My friend JP asked me yesterday: “What are the top two character traits you consider when deciding who to spend your time with?”
Oddly, both of my answers come in the form of questions.
1: What do you do?
2: How are you?
Let me explain.
#1: If you ask someone what they do or how their job is treating them, you’re giving them an opportunity to show you how much passion they have for their occupation, their hobbies and life in general. If what they say is negative, they may be complacent and unwilling to find something they love, or are taking on a challenge that is too big for them to enjoy. People who love what they do, or find ways to really enjoy aspects of what they do, are inherently optimistic. Optimism is good.
#2: I only desire to spend time with people who will answer honestly when asked, “How are you?” Life is too short for sugar coated, embellished or minimized half-truths. If you had an awesome day and that’s the truth, perfect, high-five, but nobody has an awesome day everyday. Be honest about your challenges and your fears. These truths are the capital investment you need in order to build a non-surface, non-bullshit friendship.
I suppose I could have just said Passion and Honesty (sprinkled with optimism), but that wouldn’t have been as fun to write.
Yesterday I finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
Today I saw the film.
The Book: It feels more like reading six separate 85-page stories than one traditional novel. Each new chapter references characters from previous ones, but only because they move chronologically, beginning in 1849 and spanning 497 years.
Love, perseverance, slavery, fate and an interconnected universe all play key roles, with one character from each story possessing a comet-shaped birthmark — symbolizing one soul making its way through the entire book. This singular soul travels through time via humans of varying gender, race, age and sexual orientation. As a result, the universality of human experience comes across rather profoundly.
It’s a wonderful book, and I found myself sitting in front of the fire, accidentally spending all of my evening hours sucked into the lives of these characters. Mitchell manages to somehow capture the big-picture futility of our tiny individual battles, while highlighting the emotional importance each one carries in the moment.
The Film: As with any 509-page book turned $100 MM film, favorite characters were cut, action sequences added, story-lines shortened and, of course, a Hollywood ending was tacked on. My main issue with the film lies in the editing. At times, the story jumps among all six sections in the span of several minutes. It’s followable, but requires some effort.
Where the film falls short in story edits and jumpy cuts, it succeeds brilliantly in casting. I had originally thought it might be cheesy for Tom Hanks (and the entire cast) to play at least four roles each. To my surprise, having each actor play multiple roles makes the story visually cohesive to a surprising degree. Subtleties of the book are made quite obvious thanks to this casting choice.
The Takeaway: So much truly wonderful character development is lost in the film that I’m tempted to recommend reading the book first, even if that means missing the film in theatres. If you go anyway, expect to walk out of the theatre wanting to walk right back in again for a second viewing.
-On a personal note: Suicide, in the context of reincarnation, does not carry the proper weight. Perhaps it’s because I think that we each only get one shot on this planet, but the thought of removing oneself from the equation should not be taken lightly. While the notion that “death is only a door” may be comforting to some, bailing on this life in hopes that a next one may be better is not a rational thought. Better to make the best of what you have, while you have it.
I’ve spoken with a handful of close friends in the last month (still a bunch to catch up with) and every one of them inevitably asked the same question:
“Are you ok?”
I routinely stumbled over the first few words of my response, mostly because I wanted to impart the heavy duality that yes, I am ok, but I am still far from fine.
What I was really trying to say = “my core is intact, but my context is f*cked.”
It’s as though the world continued moving right along for everyone else, but it stopped dead in its tracks for me. My place in it and among all of you has fundamentally and irrevocably changed.
The person I am deep down is still there, and is ostensibly unchanged. (this is good)
The person I am in the world, my context, is left with a seemingly endless number of memories and relationships that must be updated. Just moments ago, while writing this post, I got a text asking: “When you guys coming to Chicago?”
I am the bearer of bad news to everyone who matters to me, and the bad news I’m relaying is doubly depressing because nobody knows how to properly respond.
That’s because there is no proper response — no ‘right’ thing to say.
So, my mission is to perform a hard reboot of my context. I’m not sure where this reboot will take me, but I’m open to the possibilities.
If the world is a big puzzle, I need to figure out where my piece fits. (and no it’s not an edge piece, those are easy)
Being completely on my own again after years of companionship has taught me a lot about myself.
Turns out that if I don’t have someone to spend my money on, I don’t really spend money. If I don’t have someone to cook for, I don’t really cook. [Microwaveable burritos are cheap]
The thought of earning a living in the context of raising a family is entirely different than earning a living for myself. The big picture now seems smaller than ever, and without a mortgage to pay, I am no longer tethered to any specific geographical location.
This imposed freedom feels much less free than you’d probably imagine. Although, I have more frequent flyer miles than I know what to do with…
“When ya ain’t got nothin’, ya ain’t got nothin’ to lose.” - Bob Dylan
The original goal of ‘write something meaningful every day’ (#WSMED) was a positive one. I wanted to write a thought-provoking, relevant post everyday.
Given my current situation, I’m going to take a step back from this project. I don’t want to write sad posts and I refuse to post anything that isn’t honest.
I’m not happy to be walking away from this right now, as I really enjoy the exercise, but I have to take a little time to let the dust settle.
Hopefully when the time comes and I am able to write about good things in my life, you’ll come back and read about them. If not, no hard feelings.
Until then, it’s been rad.
note: I do still plan to post photos to this blog, and maybe the occasional animated gif.
“For the times they are a-changin’.”
Right now, the struggle in my life is like a huge pile of rocks.
Each rock has its own weight.
If I tried to carry the whole pile, it would crush me.
So, I am pushing my rusty wheelbarrow around to my closest friends and family, judging how many rocks each person is willing / able to carry and handing them off accordingly.
I hate to add weight to anyone else’s pack, but I don’t feel like I have much of a choice at the moment.
If you’ve already taken a rock, thank you. I truly appreciate it.
I know that I can’t give them all away.
The majority of them are mine and will always be mine.
YouTube is the old MTV
Figuring out who you are is just as important as figuring out who you’re not.
All of a sudden I’m jealous of men with families.
Other than Flower, I can’t think of another video game that completely lacks words or text of any kind.
When you start to play Journey, you go where you think you should go, and you continue to do that for two hours. It’s beautiful, but you don’t really know why.
The final stretch of the journey is visually gorgeous, and the music matches the gameplay perfectly.
As my friend Brian Levin suggests, play it all the way through in one sitting.
I am impressed, and surprisingly moved.