WARNING: This post contains no boobs and no booze. I've been accused of "going all introspective and philosophical" on yo' asses, so be ye forewarned, and proceed at will!
(Happy, Kate? teehee)
One night when I was a teenager my parents had plans for the evening and I had the house to myself. This was a rare occurrence; my parents were the ultimate homebodies and didn't often stay out past 9 PM. I had no plans with my friends and was happy to have some alone time. Even then, I cherished a few hours of solitude and used those hours much the same way that I would use them now: by watching a movie and eating something crunchy and salty with a high fat content. Some things really don't ever change.
That night I had gone to the video rental store and picked up a movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan called Joe Versus The Volcano. I watched it all... and hated it. Really, really hated it. I thought it wasn't funny and was dull just plain stupid.
It wasn't until many years later that I watched the movie again and saw what the film makers were trying to achieve. Sure, it's ridiculous and the climactic scenes are completely absurd, but there is a much deeper and more poignant theme at work if you overlook the dumb stuff. There is symbolism - the recurring lightning bolt, the flower defying the odds by growing through the crack in the sidewalk only to be stepped upon by the masses, the brain cloud, the flickering and buzzing of the florescent light bulbs in Joe's office, the mixing of the cold, blue imagery of work with the warm reds of the tropics. The tropics themselves ultimately symbolize Joe's salvation. Even the fact that Meg Ryan portrays three separate but somehow interconnected characters is a commentary, of sorts.
What I never got before is the movie's message, and maybe I never saw it because I had not yet experienced the monotony of rising every morning and going to a job that is, quite literally, draining your soul. I couldn't know at age 16 that I too would someday discover that all of the body and head aches I feel while sitting at work will drop away like petals from a flower as I get in my car and drive away from the building. How could I know then that I would someday feel like I, too, have a brain cloud between the hours of 9-5?
One scene in particular stands out in my mind, in which Joe has his big epiphany. He is staring at the moon while stranded in the middle of the Pacific on a raft made out of his luggage, and he says, "I forgot how big it is."
Now, I know just what he meant. Every once in a while you find yourself looking at something in nature that makes you realize how huge it is, and how insignificant we are in comparison. You forget that there are planets, galaxies, and the unfathomable vastness of space out there. The day to day drudgery keeps us from seeing the forest for the trees, and if you're not careful it will bog you down to the point where you let your brain cloud overtake your life. You become a shoe-gazing pessimist who wallows in trouble and basks in misery.
I need to remember that my troubles are small and my joys are great. I need to be grateful for the love I've been given without questioning from where it comes or why. I need to remember that in the grand scheme of things, it is not about how much you get or do or achieve, it's about embodying and broadcasting love and gratitude. If you're not happy, change what's making you sad. If you're not fulfilled, find something that fills you to the brim. If you're complacent, do something that scares you.
I'm going to make a concerted effort to do just that, starting today. I promise.
Life is short, and maybe we are specks of cosmic dust on the shoe of a peasant in some other world, so grab some happiness and own your life.
So, you see, even silly movies can inspire deep(ish) thoughts. If you haven't seen it, give it a try, but don't come cryin' to the Bev when you think the whole orange soda thing is lame or don't laugh at the understated humor. I like it, I quote it, and I think I get it, but it's not for everyone.