"Everyone is disappointing the more you know someone."
Adele Lack-Cotard, played by Catherine Keener
in Synecdoche, New York (2008)
This is not a review of Synecdoche, New York, but it's a meditation which descended directly from it. It's not one of the best-made films I have ever watched or even one of the most enjoyable - but it's probably one of the most important I have, or will ever experience. I will not recommend it to everyone. I have made it a point to be as honest as I can in my writings, and I do not see any reason why I should stop now. The truth is, most of you are far too stupid to understand this film.
I am incredibly conceited and am far more egotistical than I really deserve to be, but I know this. My conceit is a conscious choice, a role I have casted myself in because the skin feels comfortable and I enjoy wearing it. Staying in character, it's very hard for me to recognise any form of thought by anyone else to be superior to my own and it takes extraordinary, superlative persuasion to convince me to admit that I have been wrong all along. Synecdoche, New York, to understate it, is very persuasive.
Determinism is the belief that every event in this universe, every single action, decision, thought... everything and everything is the direct consequence of what happened before them. To frame an example: a man married a woman. He did it because he was in love with her. He fell in love with her after meeting her at a party, where they talked and found that they have so much in common. He went to the party because he had nothing better to do that Saturday after his dinner plans with his then-girlfriend was cancelled because they had a terrible row which broke them up... and you can extrapolate the chain of causes all the way back to the beginning of the universe. To trace the thread in the other direction, every single one of my actions, decisions and thoughts henceforth - tomorrow, next year, and on the day before I die - are all predetermined by events which preceded them. Free will is therefore an illusion. Everything is therefore fated. Even if you decide to fight fate, that decision was fated to begin with.
I used to pooh-pooh the idea of fate. Now I'm not so sure. It's not that I have never wrestled with the concept of determinism before but it's only since yesterday that I can accept it. A character in the film convinced me of that when she bought a burning house and told me that "the end is built into the beginning." It became clear to me immediately. We aren't pieces on a cosmic chessboard pushed about by some sort of alien motive force. We are both the pieces and the force, and this is only possible because we are imperfect, myopic and oblivious. The day we become omniscient enough to understand every thread of causality relevant to our lives is the day we lose our illusory free will. Poor Doctor Manhattan.
I remember 2007 when I spent most of the year single, feeling like I was at some kind of crossroads where so many branches of my life lay open to me. Had I fallen for someone other than Phoebe, oh how different my life would be now! I still wonder, on occasion, at all the possible lives I could have led. It's only natural to be curious, isn't it? But that's how things work. You play a card and hope shit doesn't happen. For my part, I feel I'm holding the winning hand. Phoebe and I are two years old on the count last Boxing Day and for two whole years, I have not felt sadness. No sadness. Two years. I have not been sad for two whole years. I can say without the merest trace of irony that I am at the point of my life when I feel happiest and most fulfilled. That's funny because I used to tell the ex-grrrfriend that "I'm just an unhappy sort of person"every time she asked me why I was so depressed. I thought my melancholy was built-in, that it's all my fault I had such a cancerous outlook on life. I actually believed that love is pain.
On a side note, that is why I write so sparsely these days. I no longer have enough angst to do so.
I reinvent myself every two or three years or so. Sometimes, it's obvious. Sometimes, I change something invisible to everyone but myself. Regardless, the change is almost always fundamental to my psyche, my core. I believe that if a person cannot change, he has absolutely nothing new to offer to the world or more importantly, to offer himself. When Synecdoche, New York introduced its protagonist, Caden Cotard, in the beginning and followed him as he woke up from bed, went out to retrieve his mail and had breakfast with his family, the date kept fast-forwarding subtly and what we as the audience perceive as a single morning actually spanned weeks. The deejay on the clock radio said it was 22nd of September. The date on the newspaper said it was October 14, 2005 and then quickly contradicts itself on another page, claiming October 17. The spoilt carton of milk suggested that it was at least past October 20 and suddenly, the radio guy said it's Halloween. I am not sure what I'm suppose to make of that entire set piece but it screams of some sort of desperation to me. Or maybe I'm just projecting. Maybe, I just don't want to be the same person all my life where my mornings are all alike.
I feel it would be liberating to be able to step out of a role one day and walk into another as you please in the next as if life is one big stage production. That guy working to save dolphins on the nature channel - I wonder what his day is like. That cute girl who who smiled at me from behind the Starbucks counter. That doctor who knew all his patients by their first names. That kid who aspires to be the leader of the free world some day. Their joys, their problems, their thoughts, what do they mean? How does it feel to put on their shoes?
My regret is that I have only one life to play through, and my choices so meagre. And that's all I want to say today. Now, I'll leave you with a part of the speech the Monologuing Minister gave in the film;
"... even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes or it seems to but it doesn't really."
Have a nice day.
k0k s3n w4i