Posts Tagged ‘Valerie’

EXISTENCE, NOT RESISTANCE, IS FUTILE

December 31, 2008
The Borg, whose place in popular culture is assured (despite the obsessive need to ‘assimilate’ people) thanks to the phrase “Resistance is futile,” got it only half-correct. As cracked.com famously – and brilliantly – pointed out, Man-At-Arms (he of He-Man fame) had to try to fight off the sodomites even though he was surrounded and outnumbered in jail, because “to give in passively to a prison-rape would be to die a little inside”.

My best friend’s little brother was in a serious car accident last night or early this morning. Now this is a kid I haven’t seen in years, so suffice it to say that he’s not such a kid anymore; still, it seems I shall always see him as such, regardless. I recall being intrigued by her family, and liking them very much – especially her mom and her two little brothers, despite their natural tendency to cause her trouble, as little brothers are often wont to.

So imagine my abject horror when, about two years ago, Valerie told me that her littlest brother – let’s call him Daniel, say – may have either cancer or Crone’s disease. Cancer to me was the biggest villain of the 20th Century (Mr. Hitler can go fuck his crazy-ass self), the deus ex machina of the real world (i.e. the borderline incurable disease with nary a root cause that life kills you with when you’ve dodged every other bullet known to man). The other was rare enough that neither my mother – a lifelong health professional – nor my many seasons of watching House M.D. could inform me about. Talk about a choice between a kick in the nuts and a punch in the throat.

I researched Crone’s, as I am wont to do, but to what end, really? Was I hoping to find an online concoction that would be the mysterious cure that doctors had all but overlooked, because they were glued to their soap operas instead of researching Wikipedia? No, I can’t save myself, let alone save someone else, and that’s an infuriating fact of life.

It turns out that Daniel didn’t have Crone’s, or cancer, which was a big relief, no doubt especially for Valerie, who was hundreds of miles away in Scotland; I don’t dare imagine how overwhelming the sense of powerlessness must have been. But since that happy resolution, I have heard snippets of things that are rather upsetting and disturbing – things I shall go into no further detail about for privacy’s sake (yes I can talk about my attempted suicide and my darkest fears and shortcomings because they’re mine). Suffice it to say that it proves that every cloud has a silver lining, and that silver lining is just indicative of a Katrina-style thunderstorm ready to shit-storm on your world.

Which makes me wonder as to the point of it all. Life is hollow without love, and love of course makes one incredibly vulnerable. How do you protect those nearest and dearest to you? How do you ensure they are happy? And how can you truly ever be happy if you can’t be 300% sure that they are truly happy, and vice versa? You can’t control everything they do and that happens to them to make sure that their lives – in this world and the next – meet their fullest potential. And even if you could, what makes you so right? I thought of Chris Reeve last night and I almost cried. Few will argue that he wasn’t a good, strong man, blessed and a blessing, but is that enough? Will his suffering in this life negate any in the next?

Heaven Can Wait is one of those resilient fantasy comedies, probably because it’s supposed to speak to us about how wonderful life truly is. It depicts a life so blissfully perfect that, when it is prematurely and unjustly ended (like any premature and most ‘mature’ deaths are just) he demands it be restored precisely as it was before. But really, what this proves to me is how arbitrary it all is, that one man’s life can be neatly slotted into another’s (or 2, or 3 or 4 or 5, if you count the countless remakes, which seems a contradiction in terms).

I may seem like the wrong person to espouse the pointlessness of existence, given that I – reputedly, there’s no proof – tried to off myself one time. But all I’m saying is how do you live when the propensity for grief and tragedy is so unbearably high – not to yourself but to those around you? (Which is why suicide, while allegedly painless, is irrefutably selfish, ‘cos you neglect the hurt you’d cause). Does anyone have a concrete, no-bullshit answer to that?

My best friend’s little brother has been in a serious car accident. I have no more info except for this. And I cannot comfort or assure her, despite her status on Facebook, despite the early-morning text message today, New Year’s Eve. Despite the fact that I love her more than life, more than myself. Because all I have are words – hollow, echoey, showboating even. I cannot save her (though I’ve tried) – I cannot even save myself. Words are only of significance when directed to the One Person who can help, who can do anything, and that I have done with as much limited ability as is vested in me these days.

