Love With A Capital L

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

And I Am A Material Girl — May 16, 2022

And I Am A Material Girl

Just a few short months ago, I would have written a full series of posts on how much I disliked Madonna, how I thought she was sickeningly overrated. In fact, maybe I did. I don’t remember. But I do remember laying out terribly detailed arguments against her to anyone who would listen. Then, in a surprising twist, my sister had the 2 disc greatest hits set Celebration buried in a mountain of cds she had given me as trash for a project which I had intended to take on.

I would have immediately moved it to my garbage can, but track 1 on disc 2 is Dress You Up, and if you are alive, you love Dress You Up. I stopped fighting the losing battle against that song (pretending I didn’t love it, pretending I didn’t sing along at the top of my lungs) a long time ago. So I put the discs in my car only planning to listen to Dress You Up on repeat 15 or 20 times before they found their way to the landfill.

But a strange thing happened when I was late to repeat track 1 – track 2 began. Track 2 is Material Girl. We all know Material Girl is an embarrassing relic of the ‘80’s, bubble gum, disposable, pure sugar superficiality. Isn’t it????

“‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right,” is a great line. Then, “Experience has made me rich and now they’re after me” is fine (better than fine, actually) but the way she sings “’Cause everybody’s living in a material world and I am a material girl,” is transcendent. My series of nasty posts would’ve surely included a huge section on Material Girl. And they would’ve been absolutely wrong. Vogue, Hung Up, Music, Borderline, Everybody, Burning Up, Cherish, I could go on and on, (don’t even get me started on Holiday) and the cds stay in for weeks until I can summon the superhuman strength to push eject.

Sigh, Madonna is awesome, but there is a bigger point here. Sometimes we are so familiar with something that thing loses it’s power. We take it totally for granted, we treat it as an everyday, common occurrence. We begin to see miracles as routine. The tremendous beauty of a sunrise or -set fails to register a second look. A hug, a wink, The Shawshank Redemption, my mom, Morrissey, throwing & catching baseballs, Oreos, so much just passes by unnoticed.

I remember the first time I kissed the Angel. I was wildly nervous and overwhelmed that I would ever have the opportunity to kiss such a lovely woman, and then we did and then we got married and we did a million more times and I am mostly no longer nervous and not overwhelmed enough at this even more lovely woman. When I think about her and her soft lips now, married nearly 22 years, she is way better than Material Girl, or even Holiday, I just forgot for many of those years.

I wonder how many things are like that in my life. The first time I held my boy Samuel, I wept at the enormity of this new life, how much I loved him, how much I prayed/dreamed for him, and what all of it meant. Tonight he and I had an argument over grades. Grades!??!?? He is the most wonderful young man, can I really be missing these day over a test score?

I know there’s room for grades AND appreciation, arguments AND gratitude, but too often it’s just grades and arguments. The Bible talks about ears to hear and eyes to see, and I think Material Girl is probably what those verses mean. We sometimes need new ears and eyes and lips to experience the familiar as brand new, so we can see our lives as the mind-blowing gifts they truly are.

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff — May 9, 2022

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff

Yesterday I saw Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, last week Moon Knight wrapped up, and there is something quite interesting about them. They aren’t for everyone. I can’t remember previous Marvel films about which I could’ve said that.

Doctor Strange was a mind-bending horror trip through multiversal universes. I don’t even know if that last sentence makes any sense to you, but spoiler rules dictate that I can’t say anything else. I will say one of my sons and I liked it very much and my other son and wife, the Angel, didn’t at all. (That she didn’t is no surprise, we had come to terms with that long ago – however, that I took her on Mother’s Day is a term that we’ll need a bit more time with.) After the movie, I received a text asking me how it was, and I couldn’t exactly answer. I said it’s not for everyone, and that’s 100% true.

