucking time at fucking band camp…” or even “Fuck you, you fucking fuck!” which was a personal favorite of mine in my 20’s, because fuck got to be the verb, noun, and adjective.  In fact, my favorite potty mouth is Deb Morgan from Dexter.  She gets stars for her ability to also use cures words creatively, which I will bring up in the next installment of the Potty Mouth series.

There are several reasons why people over use curse words in regular talk.  They are trying to assert their right to speak however they want to and it becomes a habit.  Maybe it’s how they differentiated as a kid into an adult, see you can’t fucking boss me around so fuck you.  Cursing is a form of expression that little kids aren’t really or readily allowed, so I am an adult, hear me swear like a sailor!  I personally chose the higher art form of differentiation and got a tattoo… except I still curse, so I think maybe it’s worse for me, I have tattoos and curse… sigh.  Maybe they’re surrounded by friends who support the shit talk, and so they bond with all their friends, and it becomes a habit.  Or, it makes them laugh because it ‘offends’ someone, thus gaining them a sense of power or superiority.  But, it really doesn’t matter why specifically, over time, even a good thing can wear people out.  Even those of us who enjoy a curse or two or twelve.  What starts off with real power, or at least shock and awe. in the rarity of its use, looses that pop when that’s all that is said.  Plus, what are we really saying when we continually curse in simple sentences?  That we speak with a lot of blue adjectives?  That we’re flamboyant?  That we’re tough?  That we really feel intense about the subject?  Maybe ‘yes’ to all that.  But, whether we like it or not, we live in a bigger culture, and we have to look at what our goal is, when we talk with people.  It’s a little communication issue called, Intent versus Impact.  If my intent is to be funny (which it normally is, at least to funny to myself), and I say something, and no one laughs, I missed my intent.  The impact was, no one thought I was funny.  Wow, that hurt just writing it.  Deborah Tannen speaks to the intent of the words.  Two people may use the same curse, and mean two very different things.  She states that people need words to convey emotion, and for those that use them, curse words are linked to emotion in a visceral way. [1]  Overuse may just dissipate the emotional impact, it basically bleeds the feeling out of the words, because no one keeps listening after awhile.

As young adults, we often want to push buttons, cursing is an easy button to push.  It’s a great way to maximize offense, or a great method to strengthen our opinions, or find our tribe.  But, it’s the easy button of language.  It doesn’t require much creativity or intellect to pop off with a *#&@^%$@ (insert your favorite curse here).  And, sometimes, just on the occasion, others words might work better to make a point or communicate your position.

It is also true that cursing holds a different value than it did in the Victorian age, or even up to the 1950’s.  Since the 1960’s there has been a steady acceptance of cursing in Western culture, and American culture at the very least.  Our politicians get caught cursing on microphones, most of our music, movies and books, have people saying all sorts of things that might have curled my grandma’s hair.  In fact check out Why Educated People Curse.[2]  The whole use of what once was considered ‘strong language’ is now sort of passé.

But, again, too much of a good thing is still probably too much.  And, we each have to find that balance in how we speak and to whom we say what.   Which leads me along to the next blog, creative cursing and committing.


[2] The Editors, “Why Do Educated People Use Bad Words?,” April 12, 2010, The New York Times Opinion Pages.  http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/why-do-educated-people-use-bad-words/?_r=0

Writing Our Lives

This is a repost from another blog I wrote a few years ago.  It seems to fit again for me, so I am posting it again.

Some of the joys of traveling  and/or moving are, getting to go to new places, see new things, meet new people, and for me, to have time to read something I might not have had time to.  I was browsing through the Airline magazine in the back of the seat in front of me, I was stuck in the seat for the next few hours, so I leafed through the glossy pages, looking at fantastic restaurants in cities that I wasn’t going to, and sparkly jewelry that I could see myself wearing, when I came across a little snippet on the actor Forest Whitaker.  Now, first I have to say that I have always like this actor, which is probably why I stopped upon seeing him on the page.  But, as I read the article, I was impressed by the sort of person he sounded like he was.  The quote from the article that most captured me was: “My work is a way to explore and connect and grow as a human being.  Each new character is a new life; it’s a reincarnate moment over and over again, a chance to live a different lifetime and, hopefully, become more centered.”

