In the ordinary world, I am somewhat attentionally deficit. I work at home on a computer, and against my better judgment, every day while I work I flick backwards and forwards between my work and the internet because I simply can’t help myself. On any given day I tend to have 10 browser pages open at once. Before I finish the end of one page, I have generally flicked over to another, or to check my email, or to look at Facebook, or to look at Twitter.
I hate it. I feel like an addict, like I’m munching my way through those pages, going from one to another without digesting properly. I guess a lot of the stuff I like to read is about subjects that are maybe a little deep, and that feel wonderful to me – creativity, humans and how we work, spiritual stuff, the stuff that goes beyond the dreary and desultory everyday. I guess what I’m looking for when I read (and when I watch a movie) is meaning – finding it, keeping it, living in it. Because to be honest, I’m struggling, in this world I find myself in. It’s too fast, too loud, too disjointed, too meaning-deficient. What the goddamn is the stupid way we live for, exactly?
But then what can we say about the world we find ourselves in that hasn’t been said a million times before? How can I talk about this deeper sort of stuff that compels me without sounding like a wanker? I find that people have a limited ability to talk deep because they’re basically too busy just trying to get through the day. Sometimes that makes me feel lonely and frustrated in equal measure.
This weird system we are forced to live under is too in love with the economy at the expense of damn near everything else. Where do the stories about us fit in a world where the economy is the new god, and we are forced to be its subjects? Where do we fit in? And how does this system make us see each other? It feels like every turn in this world I am encouraged to see people as cogs. There is nothing to stop me from looking at you and seeing someone who is simply not-me, and simply in my way.
I sat in a university class on Thursday afternoon listening to fellow creative writing students who are 20 years younger than me talking about how flatpacked and meaningless this culture is to them, how going overseas opens up their eyes because they see people who are living in ways that are meaningful. There was something about hearing those people say those things that made me feel hope. Even though they have been born directly into consumer culture in a way that I wasn’t 41 years ago, they still harbour the same hopes and desires for things that it’s becoming harder and harder to find the words for.
This search for meaning, for story, is why I love writing and reading. And it’s why I love going to the movies. Like Patrick Goldstein, I am an old-fashioned purist when it comes to the cinema. Even in the age of Netflix and DVDs, there is still a ritual about moviegoing that sets it apart from those other forms of viewing. Something about sitting in the dark feeding your face with popcorn with a whole lot of other people who are all sharing the same story turns it into a sacred space for me.
When I go to the movies, I guess a lot of what I like to see is about meaning as well. When I was a child and before I could read, my Mum read a story to me every single night. By the time I was eight years old I was spending afternoons clambering up the Faraway Tree, polishing off one of Enid Blyton’s books from the time it took to end lunch and begin dinner. It was escape, but it was also developing imagination. It was learning that there are as many different ways of looking at pretty much anything, and that every way you do look at something opens up a particular world at the top of your tree. It colours the way you see everything. And so this is why I love going to the movies. I love seeing enormous people who are not politicians or corporate shmuck going about their life. I get to see through their eyes, and sometimes, on very special occasions, I see something so different, so good or so bad, and it changes me.
In the cinema, I am stuck. I’m not at home. I can’t go and get online. I am forced to sit there, even if my mind wanders. I don’t want to check my mobile phone. Nor do I want anybody else to check theirs. We might miss something. I want us, just for this little time, to be all looking the same way and all seeing the same thing. Just for a couple of hours.