Moon Knight was a series on Disney+ about a relatively unknown… superhero? Avatar? A man who is awfully handsome and awfully mentally ill whose multiple personalities are being manipulated by an Egyptian god that may or may not be the skeleton of Kevin from Up. I liked the promise of the 1st episode, liked the series less and less through episode 4, LOVED episode 5, and episode 6 was fine. The first 5 were less standard superhero stuff and more painfully honest character study, until they lost their nerve and returned to a standard final act which resolved until the last 30 seconds, when it didn’t.

I feel a certain way about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it is our mythology. Why those stories are treated with reverence and studied in English classes, and these films are treated as lowbrow trash is so confusing to me, maybe it actually is the perfect illustration. Maybe I am the lowest common denominator. Who knows? I don’t really care, though. I’ve long since left behind the term “guilty pleasure.” I am drawn to artwork that helps me understand the human condition and emotionally connect. I can’t think of a better wide AND deep, completely relatable depiction of grief than Wandavision. Or a more relevant dive into our complex mistrust of authority (sometimes we are paranoid and they really are after us) than the Winter Soldier. And though the movie was pretty disappointing, Iron Man 2 saw and highlighted our collective struggle with our own mortality in the middle of a backbreaking responsibility and a clear call to something greater.

I am not a witch destined to rule or destroy the cosmos, (at least as far as I know), but I have lost people, knew that my heart was irreparably broken, and wailed under the weight of “what do I do now, without you????” You too, right?

Anyway. What I think about these latest 2 installments of the MCU is, they were ok, not for everyone and it’s THAT evaluation that is so hopeful to me. The things that really affect us, that really mean something, probably aren’t the things that are sanded down to avoid all edges. McDonald’s “hamburgers” are engineered to be ok to everyone – that’s how you sell billions, but they’re nobody’s favorite. Your favorite probably has bacon and cranberries and a special kind of hot sauce or pickle, right? And maybe the person with you sits there wondering how you, how anyone, could possibly like that!?! Ask 3 people about Wandavision, 1 of them will have HATED every moment of it. And 1, like me, will think it’s PERFECT and go on and on, write blog posts about how deep and wonderful and real it was.

It’s funny to talk about a studio that makes movies that bring in billions of dollars like this, but I might really dislike this next Thor movie and that prospect thrills me.

Anna — March 28, 2022

Anna

Inventing Anna is a new buzzy Netflix documentary-ish film. Each of the 9 episodes begins with the clever disclaimer: “The whole story is completely true. Except for the parts that are totally made up.” A wildly unlikeable “German heiress”/con artist dupes plenty of people who should have known better and (I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know the story) may or may not end up convicted for these acts/crimes. 9 episodes. 9 long episodes about this woman and the superficial culture that made all of this possible. 9 hours of my life I won’t get back.

The acting was terrific. The writing & directing were good, music was great. The events on which it was based were surreal and fantastic. The cultural critique was sharp and pointy. It’s exactly the sort of thing the algorithm would figure I’d love, and normally it would be right, it is the sort of thing I’d love. But I hated it. I don’t have to like everything, and I don’t have to always agree with the algorithm.

There was a square of 4 desks in “Scriberia” and 3 of the 4 characters there and the trainer, Kacy, were alright. The husband of the journalist who broke the story was awesome. Everyone else (I might be swayed on the lawyer) was absolutely awful, carefully crafted images of human dollar signs.

[Awful isn’t always a dealbreaker, the greatest tv show in the history of tv is Seinfeld and there aren’t many redeeming qualities to be found. The show acknowledged this with the finale when they all ended up in jail for essentially being terrible people. But Seinfeld is the exception, an outlier. Whether they succeed or not, we need someone we like, someone to root for, someone to care about.]

Every good story – the ones we like that stick with us – contains a character arc. The protagonist is one way, and through conflict or obstacle, changes, grows, and becomes someone else by the end. We’re just the same in real life. We are who we are. Then we find ourselves (intentionally or otherwise) thrown into spaces where we learn, adapt, rise, fail, lose, win, get up or stay down. Either way, we are transformed at the end of this particular journey. Sometimes the stories hurt like crazy, but significance isn’t measured by enjoyment. And eventually the next story beckons and we engage.

