Saturday, December 10, 2016

I am Legend

I watched this movie a couple of weeks ago.  As I wake up this morning, I realize that the real theme of the movie is solitude.  I say this because the version I saw came with an alternate ending where the main zombie just wanted to get his girl back.  Will Smith gives her back, the zombies leave, and he heads to Vermont with the girl and the boy.  They quietly hope he is wrong and she is right, and they drive into the rising sun.

There are also four short animated features, each grimmer than the last.  In the first, the last girl alive in Hong Kong writes a suicide note then jumps off a bridge.  In the second an escaped convict finds himself trapped in the prison he just escaped.  In the third (or second: I may be confusing the order, and my memory is a little hazy) Latin American troops gun down both the medical personnel and the people they are treating.  Three kids watch it, and as I recall, one of the kids winds up infected too.

In the last and to my mind worst, a young girl in India is ordered by her father to go to a shelter they have, but she defies him and goes to see a young boy she is in love with.  She comes back eventually, and her father will not let her in, since he fears she may be infected.  They tell her they left her food, and will let her in in 48 hours if she is not yet infected.  She is infected, and slowly goes mad with hunger.  At some point, the door opens, and she sees only ghouls in the vault, and kills and eats one, her father.  Then she goes to find her boyfriend, who is also hungry, and brings him back to the vault, where they kill the rest of the family.

To my mind, this whole zombie thing relates to the regression to a primitive social state while still within an outwardly normal social context.  We Americans--but to some extent much of the West, and perhaps even the world--feel primitive rages, the compulsion for ritual activity that is driven by neurological knots, feel isolated and alienated because we have not yet graduated to higher spiritual states, and no longer have access to ritual mass death, mass hate, mass violence, as seen in wars and true bigotry.

To comment on the specific metaphor, I think a young Indian girl radicalized to left wing politics by indoctrination by her professors would fit this metaphor well.  She no longer loves in any traditional way.  She no longer feels affection for her family, her people, her country.  She no longer exists as part of a whole.  Her mind is warped, her nobler emotions blunted, her sense of anger and violence sharpened, and her capacity to attack her own family at the core of its being well developed.

To return to Will Smith, ponder someone fully alienated in New York City.  They are surrounded by people all day long, but they feel alone.  There may as well be no one on the street.  Perhaps they can trust their dog.  We all get that, I think. This is why "I am Legend" could easily end differently.  A number of other endings would have worked just as well.  What if Will Smith had become a zombie with his dog and taken to still roaming the streets, but only at night?  He would have adapted, but kept his dog. That actually would have been more congruent with the animated endings.

I read in the Old Testament something like "with wisdom comes sorrow", but I increasingly feel that pains have textures, and pain is rarely pure, rarely unmixed with joys, and sensations and feelings which are simply interesting, new, different, if we allow them through in their pristine purity.  This is perhaps one root of masochism, although of course there are others I won't get into here.

And the other day it occurred to me that observing my emotions was like watching fish in a large tank.  They swim around, but they don't affect me.  And I felt, why not expand the tank?  Why not allow my emotions range within a wider and wider universe?  They sparkle and change.  What they are one minute they may not be the next.  I don't control them: I can merely control my focus of attention, and in some cases suppress awareness of what I am feeling, or substituting one emotion for another: perhaps anger for sadness, obsession for helplessness.

I am those emotions, and I am not those emotions.  The I can travel back and forth, and this traveling itself is a form of spiritual growth.  But I do feel the image of emotions in motion at a distance--as opposed to being frozen in amber, in an eternal static form of the sort engendered by true dissociation--is growth as well.  One can enter the "amber" as well, but what it is is a hologram that always enacts the exact same thing, in the exact same order, eternally.

So much of life is softening what is hard, finding new motion in old circles, and realizing how much larger we are than is immediately apparent.  The tacit notion that we are all machines exists at a primitive level, it is bred into us from an early age, and it is both quite pernicious and quite superable.

No comments: