Friday, June 24, 2011

Delving Into the Space-Time Continuum Makes Everything Else Seem LAME LAME LAME

So I just finished watching "Altered States" and everything seems anti-climactic after that. Even writing feels anti-climactic (anti-climatc? That's anti-climate? Whatever). So it seems everybody has seen this movie except for me, But in case you haven't, this movie is about about a professor who uses things like sensory deprivation tanks and drugs to investigate the "primal self" and what happens when one regresses to that state. I can't remember why I put this one in the Netflix queue but I think it probably had to do with the fact that numerous people at numerous different times in my life have told me to watch this movie. William Hurt plays an eccentric dude who uses himself as a guinea pig in the experiments and he through the MAGIC of brainwavey-sciencey-electrodes-and-hallucinagenic-blady-bla triggers a method of regressive space-time continuum travel and so on. A little pseudo-science-y but hey, that's why it's science FICTION. If a movie is entertaining enough it will butter up my critical abilities and more than willing to suspend my disbelief. The minute I hear terms like "space-time continuum" or "primordial self" and "hallucinogenic" my outer-limits radar goes up and I'm pulled in.

But then, the movie ended. And it seemed awfully quiet in here.

What it makes me think of is how some type of movie or book or art or piece of music will inspire me while I'm enjoying it but then when it's over, after the credits roll, after the song is over, when there's quiet, everything seems dismal and well, less inspiring.

And then when I force myself to sit down and write about something or work on something, it reminds me how much of a non-flowy style of writing I do -- that is, since I bleed through the things I write (as opposed to sprinting through), editing while I do it and well, not letting it really flow out -- that I am reminded of how much work goes into something that an audience sees, unaware (at least on an immediately conscious level) of all the work that went into the final product.

When I hear that piece of music that inspires me, when I see a comedian that gets me jazzed, I'm not usually thinking about how much work they put into it at the time, but I do think about it later, after the fact, especially when I'm feeling guilty for not making time to work on my own creative projects. I remember hearing some comedian talk about his process of writing and he said something to the effect that the process of sitting down to do the writing is sort of tedious. Who said this? Was it Paul F. Tompkins? It might have been. I have been enjoying his podcast and material and his many appearances on other peoples podcasts and shows.

When we're inspired by some type of performance or recording or art thingy, what we're really seeing is the final product all packaged up. It might look sort of effortless, but we all know somewhere in the back of our heads that it's all practiced and timed and all that, but the best performances LOOK effortless. Or is effortless really the right word? Maybe not -- when you see some people sing they look so impassioned with their heart into it, emoting, that it certainly does not look effortLESS. Perhaps "effortless" is the wrong word. Perhaps "skilled" is a better word? Instead of a performance looking effortless, perhaps it looks "skilled." Whatever.

Different trades and types of performances have different versions of what skilled looks like. It's like how I make no bones about the fact that my typical MO for performing and writing is pretty much that I try really hard to make it seem "nonchalant" (which I suppose is a version of "effortless"). I was talking to someone who wrote a book about Chicago comedy and we agreed that one of the hardest things that standup comedians have to do is make their performance sound nonchalant, which I personally think is a lot harder than someone acting abut something passionately.

The idea of that final presented last draft being the initial thing that an audience encounters reminds me of how when you meet someone, you're encountering that person at that moment in their life, after they've gone through their whole life up to that point, growing, maturing, learning, developing as a person. You don't see all their fuckupness up until that point. I love this idea. I also love the idea that you can meet someone at a particular time in your life and you really get along well, but if you met them earlier than you might not have gotten along as well. I like to think of it as a sorted fated ripeness type of thing, as if to say "I wasn't ready for you yet." That's such a delicious concept to me.

Anyway, people only see the part of you that's matured over many years to that point. So when we read the book, enjoy the movie, meet the person, drink the aging wine, we haven't seen the mistakes, first drafts, bitter youth, hard work that went into the maturation.

Another problem I'm having, and this is a problem that this experience with  "Altered States" seems like a good example of, and that is that I enjoy watching movies, reading literature about, and having discussions that lean towards things that are philosophical and meaning of life-y. That makes the things that are not related to lofty and spacey topics such as that totally dismal. It makes me not want to do things like run errands and work out and do laundry and interact with people who are not into those things. I can see why science-fiction geeky types are totally uninterested in personal hygiene or getting a job. I mean, I'm pretty good about both personal hygiene and having a job, but my point is that once you get your head into the stars it's hard to want to come down into reality about the non-numinous things like flossing and paying bills.

I remember in college I took a class about jewish mysticism. (Sidetone: the class was taught at the campus hillel. The teacher wanted everybody to call him Mickey.) One of the things the professor kept stressing was that one of the things that Jewish mysticism embraces is this notion that the everyday activities like cooking could be mystical. I never understood this. How? If someone could explain to me how to make paying bills and cleaning the kitty litter and configuring the monthly budget mystical I would do a lot more of that. That's the thing: reading spiritually and philosophically engaging material and seeing movies about that kind of stuff makes the rest of life sort of suck. Because everything else seems unimportant. It's like coming in from 40 days of talking to god in the desert and having to go be an office administrative assistant; everything else seems pointless.

The minute a movie I've enjoyed ends and I've exhausted the bonus features on the disc, the house is quiet. It's like I had a big fun party and now all the guests went home, and I have to clean up the mess and it's all quiet. I tend to stay up until the late hours watching all the bonus features because I don't want the movie to end, and watching bonus features is the closest thing to the movie not being over.

Want to come over? Maybe if you're here talking to me about Terrence McKenna and the formation of human consciousness it would make cleaning out the bottom of the toaster a lot more tolerable. 10am? See you then.

1 comment: