Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Tragedy — September 26, 2022

Tragedy

This weekend, I watched a Netflix documentary series that was one of the most depressing things I have ever witnessed. And what I’m going to try to do is find beauty and hope in it. Try.

First, let me tell you about what I did Saturday. We (my family and some visiting in-laws) piled in a car and went to the local amusement park. It’s local but it’s also known around the whole world. That’s always an interesting dichotomy to reconcile in my head. Something extraordinarily famous is in my backyard, making it feel familiar and routine, like if Lady Gaga was your sister.

(But I always write about taking amazing things for granted, like kissing the Angel and kindness and Morrissey, so I won’t today.)

What was striking about this park is the extent of the corporate greed on display. I recognize this is nothing new in commercial America, where industry is built at the altar of MORE. Parking fees and food prices are obscene and attendees are shoehorned in until actually riding rollercoasters is nearly impossible, as receipts pile up. I rode 3 rides and waited an hour and a half for the privilege of buying hot dogs.

I am not an idiot. I have a business degree and a working knowledge of insurance and hidden costs. I don’t even have a problem with rising profits. This “wonderland” provides a service that is specific and fantastic, they should all get filthy rich on it. My problem is the contempt they showed for me and all of the other suckers who essentially paid to stand on their property. I can take the fact that I am not their #1 priority. So, I’m educated as a business major and a marketer, but I was raised in the ‘90’s to distrust and rage against any, and all, machines. Especially the machines that can’t even manage to even pretend that I’m in their top 20 list of importance.

Which brings me to the Woodstock 99 documentary, Trainwreck. This is, first and foremost, a story of dollars > people. But it’s also a story of people who are either a) treated like animals because they are, or b) behaving like animals because they’re treated like animals. I happen to believe it’s the second. Probably even the sweetest bunny rabbit will bite if it’s cornered and beaten for long enough. Most of us will lash out if we are hated loudly enough. Maybe we wouldn’t set the town on fire, but we might kick the dumb insincere peace and love signs down. And it does take a special kind of monster to sexually assault another simply because they are in close enough proximity to do so.

Which brings me to the thread that ties all of these together. Simply because we can doesn’t mean we should. Because the amusement park is the only game in town doesn’t mean a 1,000% markup on popcorn is any less offensive. Because the Woodstock promoters can have 1 water fountain for every 100,000 people doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and because some frat boy can grope a woman (and much, much worse) without being stopped doesn’t make it less abhorrent.

Now. There is a bright side. “Mob mentality” was referenced over and over in the doc, and that same concept applies to board rooms and management meetings. We all think so (or we think we all think so), so we all go along. We say, “we could probably raise prices another 100% before it begins to keep anyone away,” and we look around for agreement, salivating over bonuses and perks, drowning out any voices of dissent, and we end up raising them 125%. We see those neanderthals setting fires and pulling down towers and the internal voice that objects goes silent and, the next thing we know, we’re turning over nearby cars and trying to break into ATMs.

We’re social creatures, looking for belonging and acceptance. The good news about this is if we were to, say, replace the violence for generosity, switch anger for care. You know when you’re around someone relentlessly positive and hopeful, you feel buoyant and like maybe this ship doesn’t have to sink? Same principle. If we, just 2 or 3 of us to start, were to treat the women in our midst with respect instead of trying to rip their clothes off at a concert, maybe everyone would. Probably everyone would. Certainly everyone would. And those that wouldn’t would find their actions met with strong resistance and protection. If we would begin to love each other, treat each other like the treasures we are, then we could make new paths that are easier for the rest of us to tread. And then Woodstock might really be about the beauty of humanity and its creative spirit and we’d all be rich beyond our wildest imagination.

When Nothing Changes — September 20, 2022

When Nothing Changes

Last week I spoke about marriage, relationships, and the importance of not believing the story is over with the commitment, with the “I do.” But sometimes we do, things fall apart, and we wake up to the reality that what we have is miles away from what we had, or what we wanted, or dreamed we’d have. This is not exclusive to marriage. Our children, careers, health (whether mental, physical, spiritual, and/or financial), and on and on, all are susceptible to this heartbreaking disappointment.

