"How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,"

“O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month–
Let me not think on’t–Frailty, thy name is woman!–
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow’d my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears:–why she, even she–
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn’d longer–married with my uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.”

"How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,"

Garden State

I watched Garden State last night.

There were things I didn’t like about it, but during most of this movie I had the rare experience of being excited about what I was watching. The script is talky bordering on didactic. This isn’t a story movie, it’s a state-of-being movie that will appeal to the same people who liked Waking Life, though the characters in this one don’t speak with nearly the sentence complexity used in that other, even more overtly existential one. The script’s bias toward its protagonist is almost always enjoyable; in the scene where he and his dad finally talk, however, we’re watching a fantasy: the son’s imagined telling-off of his father, with the father’s stance glaringly missing. But, other than the complaints I’ve already mentioned, and other than the instantaneous tack-on twist ending, I really liked this movie.

The comedy parts of this dramadie are terse and hilarious. Some of the humor is achieved through east coast/west coast cultural contrast; no doubt this layer will be most fully appreciated by those who, like the auteur (and like his protagonist), grew up on the east coast, left, and came back. In fifty years, it will be difficult to explain to a twenty-six-year-old why, when characters in a scene of this movie ordered Ketel Red Bull’s, I laughed out loud. But much of the film’s humor is more timeless. Though it’s not the first scene chronologically, the scene where the movie starts is when Zach Braff‘s protagonist and Natalie Portman‘s character meet in a doctor’s office waiting room. The tender, funny, getting-to-know-you stuff that happens between them in the next five scenes is my favorite part of the movie. The timing between these two, especially in their early scenes, reminds me of the immaculately played getting-to-know-you scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, when Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey meet on the train. While Natalie Portman and Zach Braff’s nuance/timing isn’t quite as masterful as those other two in Sunshine, it’s close, and the text of the dialog in Garden State’s scene is better.

There are other memorable funny and suddenly serious moments in this film. While it lacks mastery in the construction of an overall arc, and while it veers a bit too far for my taste away from “moving story” into “thought situation”, this movie is among a delightful few that exel in portraying detailed, original, human moments.

Garden State

You feed your fire and your fire feeds you.

Amy writes: “It is important to me that I have my own personal time, apart from work, to relax and stay healthy, spend time in prayer, time with loved ones. But I feel very counter-culture in this effort–that there’s an expectation that people should be skipping lunch breaks and staying late and commuting long hours to work. And that being too busy to take vacation means that you’ve got the right amount of work. I very much like the idea of a Sabbath, in the face of all this. Time that is dedicated, for God’s sake and our own, to something other than work…”

I also like that idea of Sabbath. And as ammo against those who claim that the Sabbath Time and the Work Time are at odds, consider that Sabbath Time is resting-the-muscle time, rotating-the-crops time…far from being at odds with Work Time, Sabbath Time is Work Time’s necessary and supportive counterpart.

One of the most important things I’ve learned I learned while on a Shamanic journey with Shringara Hasya, camping in the woods of southeastern Ohio. In the mornings, we went to the lake to gather fresh water. In the afternoons, we gathered wood for the fire. In the evenings, we boiled water to make tea and we talked about our lives. In the evenings it was cool; sitting at the fire kept us warm into the night so that we could stay up and talk. The fire, as a source of heat and light, took on the status of a third party to our evenings. It wasn’t just Shringara and me; it was Shringara, me, and the fire. For days we collected water from the lake to make tea, gathered wood for the fire, drank our tea and talked. We came to explicitly recognize the extent to which we *needed* our fire. Without the fire we would be cold. Without the fire we could not see. Without the fire we would not have safe water to drink. We needed the amenities it provided and we appreciated the role it played in our time in the woods.

The last night of our stay, however, we realized that there was a profound dimension to our relationship with the fire that we hadn’t yet considered. When the flames died down and we grew cold, we took wood from the stacks we had gathered and added them to the burning pile. The fire would keep us warm…but not if we didn’t feed it wood. And so we saw the mirror aspect to the idea that we needed our fire: our fire needed *us*. It needed us to collect wood during the day and to feed it wood at the right times. It needed us to supply an initial spark. It needed us to tend the pile of coals, to allow oxygen to reach its core. Without us, it would die!

You need your fire and your fire needs you. You feed your fire and your fire feeds you. If you neglect your fire, your fire will be unable to warm you. If your fire lets you get too cold, you will be unable to gather its food. This relationship exists in great multiplicity among the systems of our world.

You feed your fire and your fire feeds you.

“Will i ever get the opportunity to write off the world…” (AK)

“…will i ever get the opportunity to write off the world and pat myself on the back and tell myself that i am doing just fine as i am? will i ever stop these exercises in self-annihilation? the picking up of people magazine, or the assessment of someone else’s home, or the reading of the websites that tell me how horrible my diet is, how wrong i am to do so many of the things i do…” (AK)

I hope so! A round of Zen for us both. And kudos to those who posess the ability to so reflexively turn their backs, dealing a passionless, instant, “fuck you” to People magazine and everything it’s telling you to doubt about yourself. I find reading about eccentrics to be a delightful antidote to some of the harmful effects of advertising culture. Nothing makes me feel more normal than learning about people who are weirder than me. =)

“Will i ever get the opportunity to write off the world…” (AK)

"The neocortex is largely a courtship device…" (Geoffrey Miller)

“The neocortex is largely a courtship device to attract and retain sexual mates: its specific evolutionary function is to stimulate and entertain other people, and to assess the stimulation attempts of others. … Just as the peahen is satisfied with nothing less than a visually-brilliant display of peacock plumage, I postulate that homonid males and females became satisfied with nothing less than psychologically brilliant, fascinating, articulate, entertaining companions.” (Geoffrey Miller)

"The neocortex is largely a courtship device…" (Geoffrey Miller)