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.

What can Zombies teach us?

warm_bodies

“My posture is terrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter. What’s wrong with me? I just want to connect. Why can’t I connect with people? Oh, right, it’s because I’m dead. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I mean, we’re all dead. This girl is dead. That guy is dead. That guy in the corner is definitely dead. Jesus these guys look awful.”
Quote from Warm Bodies

This blog probably belongs in October.  But here it is, January 2014, and I am writing about Zombies.  Probably Zombie blogs are worthwhile all year long…  that’s my hope at any rate.

So, what do Zombies have to teach us?  Well, let’s start with what Zombies represent.  They represent, on a simple level, the living dead.  In Africa, the Voodoo definition of “Zombi” is a living dead person who is controlled by another person, the other person controls everything about the Zombi and the Zombi has no will of his/her own.  In Western culture, Zombies are typically depicted as mindless, reanimated corpses hungering for human flesh, and particularly for human brains.  In a recent movie, Warm Bodies, Zombies eat brains to vicariously feel human again  by eating the memories and experiences of another person and also in an attempt to feel connected to their past humanness.

Now, knowing what a Zombie is, what can you learn from them?  The first question possibly needs to be: Am I a Zombie?  The second question is also what most spiritual journey’s are about: How do you stay alive once you decide you’re not a Zombie?

My personal bias, probably because I am old, is that being alive when you’re a kid or a teenager, well that’s far easier. I am not attempting to minimize the teenage angst, or the terrible things that can happen to children and teenagers.  But, having survived my own childhood and teen experience, I feel somewhat clear on this subject. It’s really hard for young people to be the living dead.  They are typically too alive in their minds, even if they are overwhelmed and depressed, they often haven’t had the long term experience of being beat down by choices, life, or responsibilities.  There are always exceptions to this rule of thumb.  But, if you’re 30+, yep you’re in danger, seriously deep danger. By your 30’s you typically have all sorts of past history, you have whatever is going on in your life now, to include responsibilities, kids, cars, homes, credit cards, and jobs.  These things make us tired and these things, these responsibilities in conjunction with general exhaustion, can make it easy to become the living dead… slaves to our stuff and slaves to our choices… no longer feeling in control, but rather forced to do the will of others.

Anytime you feel trapped in a marriage, or a job, you wake up, go to life (work), come home, watch tv, eat, sleep, wake up… do it over and over again, you are in danger.  It’s the monotony of life, the losing of interests, the giving up of dreams, these things are part of the slow migration towards becoming a Zombie.  Whenever you give up on important ideas, this giving into the status quo of societal expectations of you, then you’re in danger.  When you stop questioning yourself and others, and quit being curious and exploring what people think and why they think what they think, and if you agree or disagree, and why you agree and disagree… you’re in danger.  When you stop noticing the beauty around you, or participating in making the world a better place, you’re in danger.

I’m not absolutely certain, but maybe all it takes to stay alive, is finding your passion and keeping your brain alive.  Being on the quest to discover the things that gets you up each day with interest, excitement and passion, not just getting up because you have to get up, but because you genuinely want to get up.  It could be anything, so I am not interested in limiting this to being artistic, though for me it has to do with being creative and thinking and learning.  Again, creativity, thoughtfulness and education can take a lot of forms.  Maybe you love your job, you wake up ready to go out and “Live it!”, or maybe your job is the thing you do to support your real life, the one where you are continuing to explore the world around you, refusing to succumb to the potential banality that surrounds us all.  When in motion it is easier to stay in motion, but it takes a greater effort to get things that are at a stand still, moving again.  In the movie, the Zombies are able to become alive again, it took an openness to love, to start caring, and willingness to participate differently in life.

