Thursday, January 5, 2012

Obsessions of the Mind

Lizzie, a friend of mine, told me this story.....

Over the weekend, I went to see the movie War Horse with my wife and some friends.  What a heart wrenching movie.  If you go, bring tissues.  Animals are so much better than people.  Loyal.  Faithful.  Loving.  Go see it.  Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that when we got home from the theater and for the rest of the damn night I just could not stop thinking about that horse.  Brushing my teeth. Lying in bed.  Drifting off to sleep.  There it was.  The horse.  The next day at breakfast I said to my wife, "I can't stop thinking about that horse.  Are you thinking about that horse?"  My wife looked at me calmly.   "No," she said.

That happens to me all the time.  It doesn't happen to Sunshine and Happiness.  I'd still be thinking about that horse because I  have a  sticky brain.  Thoughts get stuck.  Images get stuck.  Ideas get stuck.  Feelings get stuck.  And for me it can be mighty difficult to get them unstuck.  Also for me, the things that get stuck tend to be things I'd rather forget about.  The incredible horror this world and human beings can dish out.  All of the things I am afraid of.   How I can't seem to stop ending sentences with prepositions. 

The other day I was flipping through the hundreds of cable channels that we now have and haven't yet cancelled and upon what do I land? I see the movie Untraceable on the cable guide and click on it.  Now if you're not familiar with it, the premise of this movie is one in which a serial killer who knows people (who are both curious and drawn to the dark side of things), will log onto an "untraceable" website where he conducts violent and painful murders LIVE via the internet.  The higher the number of hits his website gets, the more people who log on, the quicker and more violently the victim dies.  Not quite The Princess Bride.

Now I'd read about this movie and had successfully avoided it for 3 years.  It has notoriously gruesome murders graphically rendered.  Additionally, the movie's conceit that individuals, knowing that they're anonymous and unaccountable, will purposefully log onto a sight called "killwithme" in order to watch a  human being die is not the kind of idea that needs to be "stuck" in my head.  Talk about snowballing down into the dark and twisty.  Everything I fear about myself and human beings in general and our capacity for evil, apathy and darkness is front and center in this film.  And here I am in real life, watching this movie to be entertained.  So I KNEW, I was AWARE that the morally right, emotionally healthy, SMART thing to do (for me) would have been to turn off the TV or at least changed the channel.  But you know what I did.  I continued to watch.  I became captive to a horrific, stomach churning, disturbing murder scene and just like the anonymous folks depicted in the film, I couldn't look away.  Talk about meta.

And afterward I was sick and disgusted with myself for my self-destructiveness because then you know what happened?  As consequence for my behavior and for making a bad choice, the sticky brain thing happened.  I continued to see the murder scene as I walked the dogs.  I saw it lying in my bed.  I dreamt of it and woke up with it in my brain.  I'm thinking of it now as I type.  And I feel sick each and every time I replay it.  The only good thing (sort of) is that my brain doesn't seem to be able to become desensitized to this crap.  I'm horrified every time.  So right now because I hurt I will avoid any and all media of this, novels, video sites, movies.  Until I dip my toe in the water (flip through the cable channels and land on, oh, say SAW VII) and the obsession begins again. 

I used to do this with alcohol.  I would drink self destructively.  I would start, know it was a bad idea, unhealthy, hurtful, possibly fatal and I would do it anyway.  People would advise me to stop and I would say, OK but just one more.  Then I would get sick, disgustingly sick and swear off the stuff and avoid it like the plague.  Until I felt better.  And then I would do it all over again.  The more I fed the obsession to drink, the more I drank.

I think I'd better stop feeding this one.  I'm sure It's A Wonderful Life must be on one of those hundreds of channels somewhere.