You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.
And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘oh no, here it comes. That I’m alone.’ It starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it…
That’s why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second because it’s so hard.
And I go, ‘oh, I’m getting sad, gotta get the phone and write “hi” to like 50 people’…then I said, ‘you know what, don’t. Just be sad. Just let the sadness, stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck.’
And I let it come, and I just started to feel ‘oh my God,’and I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch. I cried so much. And it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments.
And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness.
— Louis C.K., 9/20/13 (via psychotherapy)
9:24 pm • 20 September 2013 • 1,421 notes
John was shivering. When he signed up for the job, this wasn’t what he had in mind. Mindless drudgery in a cubicle? I’ll take it. High-octane adventure in the Himalayas? No thanks. Today, like yesterday and the two weeks before that, he was attempting to deliver a whisper to a Buddhist monastery. Apparently satellite phones go against the Eightfold Path.
John was almost done feeling sorry for himself and ready to start on the climb again when he heard them. The whispers in the shadows. Corruptors. Competitors, probably. Out to mess with his mind, destroy the message he was carrying. Usually John was a dutiful employee and the prospect of delivering a corrupt message would have horrified him. But today, he was glad just to get the job done, whatever state the message would be in when he arrived. He just wanted to get it over with and return home to be with his daughter.
But it was not to be. The whisperers in the darkness were not out to corrupt him. They were out to destroy him. As the figures emerged from the shadows and pushed him over the edge, John realized that he was about to become part of a statistic. He was about to become acceptable packet loss.
10:11 am • 20 September 2013 • 16 notes
Community Season 3 Episode 1
Life is not just about the living. It’s not about discarding death and tamping it down into the unknown. It’s about being pushed over a threshold, stumbling, and then deciding to press on. It’s about demonstrating decency in spite of, and because of, the tyranny of death.
The episode opens with Jeff Winger’s fantasy of the perfect life.
"We’re gonna finally be fine."
Winger’s idea of “having more fun,” “being less weird,” and generally being more “calm and normal” is to “live forever.” His idea of Life is never-ending joy and sleeping with Annie — who, to him, is a symbol of youth.
He’s jolted back into reality when Pierce returns, a symbol of death. To Winger, Pierce represents what prevents him from living forever. Pierce is a reminder that Jeff’s body and mind are in constant evolution, coasting second-by-second toward death. Jeff wants to live forever, not become desperately outdated.
Pierce, a symbol of change, brings news of evolution. Pierce spent his summer on a spiritual journey, evolving from rejection of the study group to acceptance that the structure of the group brings meaning to Life.
Jeff, the champion of (what he thinks is) life in this episode, unsheathes his weapon, the chaos of individual choice. This is in opposition to the “magic” structure that the study group provides, as symbolized by the table. Pierce touches the table, but Jeff manipulates the group into high-fiving Pierce individually as they file out of the room, leaving Pierce with an empty table. Jeff has successfully weaponized choice and effected abandonment. However, he doesn’t know that he has imposed a structure of his own, which will work against him later.
In Biology class, the group meets Professor Kane, who comes to them from the other side of the evolution. He has seen what capital-L Life is. It’s not about flourishing forever in a soup of unmitigated free will, but rather about finding a way to demonstrate decency within the confines of death. Life is not very special when it’s a constantly-buzzing, ringing phone, oblivious to its own shortcomings. Its value truly shines when it decides to break through several feet of concrete.
"A single blade of grass."
This clash of ideologies, of course, ends with Jeff Winger’s exile. Now, because Jeff had weaponized choice into resulting in abandonment, he inadvertently sentenced himself to death. Jeff finds out that his plan of letting the invisible hand take its course, rather than submitting to the power of the study room table, is the death he was suppressing the entire time.
Because he hasn’t gone through the grueling rebirth that led to Pierce’s evolution over the summer, Jeff has no means of coping with his death. Control and manipulation, Jeff Winger’s strengths, hold no power here on the other side of death. Professor Kane, the symbol of rebirth, is forcing him to face this reality.
Similarly, Dean Pelton finds out that he has no control over Greendale despite his undying devotion to the place. In fact, he never had control. He just didn’t know that he had no control. Jeff and the Dean are in a similar place at this point.
"I forgot everything you said before ‘rectum’!"
Jeff, desperate, pleads with Professor Kane to get back into the class. From his perspective, the group has kicked him out, because that’s how he saw it when he manipulated the group into kicking out Pierce. Professor Kane is, of course, unrelenting. He demonstrates decency, something Jeff must learn in order to bring his character arc full circle. The Professor points out what Jeff cannot see yet — the Professor has a code that gives him structure, but Jeff’s lack of morality is a prison in itself.
Outside the study group lives
Señor Student Vent-Dweller Chang, insane and desperate. He lives in Greendale’s subconscious, the vents, and he is mistaken for a monkey. He is what Jeff will become if he does not evolve soon. Jeff needs to cross a certain threshold, or his fear of death will consume him.
In fact, Jeff is already turning into Chang. He dives into the vent after Chang, which is essentially the first step into his madness.
Dean, in an attempt to regain control of his school, fills the vents with gas that affects monkeys — that is to say, an unevolved Jeff Winger.
This is where the episode begins to draw on Kubrick’s (and Clarke’s) depictions of evolution. I recommend this blog post if you’re further interested in this part of the episode. The show wants the viewer to bring in his/her previous meditations on change and evolution. I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader.
As a result of his hallucination, Jeff begins to pass into the next stage of his evolution. This is his painful adolescence in which he begins to accept that the structure of the study group, represented by the table, is truly magic. He is correct. However, his descent into Jack-Nicholson-in-The-Shining madness continues into a murderous rampage. He deals with his loss of control by attempting to destroy what is controlling him. In this way, he takes on the appearance of an old man, representing death.
So far, he had been trying to find ways of circumventing the structure of the study group to kick out Pierce. He had not dealt with the root of the issue — what does the study group mean to him? When confronted with the real power of the study group’s structure, he turns on it, trying to destroy it with an axe but barely making marks on its surface.
Later, the group uses its free will to force Jeff out — not just from the structure of the study group, but from the group of friends itself. However, Pierce puts a stop to it by sacrificing himself, accepting death so Jeff can achieve his fantasy and “live forever.”
"Everybody in favor of voting Pierce out of the group"
This is when Jeff atones with death. He sees that death can carry nobility and dignity. Evolution toward death is not the enemy of Life. In fact, sometimes, it’s what gives Life some meaning. The single blade of grass is more remarkable when it grows through a crack in the concrete than when it’s in an unbounded meadow. The result of unfettered choice and infinite life can be exile and loneliness. If we have the capacity to fight it using the structures that confine us, we must take advantage of it.
Structure and death can be the path to Life when combined with mindfulness and a sense of community.
(Side-note: I did not mention Abed’s C-story, but it’s about his personal struggle with the concept of death and closure. He does not evolve as Jeff does, but merely postpones the atonement. This sets up his arc for this season.)
6:24 pm • 11 September 2013 • 3 notes