I’ve struggled with food (sugar, mostly) & weight for almost my entire life. I would lose some weight, then once I would reach a goal, or “arrive,” then I would lose focus and over time, get back to a situation where I would have to lose some weight again. Obviously, I’m not the only one, the diet industry is massive and thrives on this sort of behavior. We’ve all been in jobs where they’re not what we signed up for – or they are, but we hoped they’d change, or hoped we could change them. We have relationships that have fallen into abuse, or infidelity, or disrepair.

Somehow, these circumstances (whatever they are) become uncomfortable, or unfulfilling, or destructive. And then what? What do we do?

We want to lose weight and don’t transform our lifestyles, don’t alter our behavior in the kitchen. We hate our jobs, yet resign to mindless routine. Our marriages are eroding and we continue to walk the same steps in the same old snow. There are a million examples, as unique as we are, but the heart posture is the same; despair. It is what it is. Really? Is it?

What if we could restore our families? What if we could reconnect with our spouses? Or find purpose in our careers? Treat our bodies with care and respect? All of this is totally possible, but none of it can happen while we’re stuck in the same ruts made by the same thinking and apathy that caused them. We don’t make new lives at a wishing well alone, don’t create new worlds saying “new worlds” while grasping with white knuckles to the old ones.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. We live these loops, rather than risk taking steps into unknown. These things require dreams and imagination, but not only dreams and imagination. They are the vital beginning, but then, they need to pass into action. Otherwise, the dreams will die, our imagination gets sucked away, and we mourn for the promise of what yesterday was and what tomorrow could be.

I think it’s time to break those soul-crushing loops, and they are simple enough to destroy. All it takes is the courage to move. All it takes is leaving the wide worn path we’ve been walking down. Of course it’s scary, taking (and missing) shots, stepping (and falling) into darkness, making new futures, but we’re all in this together. And to paraphrase the great philosopher Tim McGrath (of Rise Against) says, “let’s take this one step at a time, I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine.”

Love Stories — September 14, 2022

Love Stories

I’m reading a book called Just Like You, by Nick Hornby. This is the same author who wrote High Fidelity (one of the greatest works of art this planet has ever seen) and About A Boy. He’s written many other books (fiction and non-) and they are all fantastic, as is this one. I can’t understand why it’s taken me so long to finish, every time I pick it up, I don’t want to put it back down. It’s about an older woman (and by older, she is years younger than I am now, so it stings a little to write ‘older woman’), Lucy, who is falling into a relationship with a younger man named Joseph. The back cover says it’s “brilliantly observed, warm, tender, but also brutally funny,” and that’s true. It’s also a pretty great description of everything else he’s written.

I’m thinking now about how many (all) love stories detail the beginnings & ends of relationships. As they start, and feelings grow, the conversations brilliant, clumsy, each word & phrase carefully studied, every touch charged with electricity, tomorrows are uncertain and wildly exciting. The characters wonder if, maybe drift away and run back, and the story ends with some sort of commitment. The other, heartbreaking kind illustrates what happens when that love, that commitment, screeches to an emotional train wreck. The heightened passion that contained such promise transforms into screamed insults, abuse, broken dishes & furniture. The tears have a different cause, the soundtrack changes keys. The first part is a rom-com, the last is award bait.

The only phase that doesn’t warrant telling is the middle, unless it’s marked by infidelity, secrets, lies, homicidal nannies and boiled rabbits. It would seem a happy marriage is either unbearably boring, or a unicorn, stunning but imaginary.

But that’s simply not true, and maybe the widespread cultural acceptance of such a damaging belief is the very reason it persists.

We meet cute, ride a wave of romantic emotion, hearts in our eyes, get married and settle into a monotonous routine. We take the other for granted and “remember when” things were new and fresh, our best feet and underwear forward, and lament as this person in front of us gets sick, has morning breath, in-laws, period panties, and hogs the bed and all of the covers. We think we know them, their dreams, heartbreaks, and their stories, the pursuit ends, and wonder when everything fell apart.

The truth is, we broke when we thought we fell in love and stopped falling in love. When the wedding vows folded into the end credits. Our relationships got boring because we got boring, and we got boring because we thought there was nothing left to do, thought there were no areas of our partner left unexplored. We stopped talking, asking questions, listening. We thought our love story ended, so it did.

Playing guitar doesn’t get less interesting the more someone plays. Shooting percentages don’t go down with more and more practice. The artwork of a carpenter doesn’t suffer as they continue to build.

Percentages go down, artwork suffers, and things get less interesting as less interest is given. If you think sex is worse the more it happens, and that the first time is the best time, I don’t know what to tell you. When bodies and souls learn each other, and move together as one, as 2 people love in spirit as well as flesh…that sort of beautiful dance is not the fumbling of beginners any more than Hendrix’s is the fretwork of a novice, or Steph Curry’s jump shot is one of a weekend warrior at the local gym.

Conversations still crackle with energy, a kiss still is sweeter than lemon pie, coming home still carries the quake of anticipation – if only we allow them. We are all endless fountains of changing currents, the people we were as we exchanged rings are not the people we are now. We’re still just as fascinating as we were on the first date, except tonight, we have history and experience as well as surprise and novelty. She’s still as strong, he’s still as funny. Her smile still makes you lose your memory, his sharp intellect still amazes you. If only we allow it. If only we pay attention. If only we don’t stop falling in love. If only we keep choosing to love the other, every moment of every day.

Marriage & commitment is far from boring, it moves and carries us and gives us new blessings and wonders every day. It’s not easy, nothing worthwhile ever is, and it sometimes hurts like crazy. But we are in this forever and no amount of hurt can ever wear the shine off of the 10 million hours we’ve given to each other. Boring? Not even close. It’s totally real and it’s spectacular. If only we let it.

Morrissey — September 2, 2022

Morrissey

Lately I’ve been listening to a steady stream of Morrissey/Smiths albums. He has been my favorite singer & songwriter since I was 13ish, and this sort of thing happens from time to time. I’ll think, you know, I’d like to hear Bigmouth Strikes Again (“Sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every teeth in your head” remains the 2nd greatest first line ever in a popular song. The greatest is, of course, from There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: “Take me out tonight,” and continues, “where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive. Driving in your car I never, never want to go home, because I haven’t got one, anymore”) and then it’s several weeks later and I haven’t listened to anything else. I’m never sorry. It makes me feel like me, if you can understand what I mean.

Like so far today, I had a terrific workout, met with a friend for great conversation, played 2 board games with my son, read a little and wrote a lot. I’ll make dinner, eat with the other 3 in my house, and spend some quiet time connecting with the Angel later on. In every moment, this feels like the best version of me. If we had watched me from a distance together, I’d say what we saw is exactly who I am. I’d say the same thing about Morrissey’s voice. If you want a deep insight into who I am, you could do worse than to listen to tracks 10-13 (He Knows I’d Love To See Him, Yes I Am Blind, Lucky Lisp, and Suedehead) on the Bona Drag album. Incidentally, I actually don’t count it as an album, it’s more of a collection – if I did, it may unseat The Queen Is Dead as my very favorite album.

Maybe you care and maybe you don’t, but what I’m wondering is if we pick the things we like because we’re a certain way, OR if we’re a certain way because we pick the things we like.

I am hyper sensitive and given to depression. You could also say that about the entire Morrissey/Smiths catalog. Did I find it because I was predisposed, because I was looking for something that fit? Or did I find it purely by accident, and through its influence, I became someone it fit?

This goes for everything – movies, books, paintings, as well as college majors, interests, even people. Did I find the Angel because I was looking for someone just like her or did I find her and, because she’s so awesome, she became my type? Why did I fall in love so deeply with Jesus? Why do I like Catfish and documentaries on cults so much? Are they finding me, kicking down doors and rearranging the furniture in my mind, or am I looking for them, inviting them into the already existing decor?

I think probably the answer is different now than when I was 13, right?

We’re pretty well formed by now. Of course, we learn & grow & change our minds about things. I vote differently now than I did when I was 25, I value some things more than I used to, but you wouldn’t feel like I’m a totally different person. All the things that make me who I am feel like they are in place (I recognize these are scary words, as they usually lead to uncomfortable transformation), and I happen to like the man I am. I’ll just become more of him, more of who I’m created to be. I couldn’t always say I liked me that much, if at all, but I do now, and that is a cool thing to write.

Anyway, did I like Unloveable and Never Had No One Ever because I felt so alone, or…

You know, it really doesn’t matter at all. These things provide the texture of our lives, bestow such breathtaking beauty on our unpredictable, wildly dynamic lives as they mark the people, places, and events that matter. I don’t care why Morrissey became such a humongous part of my life, I’m just so thankful he did.

This Is Not An Apology — August 25, 2022

This Is Not An Apology

While there are fairly large parts of me that are equally suspicious and frightened, I really like social media. I love to see family pictures on Facebook and Instagram, scroll reels and TikTok videos for much longer than I should, I even like reading statuses (stati?). Of course, I could live without the general nastiness and political vitriol, but that’s easy enough to avoid if you try. These 2 blogs I write have been great outlets for me. I love to read what others have to say. It’s not a substitute for actual personal physical contact, “Facebook Friends” aren’t a replacement for friends, but what we do virtually is a certain type of connection. In fact, when we’re honest (a virtue mostly exclusive to blogs, we all know there isn’t a wealth of honesty posted on the Meta-verse), we can actually achieve a depth that is absent in many of our relationships IRL.

We write. We follow & read each other. I wish we could meet at a restaurant to talk over breakfast sometime. I try to write every week, and usually I’m quite faithful with that frequency. This summer, however, has been a different story.

I have 2 sons, one of whom is 15 years old and the other is 17. The 17 year-old is a senior and will graduate from high school later this year. Next summer the 15 will be driving. The 2 babies I brought home from the hospital are now both bigger than me, both can beat me at 1-on-1, the big one can deadlift significantly more than I can, neither require my help to feed themselves nor do they sleep on my chest anymore.

This is the last summer they will both be here as students. I’m not breaking down because the big one isn’t planning to attend college and won’t be moving out, so he will live here, but pretending things will be the same is a simple delusion. All change is loss, even awesome change. This beautiful achievement is also a monumental loss. I will lose my little boy. (You know what I mean, he’ll always be my child, my son, my sweet boy, but he will be an adult, he’ll be a man.) I am ecstatic & fantastically proud about this transition, and I am heartbroken.

What I have learned, and one of the greatest gifts of faith as far as I can tell, is the importance of being fully present in all situations, every moment of every day. Sometimes I get caught up in the distraction of somewhere or somewhen else, like everybody else, but when that happens, I just pull the edges back together, open my eyes and start paying attention again. I wrote ‘in all situations,’ but the truth is that some situations just weigh more than others. That last sentence has taken all of my almost 47 years (can I really be that old???) to realize.

So I value this space, your time, our connection, I try to write every week, and I haven’t done that. But this is not an apology, because instead, I was here.

The Differences — August 18, 2022

The Differences

2 years ago, we all decided to draw battle lines over a pandemic and a shot (or 4). There were many conversations (often very contentious) over a vaccination, whether we would or would not, with just as many reasons why or why not. The one I found most compelling was the one centered around a growing mountain of conflicting information. Scientific wisdom shifted almost daily, the evidence we staked our arguments upon became obsolete seemingly as soon as we adopted them.

But if we so much as suggested this confusion and mistrust, we were quickly branded anti-vaxxers, or right wing conspiracy theorists. I am neither. I had questions, concerns. I believe we all had some experience with this, no matter what we believed. No matter what questions we asked, they were met with wild aggression.

Now, the CDC is admitting that public guidance was “confusing and overwhelming.” Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC, says, “we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing to data to communications.”

I’m watching The Vow right now, an HBO documentary on the cult NXIVM. I’m sure I’ll talk more in depth about this a little later, once I finish the 9 episodes. But in the one I was watching this morning, a woman was speaking under the condition of anonymity to avoid the snap judgments she had faced. People were unbearably rude to her, calling her all sorts of nasty adjectives before (and often without) knowing her name. “How could someone be so stupid to willingly participate in a cult like this?” those on the outside asked.

I’m positive there are parallels as well as distinctions to make between the CDC and NXIVM, and I’m also positive I don’t want to make them. My concern is how it’s so easy for us to decide another’s why, so easy to lock another in boxes in which they can’t ever escape. We fought like animals (mostly on social media) because we all made assumptions about those whose only crime was to arrive at a different conclusion – and in my case, I hadn’t even arrived. Sometimes, the crime was to not agree fast enough.