We all know people who don’t, right? The people who remain the same, doing the same thing, going the same places, telling the same jokes, as the life drains from their, and our, eyes. Bored. Tired. Uninspired. And sometimes that’s us, simply surviving, going through motions, trapped in repeating loops of rut and routine.

Anna was the same in the episode 1 as episode 9. She was lonely & sad as she was chasing & catching excess, treating everyone like trash. She was lonely & sad in episode 9 as she was no longer catching the glamorous life she pursued, and still treating everyone like trash. People were to be used and discarded. At every turn, the characters made horrible decisions, ignoring their families and their souls. I found the show very very sad. I wanted more for them, I wanted them to feel loved and worthy, enough, regardless of how much money was in their bank account or how much their hotel room cost. I wanted them to rest. I wanted Anna to be held by someone who would care for her unconditionally. I wanted the lawyer to go on his vacation and Vivian to stay at home with her baby, reading Goodnight Moon and singing lullabies. (And I know not everybody wants the same things or values the same things I do…)

I also know it was a movie. Maybe she’s lovely. And maybe ‘more’ IS a worthy goal for our lives. I’m not sure, though.

Looking Around — January 4, 2022

Looking Around

Today I watched Don’t Look Up, a film on Netflix. I had already planned to watch since the trailer premiered, it looked fantastic and I believe that Leonardo DiCaprio should probably be officially classified as a national treasure. Then, last week, a Very Great Friend texted me that I just HAD to watch this movie as soon as possible so we could discuss it. This friend is deeply trusted – the last time I got a text exactly like this was for Into The Spider-Verse, and we all know how that one turned out.

It’s about a comet (referred to as a “Planet Killer” by one of the characters) and it’s path towards the Earth. I’ll try to not tell you how it turns out, but I make no promises.

Sunday night a different Very Great Friend’s mother passed away suddenly, without any warning. They had shared a wonderful Christmas a week earlier. No warning. Yesterday another Very Great Friend’s uncle passed, and the day before we received word that a young husband/dad was declining in the hospital. These last 2 years (maybe it’s the last 2 ,000 or 200,000 years, and I just haven’t been paying attention quite as closely as I am right now) have been an endless painful parade of suffering and loss.

How does this relate to some Netflix original? What does this have to do with a Hollywood produced 2 hours of political propaganda? (I’m only a little kidding about that propaganda jab – it is, but it’s quite a bit more than that.) What does this have to do with comets and yet another amazing Meryl Streep performance and a yet another slimy Jonah Hill character? And what does any of this have to do with Christmas Eve and the book of Genesis? Turns out a lot.

The end of the film has a small group of people sitting around a table talking about gratitude, enjoying a meal together, and the line, “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” This was after 6 months of forgetting/ignoring what exactly they had, chasing all sorts of different threads around and around. It’s strikingly similar to a Bible verse, practically a paraphrase of the passage in Genesis. Jacob wakes from a dream and says, “God was here all along, and I was unaware.” And I missed it. We usually don’t know when our mothers or uncles will be gone, the last time we shared was usually unremarkable, spent distracted, or in the worst cases, fighting. We say, “if I had known, I wouldn’t have missed it, I wouldn’t have gone to sleep. I would have….” (That is what the Christmas message was about this year; A baby was born and the people then & now missed it, they/we were unaware.)

The best scene of the movie was 7 people sitting around a table, some of them family, in the sense that they were husbands & wives, sons & daughters, and the rest of them the sort of family that isn’t born, it’s made. They look different, with wildly varied experiences and perspectives, but they held hands in prayer and love. It was the best part of the movie but it’s also the best part of life, having each other to hold our hands, to love and be loved.

