Happy New Year!
I have high hopes for what is in store for ThePilgrimGeek in 2018. 2017 ended on a high note with the release of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, providing much grist for the nerd mill. (I’ve yet to discuss Star Wars here, but I may soon open that treasure trove). Black Panther and the next installment of Avengers are on their way. And there’s always books to read, tv shows to check out, and last year’s films to catch up on (looking at you, Baby Driver). I also have some creative writing projects that will become available for your pleasure along with a treasure trove of pieces by some good friends over at The Words Between the Worlds. And at the top of the heap that is positivity in 2018: my six-year slog through a master’s degree will be completed in May. Woot!
With all that said about all the new stuff to watch, here is my resolution for 2018:
I will watch stories intentionally, and with purpose.
The TV in my living room was on a lot in 2017. I used it to fill the empty stillness of my apartment when I washed dishes, or chipped away at homework. My Netflix queue continued to stack with various movies and shows that I knew were going to only serve as white noise. I’d catch myself watching a show that I didn’t think was particularly well-written or produced, or was even that fun. More to the point, I was not enjoying what I was watching.
What wasted time. I could have been reading a new story I was excited about. I could have been writing a short story or fleshing out a novel with pencil and paper. I could have been sitting in a quiet living room, getting reacquainted with that shy and awkward, yet rejuvenating mistress called Stillness.
Here lies the root cause for my resolution: over the past year, I have had a compulsion for noise. In 2017, I felt anxious without the chatter of voices blaring unintelligibly from my TV. Whether it be the stress of life or the cares of reading my news feed, I was afraid of quiet.
I was afraid of quiet because it was in the presence of Mistress Stillness that whatever lay below the surface of my consciousness rose up. Fears, grief, exhaustion.
To use stories as a numbing agent is a perversion of what I believe is the very purpose of Story. Stories are intended to give us words and imagery for our experience. The Greek myths of Zeus, Gaia, and Poseidon sought to interpret humanity’s interactions with a chaotic natural world. Oliver Twist and Les Miserables depicted the plight of Western Europe’s poor, who everyone had seen and heard for generations. Citizen Kane is hailed as one of, if not the greatest masterpiece ever captured on film, because the script, the acting, and the cinematography capture the tragedy of achieving material success and still finding loss and longing in ourselves.
Story is a craft and art that stretches our imaginations, giving language to our deepest sufferings and loftiest joys.
In 2018, when I watch a movie or a television show, I am committing to sitting down and actually becoming invested and moved by a particular narrative. Not scrolling through Twitter on my phone or checking email while it is on.
I am giving myself permission to not watch a series because it is the talk of the town, and to not feel obligated to finish every show I watch. If I am three episodes in, and I am not drawn to into the world being built or the story being told, I will stop watching it.
And finally, I will let Mistress Stillness have her time. If that time requires that I sort through parts of me that I have feared engaging then so be it– because there’s healing in the stillness. and there’s healing in the right kind of story. In the story that moves us to tears, or makes us angry, or brings us elation.
To watch something for the Joy of it is to watch intentionally and with purpose. But Joy is not present in the humdrum viewing of something that is “alright, I guess.”
Stories are gifts, and I want to enjoy these gifts to the fullest in 2018.
Peace, fellow pilgrims.