Hi I’m Tim, and this is Fence Grade Smoke.
You’ve probably read a really good book that put you into the shoes of someone else, or heard a song that hit a chord, or watched a movie that spoke to you on a level that nothing else had. Maybe you’ve even read a blog post by an author that left you wanting more? (Hint hint.) Once you’ve had your time you might feel a void leftover that craves to be filled again because it left an impression. It doesn’t even have to be a creative work, but rather a feeling of nostalgia for something in the past.
And carrying that emptiness is not fun.
To fill said void a few guidelines must be met:
1. It must strike a chord,
2. A certain emotion must be fulfilled,
3. Whatever it is has to steer you away from the mindless chatter in your head.
When something connects there is a weight that accompanies it. Perhaps a bond between minds that is tied to a moment, or many moments, with this piece. For instance when Breaking Bad was popular audiences around the world were captivated by Walter White’s endearing mission to beat the odds of terminal cancer and graduate from a high school teacher to drug lord king pin. If you’re new to the series, the first couple of seasons will have you thinking, “Wow, this character is quite relatable. I empathize with his struggles, financially and personally.” And then season five hits and the cards are off the table. Regardless of the circumstances he and his blue meth cooking partner Jessie Pinkman find themselves in you connect with these characters and their personal arcs. When the show ended many were left in need of catharsis, to find something as enticing as Walt and and Jessie’s escapades. Personally I was taken aback having followed the narrative from beginning to end, and it definitely struck a chord with me concerning morality and the importance of cause and effect.
Last fall I fell back into anime and swept away by shows like ERASED, Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia, and Steins;Gate (on my second viewing of the latter). These Japanese animations spoke to me in a time when I needed strength and to feel less alone. I was working out constantly, losing the weight and stress from my previous relationship while also rebuilding the person I was before, improving upon the previous version. These programs helped me to regain not only my courage but to supplement a drive to succeed, to be better than I was the day before. While ERASED and Steins;Gate focused on time travel narratives that broke my understanding of what was deemed impossible, My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan were a source of energy to go for that last set, to be healthier and appreciate myself even when I felt the opposite.
And then recently there were the novels I consumed hastily (which I wrote about in the last post), inspiring me to write again and with a new found confidence. I ate up Mysterious Skin, I relished A Head Full of Ghosts, and I scooped passages from books that I considered to be, um, not great in order to understand what “bad” writing was (I’m sorry John Darnielle but Universal Harvester is just awful). I connected with these narratives and my ego was caged. It felt great to fall asleep each night not focused on the anxieties that filled my waking mind but rather the “what if” scenarios about the events to unfold in the books I harbored.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve picked up some books that, while great, didn’t shove my ego aside, sit it down or kick into a corner. Neither with anime, or television. Or really, much of anything.
And this is natural. It’s good to return to a zero state where you aren’t always content. It reminds you of the other component to life, which is that there is boredom, and anxiety, and routine. Breaking away is difficult and sometimes months can pass in which you strive to find meaning. You may consume tons of media that you don’t connect with currently, but later may become crucial to your portfolio of beloved entertainment. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon – even bookstores, Starbucks, that pizza place on the corner next to the liquor store – they ALL try to sell you on the next big thing.
Buying one’s attention and contention is difficult because as the term “sonder” suggests, every single person is going through their own experiences. Some are starved for meaning and will even turn to the silent night hours when others are asleep, sobbing into their pillow in the hopes that the clouds in their mind break. Others will be enraptured with happiness and good fortune, wondering in the back of their heads, “Could it be possible that this feeling will end?”
I’m reminded of Blink 182’s hit song “Feeling This”. In it, Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus try to pin down an emotion, the “this” of the song’s title. “I got no regret right now / I’m feeling this! / The air is so cold and numb / I’m feeling this!” The opening lines, and even beyond what is quoted, strive to understand the “feeling”. What does it mean to feel “this”? What is “this”? It could be excitement, or happiness, or depression, or any number of emotions. We are constantly at odds with emotion, articulating how we feel with a word, but sometimes, it’s impossible.
And I guess what I’m getting at is that at the end of the day I’m trying to connect with something new, and feel something I hadn’t before. I know many of you might be in that situation too, resigned to scrolling mindlessly on your phones, searching for the next dopamine hit. It’s okay to feel at “zero” too, and often this can be achieved by meditating, or playing with a pet, or talking to an old friend without distraction.
I think the best note to end on is that if you have some free time today shut off your phone, your computer, your iPod, and take a walk. Or just sit in silence and remember that your brain, although an sponge that craves new information, doesn’t always need to be soaked.
Until next time.
Image source: Google Images