I’ve been thinking about a lot this New Year, what has been lost and as variants rise dramatically, what will be lost. A few weeks ago I concluded that the last year was a good one, mostly because my table was also full of both types of family. Maybe the biggest thing COVID stole was our families, our tables. And maybe the true cost was our awareness of our right here and right now, our gratitude, our attention, our experience of these divine moments. We’ll take them for granted, like we do everything else, and eventually have to say, mournfully, “I just didn’t know.”

I know that I very often write about this, but I can’t think of anything else we can do that is more important than to remind each other that we are loved, we are here now, and we are together.

Thriller — November 22, 2021

Thriller

If you missed it, the new Adele album, 30, came out last week.

I sometimes lament the over-categorization of pop music. I remember everyone on earth (or at least everyone in my small town in Pennsylvania) gathering for the world premiere of Michael Jackson’s Thriller long-form music video. We all sat transfixed, losing our minds, by one guy in zombie makeup. Everyone I knew and their parents loved Michael Jackson. A bazillion hearts skipped a beat when he glided across the stage during that iconic performance of Billie Jean when he unveiled the moonwalk that etched itself in our collective consciousness. The Thriller album sold all the copies – you know we all remember our own with the inset of a tiny tiger cub and Michael in a full ‘80’s Playgirl pose.

I imagine now that we would never agree because Michael Jackson would only be played on R&B radio stations, while the country fans remained truly oblivious and the indie snobs pretended not to know while talking about obscure garage bands on vinyl. It’s pretty much an either/or situation, instead of a both/and. We don’t like Asia AND Kool & the Gang anymore. We like Asia OR Kool & the Gang. And I don’t think that’s too awesome.

This lack of communal experiences hasn’t yet wrecked films, although the streaming “Same Day As Theaters” premiere is threatening. TV has already been lost – water cooler moments where we gaped at cliff-hangers and huge surprises are antiques. SO much of the beauty of art is its ability to connect us, and the connection is lost when we’ve nothing in common.

I guess it’s cool that we can watch what we want (choosing from infinite possibilities) when we want, further individualizing our lives. But maybe isolating ourselves isn’t what any of us need right now. Or ever.

Anyway. I was kidding when I said “If you missed it,” because Adele sort of transcends genre lines of division. Every radio station and entertainment forum knew and waited breathlessly in anticipation for this record from this ridiculous talent to drop.

And it did and we all listened together, no matter where we lived or who we voted for or what we thought about masks and vaccines. And it was simply beautiful, to do this with you, with everyone.

It hardly mattered that the album itself was largely underwhelming (with a few glorious exceptions). What mattered was that we were there together. Finally. Again.

The Immeasurable Beauty of Shang-Chi — September 8, 2021

The Immeasurable Beauty of Shang-Chi

Monday we all went to the movies to see the latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It’s a very long title, it brings back terrible memories of Fiona Apple’s second album title, shortened to “When The Pawn…” It’s super long, nobody can remember it and feels 50% too pretentious (which could also be an apt description of Fiona Apple and her terrific music, “50% too pretentious.”) She said this about the title, a poem she wrote after poor reactions to an unflattering article written about her, “It came from being made fun of,” she said, “and then, of course, it becomes a thing I’m being made fun of for.” Ha! 50% too pretentious or not, she’s awesome, and if you don’t believe me, listen to the “Extraordinary Machine” album and you will.

Anyway. Shang-Chi is amazing. It’s slow and patient, and feels quite intimate (until the last act, which has all of the explosions, dragons, punching, kicking and supernatural derringer-do you could ever want.)

What I loved about it is what I loved about Black Panther and what I love about being alive. Shang-Chi was a celebration of Chinese culture in the same way Black Panther was of Black culture. The ethic, music, dress, color, feel, pace were all differently gorgeous from each other and from me. It seems pretty strange to hold a superhero movie up as an example of depth and care, but these MCU movies aren’t what we think they are. I’ve said before, they are our mythology, complex explorations of the human condition in it’s glory and it’s brokenness.