When did honest questioning or respectful discourse become such terrible transgressions? I know this didn’t start in 2020, with Covid-19, but I don’t exactly care when it started. I do care about how it ends.

I have a good friend who is a transgender woman. As a white man, I know nothing at all about the perspective of a transgender woman, so I ask a lot, A LOT, of questions. And she, who is endlessly graceful, answers them all. And that is why we call each other ‘good friends.’ We don’t agree on everything, have vastly different experiences, homes, families, and we certainly don’t see the world through the same lenses, but we don’t have to. We just have to care for each other.

A monochromatic world is totally uninteresting. I don’t know why that woman chose to do the things she did in NXIVM, but I do know I’ve done things I regret for reasons that made sense at the time. The CDC is admitting they mishandled a situation in a big, high profile moment, but I don’t think they’re evil, and I don’t think they meant harm. They did the best with what they had when they had it. I don’t know that we did the same. Fear caused us to resort to cheap generalizations and instant uninformed judgment. Fear caused us to forget the honor and dignity inherent in being human. And fear caused us to build walls.

This nonsense only ends when we erase our battle lines, knock the walls down and open the cell doors to our shared humanity and the beauty of me & you, and start loving each other, even, especially, the differences.

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments — August 11, 2022

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments

I saw The Batman and the 3rd Fantastic Beasts films in the last few weeks and really loved them both. As a matter of fact, as far as Fantastic Beasts, it would be impossible to express just how much. Maybe I’ll try sometime. Maybe not. The Batman was awfully good, but I say that knowing full well that I am the target market, so it’s possible my opinion wouldn’t be the most objective.

We will talk about 2 other films: Under the Boardwalk: A Monopoly Story, and D.B. Cooper, Where Are You?! Now, what could these 2 possibly have in common, right? Not surprisingly, they also share it with Bikram, Holy Hell, and the Rajneeshees of Wild, Wild Country. The more I think about it, they share it with The Batman and Fantastic Beasts, Thor, The Avengers, Stand By Me and Stranger Things, too.

D.B. Cooper was the alias of a guy who hi-jacked an airplane in the 70’s, took $200,000, jumped out somewhere in Oregon, and was never found. The thing that makes it a cool story instead of a terrible story is that no one was harmed, outside of a minor inconvenience for the passengers. Some think he is still alive, may or may not be living in Florida, or that he fell to his death. None of that matters too much to me, it’s an interesting piece of pop culture, a mysterious American outlaw very much of a time.

Monopoly is a 100+ year-old board game that we’ve all played and that the Angel HATES. I was pretty neutral, but I like it very much since this documentary.

There are D.B. Cooper conventions, where people from all over get together and geek out over conspiracy theories, police sketches, and an inch of decayed nylon found in a forest. There are also Monopoly championship tournaments, which are exactly what you think they are. Rooms full of tables where the best players battle over rent, mortgage values and property trades. These people are weirdos, in the very best sense of the word. I know they are, because I’m one of them. We all are. We may not participate in these particular events, but we all have our D.B. Cooper conventions. (If we don’t, we should by all means immediately get one!)

The last 15 minutes (or episode) of the cult docs we all adore the former members are interviewed, and there is always an unmistakable air of melancholy. They miss the time they were involved (before the true insanity of everything was exposed). Thor & Hulk need a team, Batman finds he can not, and should not, be the lone hero vigilante forever. It is the relationships between characters in Fantastic Beasts that remain, none of us really care about wands or spells or CGI creatures.

The biggest lie that most of us know is a lie but tell as truth, and that we all apparently agree to let slide, even though we know nobody actually believes is that we are islands. We don’t need, or want, other people. We are wholely independent. We prefer riding alone.

Except we’ll do pretty much anything to find a community. We’ll drink Kool Aid, let a yogi behave like a complete maniac, play in Monopoly tournaments, or go to conventions for a 50 year old historical footnote. None of this is surprising in the least. I happen to believe we are created for each other, wired for relationship.

In Christian circles, it can be quite tempting to sound super-spiritual and say some variation of “all I need is God.” It sounds awesome and we all ooh and ahh, but can you take a wild guess where that sort of doctrine isn’t? The Bible. In Genesis 1 & 2, before the Fall, everything is “good” except 1 thing: the man is alone. The man isn’t alone, he has God and they walk in the Garden in the cool of the evening, but God still says, “it is not good for the man to be alone,” so He makes a woman. Then in the New Testament, He makes the Church.

