Saturday, June 27, 2009

I've Seen This Movie Before

I hated the movie "Titanic." There I said it. Beyond being the worst movie to ever win "Best Picture," I could not see the point of starting a movie where you know how it ends. No matter what twists the writers have put into the script to keep you occupied for the next couple of hours of your life . . .


And Leo isn't going to get the girl.

Same thing for lots of historical and fictional movies where I know the ending: Glory, Diary of Anne Frank, Schindler's List, even West Side Story. Some people don't mind it, but I just sit there in dread for two hours. 'Cause that's how I roll. Mr. Positive. And I need to change that, because if I don't, it will progressively rob me of the enjoyment of Tony and Maria falling in love in the first reel.

I am reaching the point in life where I am starting to realize that I know how this movie ends. Life is a sexually transmitted disease that is terminal in all cases. At a certain point in life, people in your first degree of separation start receiving news from doctors about their particular terminal condition.

"Well, you can see here, Mother and Father Greyhound, there's no circulatory problem, and there is no sign of stroke, but Father Greyhound has experienced some shrinkage of the brain consistent with Alzheimer's Disease."

Flash to Father Greyhound's confusion driving at night and getting lost in familiar surroundings.

Flash to our dear neighbor's wife who deteriorated over a period of 20 years until she was afraid of everything, including her spouse.

Flash to Father Greyhound's father, who looked exactly like him who looks exactly like me, and how he became increasingly combative and paranoid and withdrawn.

Father Greyhound only 70, and has not yet even had the opportunity to retire and take up a hobby. I imagine myself at 70 and it does not involve working my ass off to make ends meet or battling with diminishing faculties or loss of self. Now, however, I know how this movie ends, and I start to worry that I know how my movie ends. But there is a whole 'nother reel to the film, and (unlike Titanic) some great songs and scenes to enjoy along the way, for him and for me.

Indeed, that script has not even been written. If the ending totally determined the value of the intervening journey I wouldn't even do triathlon. I know that, in the end, no matter how hard I train, the podium will not include a short little welp like me who did not begin exercise until his late 30s. The ending of that movie has the tall, athletic kids on the podium who ran track or swam since they were kids. But that does not take away from the grace and joy of the first reel, wherein I learn I am stronger than I thought, and I know what it feels to be truly alive.

Sure, we all know how this movie ends, but very little of who you are will actually travel all the way to the ending with you. With the exception of one particular group of cells, every atom in your body will be regenerated and replaced at least every 10 years--from your red blood cells to your skin and even down to every cell in your skeleton. The lone exception is that mass between your ears, your brain. What is to be done with the new you that gets out of bed every morning? Do those new cells and the new you get a chance to excel, explore, enjoy?

No one would tell a toddler that it is vain to pull up on the coffee table and walk because, in the end, we perish. If, in the end, that one set of cells you were born with shrinks, and you become something other than you before you die, what are you doing with your first reel?

This weekend, my first reel includes a 1/2 Iron triathlon. It will hurt. It will probably be hot. And all along the way I will be tempted with the voice that reminds me how the movie ends. But I get to write this part of the screenplay.


Spokane Al said...

Wow. Very nicely said.

Coach Tammy said...

But Leo DID get the girl! He just died afterward...

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

Yeah - I've been focussing on my own mortality this week. Interestingly, it's come back around to my potential as well - as in, what's the point, we all die anyway?

i'm trying to chew myself out of that rat trail.

Garry said...

I also know how my movie ends but I refuse to accept that I have to sit and wait for it. There is far to much joy, sweat, pain and tears to enjoy between here and there and I, like you, am going for it. Beautiful essay once again!