Last night I happened to catch a spot for the movie (one that I happen to be looking forward to with great expectations) American Hardcore. In a nutshell, it’s a documentary on the origins of the hardcore punk scene in the 1980’s, and basically a catalogue of the mindset of the movement.
In any case, I’m watching this little teaser during one of those “movie news” segments in between flicks on one of the movie channels I get here, and at towards the end of the segment one of the creators of the film sort of sums up one of the messages he wants to come out of the movie. Addressing today’s generation of teenagers, one of the directors says (and I’m paraphrasing): “[the message we’re trying to get out there is that] it’s time to turn off the iPod [as he mimes himself removing invisible earbuds], log off Myspace, and get out there and do something meaningful.”
At first really I admired his message of the film. I took the message as sagely wisdom, and hoped deep down that I was following that same philosophy in my own life. And then I got scared. Was he describing me? I mean, I own an iPod, I use Myspace, does that mean that I'm wasting my life? Am I letting my potential go to waste?
I hear those kinds of statements about making the most of your youth or whatever a lot; but what do they even mean when they talk about that? Usually when I hear someone say, “seize the day” I imagine myself jumping up off my couch, exploding from the front door of my house, and running, full speed towards the mental camera of my imagination. I am then captured, via freeze frame, in mid-leap, my face emblazoned by wild ambition.
But I never know what happens after that. The fantasy literally goes nowhere from that point. How exactly do you seize a day, anyway? Am I doing that now? Well, no; but am I at least on my way to doing that now?
That’s what annoys me about the way we talk in our society: we use metaphors way, waaay too much. I think that as a culture we’ve been brought up to look at life like a movie, with constant action and a steady foray of relevant plot points. If my life were a movie, I’d find something I wanted to pursue, go out and reach all the necessary goals to get where I wanted to go (naturally via montage) and that would be that. If I wanted to start a punk band, for example, I’d go buy a guitar, lock myself in my room to learn to play (by listening to old punk records, of course), put out a flyer looking for band members, get a group together, and voila: punk band. The course of action would occur just like that, with no breaks in between. That is, if life were a movie.
But life isn’t a movie. Real life doesn’t work like that. And I don’t want to start a punk band, anyway.
So what now, American Hardcore guys? What if I want to make comic books, or what if I want to be a standup comedian? What if I just want to get a girlfriend or start small like that? What then?
It’s not like I’m mad at some guys who made a movie, I just think that we put so much stress sometimes on “not wasting your life” that we end up just wasting our lives worrying that we’re wasting our lives. It’s a vicious circle, really…
I’d like to think that I’m trying to make the most out of my time on earth. Sure, at the moment I’m taking some downtime, but I don’t plan to do that forever. There are tons of things I’d like to try and do with this time in my life; it’s really the last years that I have to really experiment before cold, hard adulthood sets in. But I’m working towards that. Sure, it’s not an action-packed thrill ride of excitement, but real life rarely is; and when it is, it’s unfortunately short-lived.
So I think I’m fine with my iPod, and I’m fine with myspace, because there’s nothing really wrong with that. In moderation. And I don’t think that a lot of people would disagree with that statement. I think what the filmmakers were talking about with that movie I was talking about paragraphs ago wasn’t really as drastic a “seize the day or you’re a myspace-using bum” message that it first sounded like, but just the overuse of metaphors for life gets a bit annoying after a while, seeing as how metaphors can be pretty shitty guideposts for real life when practical advice would be a lot more helpful.
I’m not really sure that you got anything out of reading this, but I was able to work through my own thoughts on the issue during the process or writing it. And I guess that counts for something... but it probably doesn’t.