You can be rich, poor or anywhere in the middle, and still find yourself waking up dead.  And anyone, rich or poor can have a rich life, filled with passion, curiosity, and connection.  A simple truth: it’s easy to lose yourself, we are all just 2 steps from being a Zombie.  Mundane existence is a slippery slope and we all can slide down that hill, if we aren’t paying attention.  For me, being alive is about having passion and balance, it’s about really truly caring,  not being afraid, and not living a life of fear and hopelessness.  There are many issues that seem hopeless, and yet, if we are alive, aware, and thinking, looking for ways to make things better for ourselves and others, then very little is truly hopeless.  We often have opportunities that show up in our lives to love and learn and grow.  Question your thinking, why you believe what you believe?  Question my thinking.  But, always keep looking at ways to really be alive.

Be kind to everyone you meet, they are all walking a hard road, often filled with Zombies.  The lesson: be kind to Zombies, we’re all in danger of becoming one.

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.

Changes are inevitable

I haven’t posted to the One Minute Mindset in over a year.  This post makes me reflect all the changes in my life over the last year.  Most of my world has changed.  And, while I believe that change is good, it is also incredibly time and energy consuming.  Last year at this time my life was moving forward in a normal, comfortable pattern.  My mother had several health issues that had taken my attention, but she was sort of on the mend by last November, I had her living on her own, but near me.  My work was going well, I was enjoying my clients and my practice, and I had some plans to work on making my kitchen prettier.  All in all, I had a busy and full life, filled with people and projects.  In December I had an inkling that my husband might be offered a job in the Pacific Northwest, which would mean a move from New Mexico to Washington State.  But, it was all theoretical until February 2013.  In February my life went into overdrive, since then I have closed my business, sold properties, moved my mom in with us, and then moved all of us (people and pets) to Washington State.  Basically uprooting my entire life, blowing up my comfort zone.  Kaboom!

There are aspects of this change that are sad, the feeling that I am leaving people and places that I love.  I have a great circle of friends and in some ways I felt like I was walking away from my life.  While I don’t get to see my friends daily, living in the same city, I lived in the space of proximity, the idea that we were just a few minutes away.  As close as I was, in reality I didn’t get to see friends daily or even weekly or monthly.  Moving away makes me notice the distance.  It requires me to not take people for granted.  I have to make more effort, or else I may drift.  But, I ask myself, is that recognition of the distance and the requirements of relationship a bad thing?  I don’t think so.  I think it is in part what change offers us.  The opportunity to rethink our lives, get out of our ruts of thinking or acceptance, or a taking for granted that things will always stay the same.  Nothing stays the same, nor should it.  How do we grow in our comfort zone?  I am not saying we can’t grow in our comfort zone, but my guess is that we grow slowly.  There is nothing like looking for new hand holds and footings to activate our minds and force us to look for new ways to be in our lives.  Change can open us up.

I think about what I have gained from the changes so far.  I have new opportunities to meet people, to challenge myself, to push through my fears, to continue to create myself with new experiences.  The big one for me is pushing through fear.  Meeting new people is partly scary, will I find my tribe, will I find people I like, will I find people who make me laugh and who think I am funny too?  But, also the reinvention of myself, in my eyes, in the world around me.  I have this great moment to find a new, or slightly different version of me.  Many things about me are the same, the underlying person, but that person in a new environment, well, she’s a different person than she was.  That is part of what change offers us.  A chance to see who we really are in different situations.  Am I really brave?  Can I handle the unknown?  What is really important when I have to rifle through myself and pull out parts I either haven’t used or haven’t used in a long time?  Moving location is almost like living in parallel reality, you are in a different place, much is the same, but much is different and you could never fully know what it will be like till you are there.  The other life no longer exists the same way, you could go back, but even then, it too is changed.

I know that I am incredibly lucky, because I still have my support system, it’s just that most of them live a bit further away than they used to.  With email, FaceTime, and Facebook, I can keep up with the daily happenings of most.  But, I have had enough change that I am forced to re-evaluate the “what” of my purpose and direction.  Do I try to recreate what I have known, or do I choose something completely different?  There are multiple choices, each a door that takes me in a slightly different direction.  It really doesn’t even matter ‘what’ I choose.  Thinking about the choices, weighing the possibilities, leaping out into the world and doing it with all the wisdom that I have learned from past experiences, making mistakes, facing fear, and learning to live in the liminal space of my personal journey.

This is what change offers me.