"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Monday, August 27, 2007

To See or Not to See?; or, Preview of Equilbrium

Figure 4. Nodule in isthmus of the thyroid which is "hot" on the sodium pertechnetate Tc 99m scan (left) and "cold" on the I131 scan (right).

After a pleasant morning with Big and Little Guys before their first day of school (side note: BG took my breath away when he came downstairs this morning. He made some extremely tasteful selections at TJMaxx---and looked quite handsome in dark Perry Ellis jeans, new black Chuck Taylors, light blue tee with a sky-blue-and-white-checked button-down shirt over---hair done just so. He's growing up so well, to take such pride in himself, that smile when he knows he looks great in clothes he not only chose, but bought with his own paycheck: it's a lovely thing to behold, and I'm happy for him), I went down to the coffee shop to see the old gang.
When I came home, I sat down at the computer to finish reading a review of the new Mr. Bean movie on the NYTimes website that I had begun before leaving to see Little Guy off at the bus stop (side note: LG took my breath away with the clarity and magnitude of his smile as he sat perched by the window, waving: I know he is always homesick the first few days of school, and that one of his strategies this year is to smile an extra-big smile when he feels this way; he's learning to figure out this thing called life on his own, and his brave little heart shown in his smile is a lovely thing to behold, and I'm happy for him). After finishing the review, I scrolled down the page, and saw a review for a film I'd not heard of: Descent, with Rosario Dawson, an actress I've always liked very much. The reviewer tells us that the movie is difficult to watch in its cruelty and violence, and that Ms. Dawson gives a magnificent performance, likening it to DeNiro's in Taxi Driver. The reviewer also wrote that, and I paraphrase here, Descent makes Irreversible seem not so terribly violent or cruel after all.

Dear reader, my relationship with violence has been an intricate one, and one that is difficult to articulate. Although violence has long been part of my past, it somehow still informs me; as if violence were a radioactive contrast, shot into my veins: but the half-life is an exceedingly long one. Or, alternately, it seems as if it is the stuff in me at a cellular level, those very atoms that wake up and spin to the larger magnet's tune in the MRI tube. When I read about the story of Descent, it is as if I am in the MRI, and I can feel the violence rise and move: excited, resonating.

Hidden is not the same as nonexistent; it's one of the first cognitive benchmarks we achieve as we grow.

It is because of this that I still will often feel strangely compelled to learn more about violence, and more specifically, how have other people dealt with violence in their lives, and what can I learn from it?
For sometimes, to continue the medical metaphor, one just wishes for the one pill to swallow that will Make It All Go Away; or at the very least, manage the symptoms.
And so sometimes, when confronted with things such as the movie Descent, I think that I should avail myself of the opportunity to learn something: to see that mythic story in another incarnation, to get a different picture, to affect a more fine resolution to the picture that already exists for me.
But what it comes down to, dear reader, is this: a film is a film, a story nonetheless. I've come to believe that it is not so much a learning experience for me to access such stories as it is a diversion, a distraction, from the telling of my part of the story: one of an infinite number of stories that make up this life, this world.
So I won't seek out this film. I can only voice my experience to you that violence is a potent substance, more problematic than one knows at a cursory glance, or even after much study.

It's a relatively new thing, in the scheme of things, to be thinking about my own story, this sequel, a follow-up to violence. Rather than listen to the recommendation of one who won't reveal an ending, only telling you that it is grim and shocking, it's a relatively new thing in the scheme of things to look ahead for the good stuff.

I'd highly recommend it.



wolfbaby said...

that is an intersting way to write about that particular topic. voilence is never a pretty nor easy thing for those who have witnessed it first hand.

neroli said...

Wolfbaby, you're so right---and it can become that "elephant in the room" in so many ways.
The question is what to do with the elephant?
After all manner of silly things, I've decided to make peace with the elephant ;-)

captain corky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
captain corky said...

It's amazing how fast things change once we've come to terms with "stuff" from our past.

The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

Neroli - I think this is a wonderful. I agree completely about film as diversion and I have very mixed feelings about being diverted by others' pain as a result of violence. Sometimes the truth value and insight makes it worth the journey - but othertimes, it seems like sensory agitation to no purpose - now that may be the truest representation of violence, but it is one I do not care to re-enact. BTW, my server has been very bisy - so I have been having problems posting on your blog lately. i have been visiting silently.

neroli said...

Captain, you've got that right---and a lot of times, when you realize it, it makes you feel as if you're in a Warner Brothers cartoon---you're the Coyote: but rather than running off the cliff, running a few steps in the air, and then looking down, realizing that you've no ground beneath your feet, and then falling (perhaps while waving to an assumed observer)---rather than falling, you just keep running. :)

Artist, thank you. I really respect your assessment of film as a medium for such things. It's hard for me to write about the aftermath of violence as it's not as popular a topic as, say, cooking ;). I guess the best thing is to judge on a case-by-case basis? (I've read about the resolution of the film that the NYTimes reviewer would only allude to over at IMDB---definitely the correct choice for me to not see the film. I really understand the reaction of her character---as well as her feeling at the bitter end.) I'm glad that your posting problems seem to be at an end (and that you've been a silent visitor :)---I figured you were busy taking pictures and playing with colors and textures :)!