Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Escaping Ennui

Ted and I went to escape the heat as well as taking advantage of Maya's going to her best friend's house on Saturday (free babysitting!), and we drove into Berkeley to see "A Scanner Darkly." It's a complicated tale, and one wonders how and why the main character (played by Keanu Reeves....whoa....) got to be where he is. In one flashback that may or may not be real, we see him in his home, with a lovely wife and two children. The wife and kids are playing a board game, and he is reading the newspaper. He gets up to make some popcorn, bonks his head on an open cupboard door, and realizes that he hates his life...hates getting up, going to work, coming home to his family, being happy. What does he hate so much about it? He hates how predictable it all is. Hates that in any given day, he knows exactly what is going to happen. His life lacks spontaneity So, the next thing you know, the family is gone, the house is a dump, and he's involved in some undercover sting operation to stop a huge drug ring, a task for which he becomes addicted to the deadly drug, "D", and proceeds to lose touch with reality.

Yesterday, I was walking Genevieve, the spoiled, "I get two walks a day even when it's frikkin 115 degrees out there" dog (don't yell at me for taking her out in the heat...we wait until the sun goes down for her evening walk, and if it's still too hot, we hose her down first...I didn't want to get reported for cruelty to animals or anything), and listening to my beloved iPod. I was listening to a podcast of This American Life. The show was a repeat of a show from last year, titled "Go Ask Your Father." (I couldn't link directly to the episode for some reason, but you can go to the link for TAL, and then search for "Go Ask Your Father", if you want to hear more.) The second act of this show was a man whose father left his family and went on a quest to find extraterrestrial life. At one point, the son asked the father, Why? Why is it so important to leave your family, and find life elsewhere? Why that need? The answer struck me...the father said that if all there is to life is what we have on this earth, getting up and going to work every day (he was a successful professor) and coming home to the wife and kids, if that's IT, then life becomes meaningless for him. He's an atheist...he finds no hope in a greater meaning from God. So he is looking for meaning from outside of our realm. He admits it's pretty unlikely that he'll ever make any sort of contact, but he wants to try nonetheless.

See the common thread here? Two people who are so terribly bored by their lives that they can't continue it status quo. I think we all feel this way sometimes, we get terribly bored with the routine of cooking, cleaning, working, eating, sleeping, walking the spoiled dog, whatever. Ennui comes in and tries to take us down the slippery slope with poor Neville (click the picture, above, to read the miserable fates of all the Gashlycrumb Tinies). Of course, I do understand about dreams put aside to make room for the uncomfortable realities...the career we wanted and didn't get, the children we didn't have, the husband who passed away too soon, the wife we should have married when we had the chance, etc. But the extremes to which these two men went struck me. Especially the true life case, the man searching for extraterrestrial life. Not so much that he left his family to follow his dream...I think that sort of thing happens a lot, with both men and women. But it was strange to me that he can't find anything worthwhile, any meaning, on this earth...

If suburbia is just too boring and mundane, what about safaris in Africa? What about becoming a crab fisherman in Alaska? Playing piano on a cruise ship? Hitchhiking across America and finding out a few things? What about joining the Peace Corps? What about the many myriad miracles (how's that for alliteration, mom?) that our world has to offer, both beautiful and tragic? It seems to me that this earth in which we live, our Earth, is full of miracles great and small, and I was just amazed that he couldn't find worthwhile pursuits right here.

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