I love that idea, creating the character of my life.  And, wasn’t I sort of doing that superficially as I thought of myself in other places, wearing sparkly things as I looked through the magazine?  Obviously, most of us don’t have the opportunity to be actors, taking on new roles and trying them on for size, and getting paid to do it.  It does beg the question however, how can we take on the role of ourselves more fully?  If you were playing the character of your life, what sort of responses and reactions would be important for you to grow as a human being?  What goals would you want for this character?  How might you look objectively at your characters past, and then how would you use this information to make your character stronger?  These are rich ideas.  And, maybe a little shift in perspective might help us to be better people, writing a story of our lives, one that we actually want to live.

Writing Our Lives

Some of the joys of traveling are, getting to go to new places, see new things, meet new people, and for me, to have time to read something I might not have had time to.  I was browsing through the Airline magazine in the back of the seat in front of me, I was stuck in the seat for the next few hours, so I leafed through the glossy pages, looking at fantastic restaurants in cities that I wasn’t going to, and sparkly jewelry that I could see myself wearing, when I came across a little snippet on the actor Forest Whitaker.  Now, first I have to say that I have always like this actor, which is probably why I stopped upon seeing him on the page.  But, as I read the article, I was impressed by the sort of person he sounded like he was.  The quote from the article that most captured me was: “My work is a way to explore and connect and grow as a human being.  Each new character is a new life; it’s a reincarnate moment over and over again, a chance to live a different lifetime and, hopefully, become more centered.”

I love that idea, creating the character of my life.  And, wasn’t I sort of doing that superficially as I thought of myself in other places, wearing sparkly things as I looked through the magazine?  Obviously, most of us don’t have the opportunity to be actors, taking on new roles and trying them on for size, and getting paid to do it.  It does beg the question however, how can we take on the role of ourselves more fully?  If you were playing the character of your life, what sort of responses and reactions would be important for you to grow as a human being?  What goals would you want for this character?  How might you look objectively at your characters past, and then how would you use this information to make your character stronger?  These are rich ideas.  And, maybe a little shift in perspective might help us to be better people, writing a story of our lives, one that we actually want to live.

Learning New Things

There is something interesting that happens when get new toys and want to play with them. We unwrap them with all sorts of anticipation. The excitement of the new experience coursing through our brains and giving us little adrenaline bursts. Only to find that learning something new isn’t always so easy.  All that excitement can be transformed into frustration, because the new thing doesn’t come so easily.

There’s a really important process that we need to understand. It’s called the “Learning Journey.”  The learning journey is made up of four stages, Unconscious Incompetence; Conscious Incompetence; Conscious Competence; and Unconscious Competence.

The first stage, Unconscious Incompetence: What this means is that we don’t even know what we don’t know. So, like a child who’s learned how to speak, but doesn’t understand how  to write, the child is ignorant of all that is involved in writing.  but, as soon as the child goes to school, they begin to move into the second page of the learning journey, which is called Conscious Incompetence.

The second stage Conscience Incompetence, is the stage in which the begin to know what we don’t know. This can be incredibly frustrating. We’ve begun to have a clear understanding of what’s expected, but we really don’t yet understand how to make that happen. In fact, this is the stage in which most of us give up. This can be true of the new game, it isn’t so easy to figure out so we quit. Or, it can apply to a new way of doing something, for instance, changing our diets or managing our anger. But, if we can make it through this stage, will have the benefit of moving on the third stage of the learning journey.

The third stage is conscious competence. In this stage we now know what’s expected and we know how to make this happen. It still takes a lot of energy to do the new task, but we are starting to feel confident.  Neuroscientist, have taken P. E. T. scans of the human brain during stage II and stage III. What they have found, is that the brain uses a tremendous amount of  glucose as it is learning, and concentrating, on new tasks. For this reason it benefits the brain to get into habits of thinking. This is what occurs in the fourth stage of the learning journey.