The problem with racism is that it strives to eliminate this kind of difference, to whitewash everything and everyone until it is all the same monochromatic shade, no matter what the shade is. It’s gross and grounded in fear. And the reaction is strikingly similar, looking to achieve a colorblind world that either pretends to not see the beautiful differences or annihilate them. Of course, this is also rooted in fear.

Why would we want to do any of that? Why would I want to pretend to not see different colors, different cultures? Why would I want to avoid cool interesting defining textures? Why would I want all food to taste like chain restaurants and all shops to look like Walmart? Why would we ever want to sand the edges from our world?

Captain America isn’t the only superhero. The MCU has room for Shang-Chi, Black Panther, Gamora, and Groot, all heroes, all given room to exist exactly as they are. Why can’t we?

It feels so disrespectful to ignore our differences, exactly the opposite of open-minded progress or social evolution. I want to know who you are, where you came from, how you see politics and religion, and I want to let you know who I am. I want us to love each other authentically, as we are, all the amazing things that make us, us, and not from behind some ridiculously fake inanely crafted image of Blah.

So, I think we should do that. Instead of the politically correct masquerade, let’s take those dumb masks off, hammer them into sand, and breathe deeply in nothing else but love.

Black Widow — July 14, 2021

Black Widow

Last weekend I saw Black Widow…in the theater!! I wonder how many times I’ll have to go before that loses it’s excitement and new-ness. I know the answer is more than 2 (I saw Godzilla vs Kong in March), because I had butterflies like the Angel & I were on an early date night. It wasn’t a first date, because those butterflies were large birds with talons and teeth, and lots and lots of energy. More like a date in the 3rd or 4th month, when the nerves were invigorating and pleasant.

When I was a kid, a trip to the movie theater used to be an adventure we looked forward to for days. That novelty wore off (except for BIG releases like Fight Club or Endgame) and it was just another option in an ocean of choices. I’m thrilled that feeling has returned.

I’ll tell you if the answer is 3 in September when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes out.

You know, I used to go to quite a lot of live music shows. Once I got to a certain age they lost most of their draw – too many people, too loud, too expensive…well, I guess it was simply too many “too’s” for me. I wonder if I’d like to go back now.

COVID took so much from us for the past year and a half, I wonder if we’ll be surprised to find there are gifts to be enjoyed as well. Sometimes things are so familiar, so common they lose the wonder they hold, like kissing your wife, hugging your boy, driving your boys to basketball practice, sitting in air conditioning on a scorching hot day, pushups, deadlifts, spaghetti, fast dancing to music in the house with your sister, singing along to a song on the radio, those shoes, and on and on and on. When the scales fall, giving us the ability to see them again with new eyes, it’s overwhelming. Of all the people in the world, do you mean I’m the one who gets to actually kiss her??? Has the world really become a place where I can sit and watch these boys play baseball??

I recognize that lives have been lost, anxiety has ravaged our psyches, relationships have been damaged beyond the point of rescue, some of us still have trouble breathing, much less sleeping, the fear of What Could Never Happen (But Did) is oppressive, and going to a movie theater is way too trivial a thing on which to focus, even embarrassingly so. But sometimes it’s the trivial and seemingly insignificant that give us hope. That give us the strength to take one more step. That give us the beautiful notion that the world will continue and we might be ok, sometime down the road in the future, however long it takes.

We had a flood once that drowned our house and everything we owned. Our spirits were crushed under the weight of starting over from scratch, not to mention the looming fight we were inexplicably destined to lose with the insurance company, and the enduring emotional fallout. And in the middle of all of this, my wife’s best friend Laura gave me a book – one of my favorites: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – that I had gifted to her years before. It was her way of saying “I know it’s the kind of dark and awful that feels like it might never not be dark and awful, but this is something lovely.” It was just a book, but it was so much more than a book. It was the promise of life wrapped in her sweet heart. That horrible flood ended up having a million gifts like that, where human beings were exposed as kind, caring, and generous. Most people don’t get to experience that sort of avalanche of love, and I wish they could. It was a book about a record store, and it changed me forever.

