I’ve always felt a deep connection with those who like the same movies as I do, especially when our reasons for liking the movie are similar. I love watching a movie and debriefing about the elements with which we most identified. For me, movie-watching isn’t a pastime. It’s more of a deliberate act to find out more about humanity, and ultimately, myself. I don’t watch a movie to escape reality. I watch it to embrace it.
Last weekend, a bunch of us single folk went away to a beautiful lodge in New Jersey for the weekend to retreat from the frantic craze that our lives seem to have become. It was the perfect setting to relax, spend time getting to know each other and to ponder the theme for the weekend, officially entitled, “The Spirituality of Loneliness.” Many of us initially scoffed at the theme. It’s not exactly an attractive way to get people to come, by pointing out our loneliness. It almost seemed to imply that loneliness is our handicap and we had to learn to overcome it. Perhaps it would’ve been less offensive to name it something along the lines of… “Exploration of Solitude” (creatively rephrased by Shanella Ramlall). Nonetheless, we had a healthy number of people attend and we were about to experience community of a different kind.
There were numerous memorable experiences throughout the weekend (too many to recount here). To put it in a phrase: lots of laughter, tears, music, dancing, profound conversations and chocolate cake. Or to put it into one word: community. Community. My personal hope is that every single person there had at least a small glimpse of it over the weekend. For me, one particular event will remain in my mind for a long time.
There was a movie viewing scheduled for Saturday night. It was called Lars and the Real Girl. Who and the Who? I had watched the movie back in 2007 when it first came out; so I started to give a short synopsis to those unfamiliar with the movie, in case they missed the golden opportunity to watch it there. It is one of my favorite movies (probably Top 20) and I wanted to convince my fellow weekenders to give it a chance. My synopsis went something like this… “It’s about a guy named Lars who is socially awkward and alone, and so he buys a blow-up doll and pretends that it is his girlfriend.” You can imagine the looks on the faces of people who were hearing these words coming out of my mouth. I failed to mention the redemptive element in the story. That incomplete description of the plot, however, proved to be interesting enough to most people, as we had a good number show up that night. There were several moments of hilarity resulting from the sheer incredulity of the story line. The room roared with laughter in many scenes and then in some others there were moments of absolute silence as we watched a community transform this man. Or was it the other way around.
I tend to like watching movies alone because I can give the film a real shot without external influence. I can think, laugh, cry, basically feel my emotions to the fullest extent based on my own internal reaction to the story. And I won’t influence other people with my reactions, either. However, I do also enjoy watching movies with others because it gives us a chance to discuss the movie afterwards. I take pleasure in hearing the viewpoints of others and how it aligns or differs from my own. When it differs, I like to debate and try hard to convince the other person who disagrees, to a fault. I’ve gotten better over the years. I’m thankful for time and grace.
After watching Lars and the Real Girl, we had some time to reflect and talk to each other more personally about our thoughts on what we had just watched. Interesting, depressing, thought-provoking… were some of the general words that I heard from various people. A short time later, we all gathered for a more formal, group discussion. As one person after another shared his/her thoughts and reflections, it started to become even more clear to me why I loved this movie so much. This weekend, the people, the community. The loneliness, the brokenness, the pain. We all have a Lars in our lives, near and far. I’d even go as far as to say, we are all Lars. For some, it’s a distant self and for others it’s a constant, lingering self. And though I recognize that we won’t ever wholly fulfill each other’s emptiness, we sure can be a part of making it more whole. In this very reciprocal sort of way, I’m starting to see that it’s not just the person who needs community. It’s the community that also needs the individual person.
Loneliness is a gift. At its worst, it makes us recognize that there is a gaping hole in our hearts and makes us feel the pain of that void. At its best, it makes us long for something more… something beyond our selves. Maybe it’s time to accept it in its entire spectrum and allow it to shape the way we relate to the world and the very people who experience it, too. I’m slowly beginning my journey to that place. I hope to see you there. You’ll recognize me since I’ll be wearing a name tag that says,
“Hello, my names is Lars.”