The fourth stage is unconscious competence. This is the stage in which no longer have to think hard in order to do the task, but rather our brains can shut down as we go into automatic drive. This is the stage in which we feel the most competent doing our task.

Remember these four stages. Because, as we decide to learn new things or would change patterns of behavior we will find ourselves moving through the first second and third stages again and again. It’s helpful to understand the process, so that when you find yourself doing something new or learning some new behavior, you can recognize and understand what stage you may be in.  It’s all about giving yourself a break.  Honoring that you are even trying something new and that takes time and fortitude to master.

Looking backwards as you are moving forward

This weekend my husband Michael, best friend Michele, and I headed to the top of Sandia Mountain to do a little snow shoeing.  It has been a mild winter here in New Mexico, and last week we finally got a bit of snow.  So, up to the top of Sandia for a few hours of snow shoeing.  Several things tend to be part of the snow shoeing experience, often while shoeing through wood you walk in single file, which is fine, but it also makes the person at the front very difficult to understand.  As we were clomping along, Michele had something to say, which I couldn’t hear, due to the above issue.  Without pause, she swivelled her head around to restate her message, at which point she tripped on her snow shoes.  I have to say that her speedy reflexes allowed her to regain her balance, instead of falling.  But, for me it was a good reminder of the dangers of looking backwards whilst moving forwards.

I think this is a bit more of the ‘It is what it is…” conversation.  I know that I have moments when I lose track of the present moment and in looking backwards, continue to propel myself forward without awareness.  I seem to forget what I was doing and that the doing requires a certain amount of attention.

The Preto Principle says that for many situations, there is a law of averages that states that 80% of results come from 20% of causes.  So, for an example: In any work force 20% of the people do 80% of the work, etc.  In John Gottman’s work on relationships, he has found that you need a 5/1 imbalance towards positivity in a relationship, in order for people to feel really happy.  Roughly 80/20.  I think this applies to us personally as well.  If 80% of the time you can work on moving forward with awareness, you be able to recover the 20% of the time you forget or get distracted.  But, if 80% of the time you are looking backwards, you may find yourself in for a fall.

Locus of Control

In Psychological terms people talk about locus of control, which in a pinch means: who or what is responsible for what has happened or how one feels about what happened.   So often it is hard to recognize our own part in how we are responding to the things happening to us in life.  Most of us tend to live in external locus of control.  From my perspective  external locus of control means that I am swept along by external events.  It tends to sound like: “You made me feel bad,”  “They pissed me off,” etc.  And, the sway of our emotions is moved by external events, something said or done to us, or just something we’re experiencing,  It is a focus on things that we are powerless to control.  External locus is a focus on what you say, you think, you do.  An external focus is if you say something and I don’t like it, you become the problem…

Conversely,  an internal locus of control means, I choose to focus on what I say, think, and do.  You said or did something and my feelings got hurt or I got mad, but my feelings are my own.  This is really hard to do in the real world.  It is especially hard if I don’t like what is happening in a situation.  It is far easier to feel like we are internally motivated when things are positive, example: ‘I made a pie and shared it with friends, everyone raved about how wonderful it was… but, I feel good just with having shared it.’  In actuality I may feel good for sharing it, but I might also feel good because people like what I did, if they had hated it, I might have felt like crap.  External locus.

Part of self esteem, self acceptance, and self love, is learning to shift to a more internal locus of control. We are less likely to have our ships crash against life’s rocks.  We start to believe in our own truth. I made a pie and no one liked it, “yet this doesn’t define me.” I can take the information and learn a new pie recipe, I can decide maybe I prefer to buy pie, I can decide to try the pie on new people and get more of a consensus, or maybe I will make salad in the future.  But, the choice is mine, I am aware, and choosing options for myself.  Internal locus.