It might have been the best movie I ever saw or it might be ok. I can’t give it a proper review because it’s impossible to detach the art from the context, and I don’t want to try. To me it was perfect.

Is Any Of It Real? — May 31, 2021

Is Any Of It Real?

I have 2 teen-aged boys, so one of my favorite experiences is to introduce them to the art that moved me during my life. One cannot live on Marvel movies alone, you know? Almost, but not quite. We’ve watched The Money Pit, Predator, Naked Gun, and Lord of the Rings, listened to Nevermind and The Joshua Tree, and the younger one has started to dip his toes into Kurt Vonnegut. They don’t always get it, but I certainly do. I remember why I loved these things and most of the time, love them even more with the benefit of the extra 10 (or 20 or 30) years on this spinning ball.

Saturday we watched The Truman Show. It’s about a guy who’s been the unwitting subject of a reality show since he was born, 24 hours a day, everything and everyone a production. Except for him. When Truman asks, “Was any of it real?” Christof (the creator) answers, “You were.” It’s beautiful and even more perfect today than it was in 1998, when it was released.

I thought then that it was a pretty sharp commentary on reality tv, like Running Man, a prophesy warning of the dangers of the path ahead of us. And maybe more importantly, a vehicle for Jim Carrey to explore something other than broad stretch-faced comedy. Both of those are still there, true, and very successful, but the film is bigger than that.

In Rogue One, a character named Chirrut says, “There is more than one sort of prison, Captain, I sense that you carry yours wherever you go.”

That describes so many of us. We decide what we are and are not capable of, live lives as if “it is what it is” and “they are what they are” and worse, “we are who we are.” We build the walls that define our limits, and never test them. It’s like Truman. When asked why he never questions this artifice, Christof answers, ” We accept the reality of the world that we are presented,” and there might not be a more accurate statement in the entire film. We accept a wide variety of settling simply because it’s been presented to us as reality. The dome that encircles Truman’s world isn’t unbreakable, it’s really fear – of water, or death, of the unknown – that keeps him inside.

I often think about my fear and the steel bars that make up my own cage. What are they and what would it mean if I were to tear them down? These 2 questions are absolutely vital to explore, and like this pretend town, very nearly impossible to notice until we do, then it’s all we see.

Maybe it’s time to stop accepting so much. Stop carrying our prisons around wherever we go. Stop settling. Stop relying on old habits that didn’t work then and don’t work now. And stop calling it reality.

Just because it happens to be true today doesn’t mean it’s true tomorrow. I’ve heard it said that we move, transform, start, leave, risk, jump only when the fear of staying the same outweighs the fear of change. Truman found that space, sailed that boat into the vicious mouth of his fear and walked through the door into a new reality. Yes, it was a reality that would be missing predictability and safety, but the old one was missing honesty, authenticity, love. It was missing the things that make life so wonderful. It was missing life. And as he chose life, I could no longer hold back my tears because it’s not just Truman, it’s you and me, too.

So now what?

The Stairs — May 13, 2021

The Stairs

I haven’t written for a minute because I’ve been sick with the COVID. Mine is a very mild case, but it does carry with it an unpredictability. Every morning I wonder if today will be a good day, if I’ll have energy, a headache, a stuffy head, or just how severe my chest tightness will be. This, of course, isn’t awesome, but over the last 2 weeks I watched a loooong documentary that I had been meaning to catch. It’s called The Staircase and details the death of a woman and the murder trial of her husband, who happens to be famous author Michael Peterson.

I suppose it’s actually about the justice system in this country, with these people, their families and communities as the backdrop.

The Staircase is 13 episodes – 8 original with the next 5 added over the last 20 years of this ridiculous saga. So, I watched every one and have no idea how this woman died. Maybe she fell, maybe she was beaten, maybe an owl (no kidding, an owl!) attacked her. Who knows? I don’t know if everyone is telling the truth or if no one is, if they’re all just doing the best with the limited information they have.