Maybe you don’t believe in God or Genesis or the Church, or maybe you do, but don’t think it happened exactly like it’s written. A thing doesn’t have to have happened for it to be True. This Genesis account is as true as anything has ever been, we are made to be together. And I know this, without a doubt, because D.B. Cooper conventions and Monopoly tournaments exist.

Want To — July 26, 2022

Want To

Chuck Klosterman is just the greatest.

My 5 favorite authors are (in no particular order) Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Hornby, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Rob Bell, and Klosterman, all for very different reasons. But all of them have 1 important thing in common, and I think most great art has this same characteristic.

They all make me want to write. Or paint. Or Sing.

I happen to believe that we have all been gifted – that’s a big part of the first 2 chapters of Genesis. That an overwhelmingly creative God created people in His own image, making those people fantastically creative beings as well. That’s why I have such trouble making sense of those who would ever want to stifle another’s creative expression, whatever it is. Instead, it seems to me, that we should be doing all we can to encourage taking those gifts out for a spin to see what happens, what we’re actually capable of.

Chuck Klosterman writes the books I’d like to write, if I were as talented as he is. What makes his work so wonderful is that he’s Chuck Klosterman. Nobody else is. His personality and perspective is totally unique. What he isn’t – and will never be – is the Angel. Or me. Or you. We also have a personality and perspective and voice that is uniquely ours. Why would we ever want to pretend otherwise? Why would we want to take our squares and fit them into circles?

I often find that people move quickly through their own stories, thinking they’re ordinary and regular, when they are anything but. I always have a thousand questions because you are marvelous, exotic, individual and totally extraordinary. Each of us is a brilliant artist, we just might have shied away from that so far. Or maybe no one told us what’s possible. They only lied and told us what isn’t.

I can’t write Fight Club, or sing There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, or design the Louvre, or cook a fancy meal like a cartoon rat. Of course I can’t. What I can do is give last week’s Sunday morning talk, hug everybody close enough to hold, and write Chronicles, Nehemiah and Other Books Nobody Reads. I can be the kind of husband and dad that only I can be, one that loves so deeply and so passionately it drives everybody else crazy.

Here’s the best part: You can do the same thing, live your life out loud, dance, write, love, but none of it will look like mine. It’ll be cool and original and it’ll inspire all of us to create our own.

Nostalgia — July 23, 2022

Nostalgia

So I watched 2 documentaries lately: Class Action Park, about Action Park in New Jersey, and Humanity Insanity: Throwaway Society, about the modern rush into total disposability.

If it matters, they’re both terrific. But as the final comments wrapped up Class Action Park, I found myself with a knot in my throat and watery eyes. It’s true, I am what’s called an easy cry (which was why my total indifference in the new Thor movie was such a surprising giveaway to how I felt about it), but a documentary about a man’s avarice manifesting as complete indifference to the safety of his customers was an unexpected place to feel that well rising from my soft heart.

I have a business degree and, while I don’t remember everything I learned, I’m fairly certain that seriously injuring (and sometimes killing) patrons is not a viable strategy for long term growth. Who knows? The ‘80’s were a different time.

That’s what I mean, though. I grew up in the ‘80’s and it was a very different time. Does everyone romanticize their childhood? I’ve heard so many jokes about “back in my day…” and “when I was young…” and now I’m discovering that I say the exact same things.

Humanity Insanity detailed a rapid decline into a society where everything is made to discard; goods, feelings, people. That’s true. There are apps on our phones that’s purpose is to erase the messages immediately after they’re read. We delete all imperfect photos. Single serving. Planned Obsolescence. Half of all the food produced on earth is thrown away. Most marriages end in divorce. We shop for our churches and might stay for a few weeks, then move on.

I know, I know, I sound like everyone’s dad, but as I watched the people reminisce about this ridiculous amusement park, their memories were real, the relationships continued, the scars remained, the place is still there (albeit under a changed name.)

