As I was lying in bed this morning, thinking about various things, something occurred to me. You know what we are, here, on the internet, on social media, or with any type of virtual, digital communication today? We're submarines. We're all, each, just one big, clunky, hunk of metal, almost blind, swimming through a vast ocean (oceans, actually), but have yet to learn how to really, effectively, communicate in this newish, still burgeoning, realm.
Anyone who knows me even somewhat well, knows that I like movies. Like, really like like movies. If I had a non-sentient love affair with something, it would probably have to be said to be celluloid. (That's film, for those of you who wandered into my recent Euphemisms question topic. How do you feel about the softening of certain words which have negative associations? But this euphemism is not pejorative. It's one of the more clever ones meant to simply amuse us, not soften a back-hand, or take the sting out of something painful or offensive. But I digress.) With each day that passes, there's a good chance that something will happen, either small or significant, and it will remind me of some clip, some scene, some storyline and... see, it's happening right now... just like in Pixar's 'Ratatouille', when the brother rat of main character Remy, Emile, is being schooled by his more sophisticated brother Remy, he is told to close his eyes and eat that piece of cheese, then the grape, and really taste it, really savour it. Feel it. "Really think about the taste." [Imagined colours, shapes, and swirls begin to appear above him - aka #synesthesia.] Poor, simple Emile, tries his hardest... but he just doesn't have Remy's sophisticated palette. The pops and zings soon fizzle out and he slumps down, dejected but also complacent. He doesn't really care. He's a rat. He eats garbage. Anyhoo... I guess I'm Remy. I see images, stills, scenes from great films, in my mind all the time. They manifest by association. Life is art, people. Art is life.
So, submarines. And 'The Hunt for Red October.' https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099810/reference Sean Connery (at his best, seasoned, but still in top form, career-wise) is a Russian sub captain. After a long career of service (Cold War with the Americans, and all that) he's decided to leave the business of boating, and war. He wants out. He wants to go fishing. But Russia, not being the land of equal riches and a phat retirement plan, is not his first, nor even last, choice for living out the last of his days. He devises a clever plan. Defect to America. Visas are such a bother, though. "F that, I've got a boat," I imagine he said to himself. But Russia isn't feeling all early Christmas present-y magnanimous-y. They don't just give up tactical nuclear weapon combat vessels to be nice. Anyway, the story (novel written by Tom Clancy originally; it's one of the Jack Ryan's) and movie is about the tactics of war, but with more specificity (there hasn't been a truly great, other, submarine film since Germany's iconic 'Das Boot'), and a dash of cultural differences... but mostly communication. How do you communicate with someone whose face you cannot see? And in this case, if you've got two massive, power-hungry countries and governments directing your almost-every move. If you're fighting a silent war with someone, you don't exactly just call them up and say, "Hey, so, uh, what's the plan? Goona' kill us now?"
Now enter: Alec Baldwin's character. He's an analyst. But not the nerdy, shaking in his boots, yet master at a computer, glasses-wearing, pocket-protector kind. This guy has done some serious combat. He's spent his military career studying naval war tactics. He's studied the greats - generals... and submarine captains. Having done biographies on some, and closely following the career of Captain Ramius, Ryan comes to a seemingly outlandish, outlier opinion that Ramius is going to defect. He is at first, laughed out of the room(s), but eventually manages to convince enough others of the plausibility of his theory. By this time, the two countries are on the verge of an underwater war, and the Russians, desperate to recover their precious nuclear killing machine, seek the assistance of the Americans - but they only tell them half the story. They concoct a narrative of how Ramius has gone rogue, nervous breakdown, unpredictable, and must be stopped. When they face the reality that their boat may not be saved, they create a hasty plan to blow it up, captain and crew in tow. (They don't treat kindly, their defectors. If you like that motif, watch the Baryshnikov political/ballet-themed film, 'White Nights.')
The rest is pretty much all tactical, but the story hinges around the fragmented communication between Ramius and Ryan. They use Morse Code, sonar, along with some other clever tools, the most valuable of which is their wits. One of the most memorable scenes is when the two men, each in a different sub, square off, finally now within eyeshot of one another, communicate about life and death, yet limited by such rudimentary tools of communication, culminating in the iconic line, "Give me one ping, and one ping only," from Ramius, which is for Ryan. It is a "yes." A pivotal, life-giving, war-ending, yes.
And this brings me back 'round to social media and #GAG. We have the benefit of choice. And freedom. You are the master of your own island (and your "domain", if you're a Seinfeld fan - 'Master of your own domain' will go down in the annals of history of most clever euphemisms), and can do as you please and see fit. You can reach out, be warm, friendly, make an advance, or lash out and troll or skulk. You can do anything and everything. We don't need to talk about those. Possibilities are endless. What I'm interested in are the indirect communiqués, that say less than words but communicate volumes, nonetheless.
A couple of months ago, I had a falling out with someone. A misinterpretation led to a misunderstanding, which led to some potent words being exchanged. We were both... sharp. And then, instead of a correction or truce, dead silence. You know how loud silence can be. I thought the misunderstanding too complicated to untangle, and I underestimated the will to do so, on their part. I wanted to run. Embarrassed, frustrated, hurt, and angry, my immediate gut reaction was unfollow, block, and wipe away the entire history. "Well, that sucked" [it more than sucked] and move on.