Not everyone was telling the truth. There was a crooked investigator in North Carolina named Duane Deaver who we can all be quite certain was a villain in this story. Maybe he’s not anymore, maybe in being found out, he was forced to look in the mirror and his soul and changed his life. I often dream like this. Just because we are one way today doesn’t mean we have to stay that way. The boxes inside which we put ourselves and each other are really just tape on the floor that we can easily escape…or they should be. There’s an honest discernment involved. Obviously, we don’t want this guy anywhere near evidence or in any position of authority where he can steal any more years of any more lives, but there must not be a period where a comma should be.

I did not like The Staircase. I didn’t really like any of the characters too much, especially Michael Peterson. His arrogance was gross, his pontificating was inane and endless, I even found the tone of his voice grating by the 3rd or 4th episode. I just wanted it over. I cared about the owl more than anything else.

Afterwards, I looked up on Google to find out why anybody liked it. And guess what I found? One of the women on the documentary crew named Sophie ended up in a relationship with Peterson, who was first found guilty by a jury and then finally ended up pleading guilty to the murder of his wife. This love connection sounds awfully strange, but it’s an excellent illustration of my tape on the floor description, isn’t it? She didn’t label him or classify him as anything. She simply saw him as a human being, and I like that more than I can tell you. I can’t imagine what she saw in him, but Sophie is easily my favorite person in The Staircase and the one I’ll take with me long after I forget every last minute of this American tragedy.

Rise of Skywalker — April 23, 2021

Rise of Skywalker

I wrote this last year, before the world stopped, and for some reason never posted it. It’s still true.

I saw Star Wars and I liked it. Of course I liked it. I am the target market. If a marketer’s intended demographic had a face, it would be my face.

From around 5 to 12 or 13, nothing mattered more than Luke Skywalker, Jedi knights, empires and rebellions. 24 year-old me cried at the opening crawl of episode 1…on a date. As I write this now, it’s less embarrassing than it was then – the happy ending is that the date was with the Angel, and she still married me.

The 2 externals in my life that mattered the most were Star Wars and, later, Morrissey.

In High Fidelity, the author Nick Hornby asks the question if we find the things we find because we are the way we are, or if the things we find mold us into the way we are. Which comes first?

Did I love Morrissey because I was super-sensitive and leaned towards loneliness and melancholy? Or did those songs push me in that direction?

I suppose it doesn’t matter now. No matter how I got there, I did and now I’m the sort that cries at movies and paintings and, well, everything. It’s probably a combination. If I was the captain of the football team, maybe Morrissey would’ve sounded sad and whiny and I would’ve tended more to Led Zeppelin IV or Nickelback. If I was a 5 year old girl, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to fight and liberate the princess and the galaxy (in that order) with a laser sword and space ship so badly.

Sometimes it feels like the road has been mapped out perfectly all along, that we found the people and things that made sense and gave us some context for our lives at EXACTLY the right time. So perfectly, in fact, that it can make us question if we have any free will at all or if we’re just puppets in a theater having our strings pulled by giant fingers in the sky. Then other times, it all seems so random and confusing, with no narrative or plot, like we’re bumper cars driven by toddlers.

My favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes (and this is likely no surprise, I imagine it leaks into everything I write and say.) It holds all of this confusion, the duality of an authentic life lived with eyes half closed (or half open;), with both hands. The Writer asks questions without expecting answers, is comfortable being lost without needing a detailed map home. A life that holds everything “temporary” (a better translation than “meaningless” – it’s not meaningless, not at all, only temporary) lightly, wanting to understand but willing to abide in the uncertainty, content to eat and drink with the people we love.

Star Wars wasn’t perfect, but in a world that has much much much more than enough pain and suffering to go around, it was beautiful. Morrissey is, too. I don’t care how they got to me, I’m just so thankful they did.