But even when praying to God, words alone are simply not enough. And for someone who has had absolutely nothing but words for the longest time, that is a frightening notion.

The Meaning Of Life (from ‘The Dark Knight’, not ‘Monty Python’)

August 12, 2008

The Dark Knight is the gift that keeps on giving, as I continue to draw inspiration and ideas and concepts from it for my writing, my political and ideological sensibilities, and my personal life. That it would spur my renewed probe into the Meaning of Life is no surprise given the not negligible role it played in averting my attempted suicide some 35 days ago; that, in doing so, it would edge me over the precipice into a full-blown existential crisis is an expected side effect.

The Joker, the film’s magnificent central villain, espouses Chaos as the only fair way to live in the world. Harvey Dent, its impeccable hero fallen from grace, prefers Blind Chance. Neither truly exists in an unadulterated version in our world due to manipulation from the powerful elite in our society, who “make their own luck”. (Chaos negates a powerful elite, but remember that power vacuums are only temporary, and must eventually be filled).

That said Chaos, pure or contained, is the order of our existence, and Chaos is here to stay. In light of this, can life truly have any meaning? Because Chaos negates any true Meaning, the highest worldly calling is to reign in Chaos, which is where peace officers, aid workers and (allegedly) governments come in. Bruce Wayne is all of this in one, answering to a higher calling – the meting out of ‘Justice’ and ‘Order’ and serving the Public Good – than few of us will ever realize. This gives him Purpose, the only true Purpose in life with any concrete meaning: Self-Sacrifice. But what makes his special is scale; he truly lives for it, and if his methods are questionable, his impact is not.

Who else can have such significant or lasting impact on society at large? World leaders are quickly relegated to history books or celebrity fodder when their tenure expires, except when they serve in times of unmitigated Chaos, or – worse – when they cause unmitigated Chaos. It’s hard to swallow – but impossible to dismiss – that leaders or regimes like Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, or the Khmer Rouge have stronger Purpose, greater impact (and by extension more Meaning) than well-meaning ones like Clinton or Carter or even Kennedy (himself magnified by tragedy).

Bruce Wayne’s tortured quest as Batman may give him Purpose, but it doesn’t really give him Meaning, which is why Harvey Dent surmises that Batman can’t want his job forever. Wayne’s hope for Meaning lies in a much more attainable (or not, depending on your outlook) source: Love.

A pivotal moment: he agrees to turn himself in to stop the Joker, and there’s a sense of relief as he asks Rachel if they can now be together. Her response is a telling one:

“Bruce, don’t let me be your last chance at a normal life.”

She is his Love, but she’s also his oldest friend, and understands his heart the way Alfred understands his logical and philosophical machinations.

So it is that I propose the only way to can glean any sense of personal Meaning in this haphazard, chaotic existence is the fulfillment we can only gain from those we love, and those that love us back.

Mind you, I do believe in a Greater Plan, but also accept that on ground level it can only look like Chaos to our untrained eyes. And only in God can we find true peace and fulfillment. My point is that, as a Christian, it’s necessary to care for the overall betterment of people – a quest the Realist in me knows is fundamentally impossible. No matter what we do or believe, bad things will happen to good people, and at times like that, when Meaning and Purpose seem hollow, do we need the fortitude of those we love.

I believe this is why I fell in love, and as my outlook on the Human Condition grows bleaker and bleaker, I become more entrenched in my feelings, desperate for a crutch to lend me stability and guidance. The fact that it hasn’t been requited in a while hasn’t stopped the slide, or the growing ache that has accompanied it. It only makes sense, I suppose – if anything can provide an existence with Meaning, it shouldn’t be easily attainable if at all; that would cheapen the Meaning. I mean, can you seriously see Bruce Wayne quitting cape and cowl to live Happily Ever After with Rachel?