With a longer shelf life, we truly experienced these things; toys, movies, seasons, phases & fads. We listened to entire albums for months. Back To The Future was in the Top 10 for 24 weeks!!!! 6 months! The new Dr Strange is out of theaters, streaming and forgotten on Disney+ in 6 weeks. Singles come and go before we know the lyrics and can sing along. My boys barely remember what they did this morning, while I can recall every one of my MASK toys and every episode of Three’s Company. No one is getting weepy over the 2020’s (well, maybe they are, but for wildly different reasons.) No one will remember the 1 hit wonders of the 2 thousands – because here aren’t any. We had a nearby park where everybody went on weekends that looked like Golf N’Stuff from Karate Kid. And pickup games every day. I haven’t seen a 10 year old outside in days.

I wonder if this nostalgia I feel is for the connection. I miss my best friend and going to my neighbor’s house (with everybody else) to watch the premiere of the Thriller video. I miss my friends being flesh and blood and not simply a number on Facebook. I miss playing.

We’ve certainly gained so many great things, but maybe nostalgia is nothing more than an acknowledgment of what we’ve lost. I wouldn’t go back to the ‘80’s for anything, but is it too much to ask to bring some of the ‘80’s into today?

The New Thor Movie — July 20, 2022

The New Thor Movie

The new offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the 4th Thor movie, called Love & Thunder and before I tell you how much I didn’t like it, let me tell you about the band Live and a story I may or may not remember accurately.

Live made an album in the ‘90’s, their 3rd, called Secret Samadhi and it wasn’t met with overwhelming popular or critical acclaim. I loved it, and passionately defended it against the many, many friends who derided it. Then, years later, the members of Live, in an interview for a different album, also kicked that record around, essentially apologizing for ever having created such an embarrassment. (I remember this like it was yesterday, but I have a very good friend who promises me it never happened. I’m still operating as it did, but even if it didn’t, it’s a representation of a greater reality. We’ve all heard artists slander their own work in the promotion of the new release, right?) I felt silly for loving it like I did, for investing in it like I did, like I was being mocked by the very people I was supporting.

Now. 1 more thing. I happen to like the genre of camp, if you know what I mean. When the entire piece is a ‘send up’ of the genre, when we all wink and laugh along. But everyone has to be in on the joke.

I told you before I think these superhero movies are the mythology for a new generation. Like a 21st century Iliad. They use these extraordinary people & circumstances to address ordinary universal issues, like family, friendship, identity, commitment, responsibility, corruption, faith, love, kindness, and on and on and on.

And when directors like Scorsese and Coppola, and actors like Ethan Hawke (who was in a Marvel series!!!) de-value them as movies “for 14 year-olds,” it’s disappointing but nothing more than garden variety artiste elitism, easily ignored and/or dismissed.

This new Thor movie is a different animal. This is a condescending inside joke where the butt is the audience, me, and $500 million dollars worth of other marks like me. They’re treating it as lowbrow trash, utterly beneath them, and remain ironically detached. The serious, real, emotional moments float on by with little impact, the gags (like giant screaming goats) don’t land, and the overacting is mostly offensive. Making fun of people like me, who see everything and invest in the characters and storylines, doesn’t sound like great business sense and will probably end with lower and lower scores and grosses. I can deal with incompetence, but what I have a much harder time with is inauthenticity and hypocrisy, making huge paydays, cashing checks while laughing at those who write them.

What I have learned as an adult and a person of faith that I couldn’t understand as a 17 year old is that this snobbish posturing does just the opposite of its intention. Trying to force someone to believe or like something through condescension or judgment is small behavior driven by insecurity & inadequacy. And almost always works only to repel rather than attract. I’ve changed now, and you can like what you like. You can feel what you feel, be moved by what moves you, without the external noise of my feeble embarrassing attempts to control.

Suspension of disbelief is required when it comes to Asgard and gamma mutated Hulks. Maybe that’s why I didn’t care – the filmmakers and actors inserted themselves into the story and that cracked the immersion needed to settle into new fantastic realities. I thought about Taika Waititi & Chris Hemsworth instead of Korg & Thor, I thought of the writing/directing process during the movie instead of watching it all play out onscreen. Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought, maybe others don’t want to suspend their disbelief, and maybe you loved it, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? We can and should prefer different Live albums, and that is probably the best part of us. Why would I want to squash that, or try to embarrass you for where you find joy or peace or beauty? I wouldn’t, and I wish they wouldn’t have, either.