One week, like the Barenaked Ladies' song.
I've spent most of this past one trying not to be sick. I've almost succeeded. In the relaxation part of my self-medication, I have seen quite a few movies. I've watched Benny & Joon on Encore more times than I could count. So many times, in fact, that I even started writing a blog entry about how, even though I don't call myself a rabid Johnny Depp fan, I think he's a fantastic actor. Thank goodness I came to my senses and didn't publish that one. I blame it on all the honey intake.
Some of you might be relieved to learn that I have finally watched Sliding Doors. I had heard enough about the theory to have the movie figured out, but it was worth watching. But as I was watching it today, I was reminded of something I realized last night.
Now, I am certain this is unoriginal. It might even be obvious. I don't think, though, that it had ever actually occurred to me. Last night, something clicked in my brain about why we love Story -- and by Story, I mean books, movies, sitcoms, whatever. At least in a traditional sense, a story is complete. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Of course, it might begin in media res and the resolution might insinuate a future, but by necessity of its medium, a story is going to finish (in 312 pages, in two hours, in thirty minutes). And here's the kicker: as a reader/viewer, we get to experience that. We get to behold something complete, something whole. And that's more than any of us can ask for in real life.
I think the same reason we love Story is the same reason I find romantic movies completely frustrating: the illusion of the Big Picture. (This is where I know I'm not saying anything new here.) When we watch a movie, we see the whole plot, and in many instance, we know more than the protagonist does about his or her story. Also, because we're watching a movie, we even have a sense of a coming resolution because we know it's supposed to end in twenty five minutes. The character doesn't have that luxury. What I'm hitting at here is omniscience.
In "real life" (I dislike that term), we don't have omniscience. We can only see as far as we are, and we don't even perceive that very well. Story, though, lets us be omniscient for a little while. We at least are allowed to have faith that everything will turn out okay. In our own actual experience, it's not that easy.
As an occupational hazard of living a life, we don't actually get to see it in its entirety until, well, the end. And who knows if we will ever have the opportunity for ultimate hindsight, some posthumous Big Picture feature presentation? At that point, I guess it doesn't matter anymore.
The point, I suppose, is that Story is almost like glimpsing the Eternal. (Not always, I realize. Otherwise, there sure would be a lot of crappy eternity out there.) So stories are frustrating because we can never immediately liken our own lives to them. Time doesn't allow us that. But neat little plots are maybe smudgy reflections of reality. They give us hope of wholeness, of everything working out for the good. We can see that perfection in the stories that we read and watch, and for a moment, we know that our story is like that, too, even if we can't yet see it.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)