Christians know true Meaning can only be attained through true communion with God, something I’ve found myself woefully short on for years now. Valerie, the appointed LOML, is a devoted, inspiring but humanly flawed Catholic herself, which was perfect: through a Meaningful relationship with her, I’d find a Meaningful relationship with God – a rather reckless notion: Now I was burdening Valerie with the task to literally Save me – my sanity, my spirituality, my sense of being. It’s naïve and unfair – how do you tell someone that? There’s no way she can let you down easy.

Bruce doesn’t voice it, but Rachel senses it, and lets him down – easy. As hard as her loss was on him, it is the impetus to throw himself more blindly into his calling, so Purpose will consume a lack of true Meaning. For me, I’ll admit that my goal of writing and filmmaking are nowhere near as noble or high a calling, but I hope it can be every bit as consuming, to keep me functioning in this existence I am shackled to.

When I opted to kill myself on July 8th, 2008, thinking instead of the impending Dark Knight made me realize something: as Meaningless as life often felt, death was even more so by a landslide. And nothing drove home that point like Heath Ledger.

A promising career, a father and thoughtful soul, cut down in literal prime. Sure, he’s immortalized on screen like few others – his Joker is a vibrant, affecting portrait of sheer genius. There will be accolades, maybe even an Oscar, but so what? It doesn’t change the fact that he’s gone, forever separated from the adulation that he would’ve surely, despite himself, gladly – and deservedly – basked in.

‘Achievements’ are no measure of Meaning. Maybe Love is an oversimplification, but oversimplification could be what’s needed to attack such a large concept. I personally have never felt anything so strong, as to be unbearable – insomnia, anorexia, depression – and because I’ve so mangled it, never want to feel it again. Yes – even if I’ve got Purpose with no Meaning. Better than me have resigned themselves to such a fate.

The last lesson lies in Ledger: for all his very intelligent use of a God-given talent, from where I sit all I see is tragic waste. And from my personal vantage point, Life on Earth as we know it is one frenzied, frenetic activity devoid of Meaning, and then you die.

A Super Hero: How ‘The Dark Knight’ literally saved my life when I tried to kill myself after seeing ‘Hancock’

July 29, 2008

Don’t get me wrong – I actually enjoyed Hancock. It was fun, throwaway, with some solid turns by solid actors and an intriguing finale from the end of the 2nd Act to the 3rd. No, my sudden desire to end my participation in the dog race known as life was triggered by what happened after Hancock ended.

My very, very good friend, who I was (am/will be; who knows?) in love with – despite that phase of our relationship being over for some years now – sent me a text just before the closing credits, so I called her up. We’d been a wee bit on the outs, considering that I had earlier pointed out to her that she was – as all people invariably are to differing degrees – a tad racist, citing her admitted fear of black men among other things. Plus there was my tactless marriage proposal 10 days earlier, following Germany’s devastating loss to Spain in Euro ’08 (Blog Post: Pain Is So Close To Pleasure).

Well we talked, a little tentatively and awkwardly, with her apologizing for a non-existent argument over said proposal. It didn’t stop her from divulging a secret to me that damn near fractured my fragile little mind – all with the casualness of an invite to a Sunday school picnic. Now, I’m not one to kiss and tell (seeing that I do none of the former and too much of the latter); suffice it to say that it’s the very last thing you need to hear from someone you’re so in love with you proposed to her even though you knew you’d get turned down and wind up with egg on your face.

So there I am, on the bus and trying to string together coherent sentences as she talks away and I’m dying on the inside – yet it’s like deja vu, seeing how something identical had occurred 5½ years ago. But it was so much worse this time – and the timing couldn’t be more – how shall I put this delicately? – fucked up. So I broke down and made up my mind even before she’d hung up (she somehow caught on that I wasn’t very talkative) to finally take matters into my own hands and end this debacle of an existence before fate conjured up even more colorful ways to mock my very being.

