it's like

...trying to unscrew a tight bolt that's 2 feet above your head. would you struggle and strain from where you stand, or would you fetch a ladder or a chair so that you can have some leverage on the bolt?

it seems to me that many people live their lives without considering chairs and ladders. they suffer in frustration, never finding the right leverage on their problems.

embracing imperfection

Sitting across from me in starbucks sits a beautiful young woman with her son in a baby carriage. I notice that the only imperfection on her face is a mouth full of scraggly teeth. When I take off my headphones to eavesdrop, of course, she speaks with a faint French accent.

Here, what reasonably well-off family would allow their daughter to grow up with crooked teeth? No, they must be bent back into shape using wires and glue, or else she won't become the perfect flower she's destined to be. Without straightened-out rows of pearly whites, shiny and conforming, her prospects in the job marketplace and romantic racket may be greatly reduced. If you want to make it in this town, baby, you've got to hammer yourself into the perfect mold. Think of it as an investment -- as we do about everything, it seems.

in the theater last night

The mouth-breathing couple behind me seemed never to have set foot in a theater before. Aside from snoring while (apparently) awake, they felt compelled to give their internal commentary in real time:

"oh, it looks sad."
"why are their pants pulled up so high?"
"how do you think it'll end?"
"I've been thinking about it, and I bet it'll be sad."

After the lights turned back on, their two teenage (maybe college age) boys ambled over to give their two cents:

"I wish I had gone to see Anchorman instead."
"It was weird."
"That was too deep for me."
"I was like, I didn't know whether to feel bad for the guy or not. Because it was weird."

During the movie, I stopped myself from turning around to snap at them because I felt such pity – for their restricted breathing and restricted thinking. I only hope something sunk in for them.

Later, the image of a perc test came to mind (I've been doing too much land research). It's a measure of how quickly water absorbs into the soil, and it's necessary to determine what kind of septic system will work on that particular land. If the water absorbs too slowly, the septic system will have to be built up from huge amounts of imported sand, a very costly operation. If the test is bad enough, it may not be worthwhile or possible to build at all.

I wonder if there's a percolation test for people; I suspect there is, but it's not so quantifiable, unfortunately. That family last night clearly wasn't worth building upon, but maybe, just maybe, some of the water seeped down, to touch them later in life. At least the kids were young enough that there's still time for them to outgrow Anchorman.

What does it take?

Tarkovsky on Women

A woman, for me, must remain a woman. I don't understand her when she pretends to be anything different or special, no longer a woman but almost a man.
Women call this "equality".
A woman's beauty, her being unique, lies in her essence, which is not different, but only opposed to that of man. To preserve this essence is her main task. No, a woman is not just man's companion: she is something more...

I don't find a woman appealing when she is deprived of her prerogatives, including weakness... and femininity... her being the incarnation of love in this world.
I have great respect for women, whom I know often to be stronger and better than men, so long as they remain women.

That was Tarkovsky's answer in A Poet in the Cinema. At first, I bristled at his seemingly old-fashioned view of gender roles, dismissing it as a traditional Russian male perspective, but on reflection, I see his point.

When women try to be strong, they often over-do it. Think about the female politicians or business people who decide that in order to compete with men, they have to be more ambitious and backstabbing -- so they in effect become psychopathic men. Think also about female athletes (particularly fighters), who become more vicious and driven than similar male athletes. If women were allowed to play professional football, they'd probably kill each other on the field.

This phenomenon happens when the strength is an act. It's inauthentic. And when someone chooses or has been conditioned to act inauthentically, problems are bound to follow. In my experience, this kind of strong woman can vacillate between domineering and passive. When the façade gives way to nurturing or traditionally feminine instincts, the inauthentically strong woman expects to be taken care of. At other times, the switch is flipped, and the woman demands to be in charge, as if the previous mood never happened. It's confusing because there's an internal conflict. Nobody wants to be seen as weak, yet real inner strength doesn't come easily. It can only be faked for so long.

Women manifest strength differently than men. Through devotion, receptivity, consistency, selflessness, she shows real fortitude. If she reacts against innate femininity, she becomes a caricature of a man. It must be confounding for women today, who are pulled (and pull themselves) in opposite directions, denying their inherent differences, never finding a resolution.

Of course, a lot of this strife comes about due to thoughts, ideas, expectations, beliefs, and projections of how things should be. So, how is it possible, for a woman or a man, to be authentic, to be complete, to transcend the ideas of roles naturally? It's a tall order! I suspect it involves mining the deep well of compassion, found through solitude -- the precious resource of which we deprive ourselves.

Tarkovsky knew all of this and through his films, expressed it in his unique, dreamlike way.

older peers

It's possible to interact with older people as peers because it's common for a person to spend 10,20,30 years developing plot rather than character.