Unfortunately I was heading across town to meet a good friend who’d driven all the way from Fredericton, so I had to stay my hand. I didn’t get to his place until well after 11pm, but fate was smiling (albeit morbidly) on me this time as there just happened to be a Shoppers Drug Mart on the corner of his street. I promptly helped myself to an OTC (Over The Counter) bottle of sleep meds, before opting for 2 in case the one didn’t quite pan out. I had long figured that slashing the wrists was a girlie cry for help, while mouthing a shotgun – Hemmingway style – was the man’s way to go. Having neither the weapon nor the compunction to use it, I settled on a fair halfway point.

I was at my friend’s for over an hour, and by the time he kindly drove me back I was so drowsy it seemed like I’d popped half the pills already. I got back, left a message for my boss at work that I wouldn’t be coming in anymore and wishing him all the best of luck and shit like that, and then popped a fistful of pills.

And promptly threw them up. Don’t get me wrong – not like I gagged or choked or anything. But a series of very strong and interconnected thoughts crossed through my mind with such clarity, all almost at once. For starters, I realized why I’d chosen sleep meds – because they were, in part, responsible for Heath Ledger’s death, an actor I admired even before he was cast in The Dark Knight. I had mourned him for weeks, and the indelible image of him cut down in his prime had stayed with me subconsciously.

But his was an unfortunate accident; he fully expected to awake later that day, which made it all the more tragic. By willfully offing myself this way, I was committing sacrilege to his memory, and mocking such a monumental loss.

Secondly, and much more selfishly, I realized that I was killing myself 10 days before The Dark Knight was due to open. Considering I had never anticipated any film like that in all my days, it seemed like a fucking stupid thing to do at the time. I imagined how awesome that film would be, how blown away and enraptured I would be by it – or not, since I’d be fucking freezing on a coroner’s slab with a belly full of pills and a roomful of mocking spectators. Dweeb, they’d say. He could’ve at least stuck around for the midnight screenings of The Dark Knight. Most awesome film EVER. Then they’d leave the scalpel in my midsection as they rush to catch a screening before it’s sold out. And my cold dead ass would envy them from the grave.

And, with those thoughts racing through the fractured microchips of my mind, I regurgitated the pills I’d mouthed, caught in two minds about the validity of my decision either way.

And I of course have not regretted that decision. The Dark Knight is the most rousing piece of entertainment I can recall, easily my favorite and most indelible theatrical experience ever. I shall see it anywhere between 7 and 15 more times, and only ‘til I am full sated will I even consider finishing what I started on Tuesday July 8, 2008 – precisely 3 weeks ago today.

Until then, I adhere by more words of wisdom from The Joker; for I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you…stranger.

Pain Is So Close To Pleasure Part II: aka Don’t Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve and blah blah blah…

July 24, 2008

This being a sequel (hence the ‘Part II’ in the title), it would be advisable – if you’re even going to take the time to sit through any of this – to scroll down a touch further (ok, a touch more than a touch) to fill in the blanks with the prequel.

Football (soccer – keep up) is my other great love, and after seeing Nigeria’s Super Eagles flop at the African Nations Cup and Arsenal of the English Premier League (my ‘hometown’ club) capitulate in the closing stages of the season, all my hopes were on Germany – my other favorite soccer team. And I watched live, butt clenched in tension, as they lost in the Euro 08 final. 1-0. To Spain.

So I went a little apeshit – enough to call it a last straw, bite the bullet, and do something incredibly stupid that could alter the course of things.

I proposed to Valerie. By text. If you’d known our relationship, you’d have seen why this wasn’t quite the faux pas it seems to be (plus – it rhymed! “Marry me, Valerie”? A syllabic palindrome).

She was perplexed, and we didn’t really talk until I sent another text 2 days later asking “Why So Serious?” She asked if I was serious since I thought she was racist (I had merely pointed out that all humans are at least slightly racist, and when she denied having a racist strand in her DNA, I glibly pointed out that she was scared of black men, had twice made derogative remarks about Indian people – out of anger, to be fair – and thought the Chinese were trying to kill Westerners, which may very well be reciprocal). Admittedly it was an odd thing to ask shortly after the worst fight of our 7-year friendship (one it hasn’t recovered from), but I was deathly serious.

So what does this have to do with The Dark Knight? Well, a week later I almost killed myself but for its intervention (for another post), and then waited eagerly ‘til opening night, nabbing a ticket for a midnight screening. So it was on Thursday July 17th that I last spoke to Valerie, with the intent of either kickstarting things from their depressing doldrums or terminating them. It panned out as I’d expected, so I surreptitiously ended the conversation with her for good before heading out to see The Dark Knight, more pumped yet emotionally fragile than I recall ever being.

I have never been more infatuated with a film – I’ve seen better films, but never been as moved and enervated as this before. The Dark Knight is all things – beautiful, haunting, memorable, quotable, intelligent, passionate, tragic, energetic, ambitious, successful, bloody rich – that you could want in a love interest. And I am well and truly in love. So it is that I traded one love of my life for another within the space of 2 hours. They are both fascinating yet inaccessible mistresses, and will burn – brutally – because they cannot return the love that I unblinkingly fetter on them (believe it or not, The Dark Knight is just a movie). I’m obsessed, but I’ll love her long after she stops giving (which is a ways away), and be fascinated with the richness and communion of the experience that lasted only 152mins but feels much longer (especially after I see it 10 more times or so).

Yes, I have found the new love of my life. She is The Dark Knight, and she is lovely.

Pain Is So Close To Pleasure: aka Don’t Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve in Love, Life and Movies; It Could Get Sunburned

July 23, 2008

I fall in love too easily. That can be misconstrued though, since I’m incredibly picky – I’m highly critical of all the films I see, am really interested in only one sport, and have been hopelessly smitten by only one woman in all my life. The point is that when I do fall, I don’t do it in half measures. I fall in love with something – anything – and it’s an obsessive fascination that borders on unhealthy.

The last film I fell in love with was Million Dollar Baby (2004, still my top choice of the decade), and while Batman Begins (2005) was excellent, it didn’t take me to those heady heights of euphoria. But something told me to prepare for a much different experience in 2008 when its sequel, The Dark Knight, was set to unspool.

2008 had already been noteworthy thus far. Decent films, great football (real football, i.e. the one where you use your feet) even if my three favorite teams all collapsed under the burden of expectation. And of course I irrevocably destroyed my relationship with my best friend and love of my life.

I met Valerie in 2001, within a month of my coming to Canada, and we got on well. She was nice but unassuming, and I expected – and wanted – no more. But through a series of contrivances that would require their own dedicated blog, she ended up spilling the beans that she wanted ‘more’ out of our relationship, and frankly I was, well, flattered, but – worse – curious. But as an 18-year-old freshman in a foreign country and a tough program (Computer Engineering); I wasn’t keen on distractions. Still, I was curious (1st year was a bit of a breeze, anyway) and I acquiesced.

But soon I found myself smitten and in uncharted waters. I was eager to spend as much time with her as I could to nurture our gently flowering relationship, so I did what any enamored boyfriend would: I accepted an invitation from her to go to a weekend Catholic retreat organized by the Youth Group where we first met (oh I didn’t mention we’re both Catholic? Yes, this was a chaste relationship – anyone looking for the smuttiness should wait for the blog post “How I Spend My Weekends In Toronto”).

What happened there will require an epic movie trilogy to do it any justice, so I’ll just summarize as thus: she ran into an old flame (and I don’t mean the Holy Ghost) and the next week said we should just be friends because she had “prayed about it” (ok, maybe it was the Holy Ghost).

So we spent the next 3 years in a curious limbo while our friendship flourished and my life perished. I’d give her advice and a shoulder to cry on, and in some of those vulnerable moments she’d give a good hard thought about the whole ‘friendship’ thing before sticking to her guns. In fact, she majorly flip-flopped at least 3 times, the last – and most earnest – being put off by my reluctance to try that again and get burned. By the time I realized I wanted nothing more than to take that risk, that ship had sailed halfway across the Atlantic, struck an iceberg, and sunk its way to 11 Academy Awards (sorry, wrong movie).

So how does this pertain to The Dark Knight? That will be resolved in the sequel to my maiden Two-Parter (not that I’d expect anyone to have made it this far…)