But I didn't. I held my finger over all of those 'buttons' many, many times. Society sits on our shoulder, whispering to us like a dark figure tempting us, cajoling us, into distilling others, dismissing others, discarding others. How many times has someone said, "You don't need them. You can do better. They're [shit.]"? We live in, and some of us have created, a #cancelculture. Before that, the phrase was #throwawayculture, but that referred more to the physical world, the environment, and our ugly dependency on non-reusables potentially polluting us into non-existence. For those of you interested in sociology, as I am, we are now more shamed for staying, than for leaving. This has inverted. Many of you think pride and standing up for yourself and dignity are paramount; but fail to see the other side of that coin - selfishness, staunch intolerance of others and their flaws and idiosyncrasies. I've got news for you. You're not perfect. No one is. You know that already. I know that you know. But you, collectively, have forgotten that appreciating other people, liking other people, even loving other people, is not borne only from the gut, or the groin, or even the heart. It comes from the head. These are choices. And they can be rational. We do not have to be beholden to our emotions, our feelings, our impulses. You have fire in your belly [sometimes.] So do I. I can go from zero to, say, 66, pretty damn quick. But if you fall into these feelings, and don't bring yourself back out ['self-regulation'] you will be beholden to them. And your world will become smaller, and smaller, and smaller.
I don't care about quantity, I care about quality. And of course I'm not suggesting to compromise your core values. (It'd be a waste of time to rail against that. Don't bother. It's not debatable; it's not the issue.) I'm telling you, suggesting to you, to recognize the greys. No one wants to admit that they characterize life, situations, people, as black and white, but some definitely do. Because it's easier. It takes much less brain power, less self-control, less resolve, to distill something down into two neatly delineated sides. At the far ends, you'll see the words, "I'm right. They're wrong." Or, sometimes a softer version... "I'm hurt. They hurt me." That's not healthy. That's not the whole story.
I was hurt, I was embarrassed, I started the rift with my action - an impulsive, not well thought-out interpretation of something that was said. The reaction from them was swift and hard; though also restrained. Icey. It was as if a large crevasse had opened up between us, and now we could look down into it, and amidst the blackness, jumbled paraphernalia. "This can't be undone, can't be sorted out or retrieved," or so I thought. We are not meant to be. We are not aligned. The differences are just too vast. But I was wrong. What I was right about, thankfully, is not letting that hovering finger over the block, delete, and unfollow buttons, execute what it wanted to do. Had I done as I wanted, as I almost did, I would have sent out a single ping into the ocean, and it would have been received loud and clear. (Although, to be accurate, a single ping in the movie was a "yes" and "I concur", not a "no" or "goodbye", but you get the metaphorical gist.)
I read it here every day - "What did it mean when they #snapped me, watched #mystory, but then went silent on me, and now they're #ghosting me? Are they mad at me now? Is it over?" We have created a new digital language; and look how omnipresent it is in our lives. It's so powerful, it's almost omnipotent. We use the language of tech, the programming and structure of its web, to communicate with each other without words, before and after words. We use it to our advantage; we use it to try and see into another person's psyche and thoughts; we sometimes manipulate and antagonize with it. Humans are industrious little buggers. Maybe we're raccoons. "Raccoons don't do guilt. Perhaps that's what makes them such great breaker and enterers." (A great line on an animal documentary I just watched.) A handful of 20something males in Silicon Valley are deciding key aspects of our lives. (MyTake to come on that, at some juncture.) We are already well-embedded inside The Matrix. We are sucking on the teat, as they also say. But how we use the technology is entirely up to us, up to you. And the point, the crux of me writing this, is to remind you to use it responsibly, and by that I mean morally and psychologically responsibly. You can walk away from people whenever you like, whenever you want. But I assure you, without knowing anything about you or the particulars of the entirety of your life, that sometimes you will be throwing away something good, something potentially important or significant, or the opportunity to find out if it is, or could be.
Had this other person also done any of the things which I considered, the outcome would, again, have been different. They held, as well. Not held their ground in obstinacy, but sat quietly in that dark blue, cold, water, perhaps just waiting to see if the temperature cooled, or warmed; waiting to see if there was going to be a single ping against the hull. I tried to read their un-unfollowing of me as something, though admittedly it was extremely subtle and one could only really guess.
How did it end? It didn't. Because of me... and them. I happened across a single line post that said they were considering leaving the site. The extremists and trolls and negativity reaches a limit for us all, eventually. I sometimes quite like open-ended movies, stories, but in life, they bother me. A lot. The reason that I am with my husband, and for the past twenty years, could very easily be credited to the fact that I really like closure. No, I need closure. But one doesn't always get what they want. That's a whole other story, but suffice to say, you remember the pivotal moments in your life, the decisions you made. Regret is a wasted emotion if you don't learn from it. In a world full of regret, be a person of action. So I reached out. To apologize, to clear the air, and to say goodbye. And was met, to my shock... warmly. The ice had apparently melted, but I was none the wiser. How could I know? And one message turned into another, and another, and now I can see the error of my ways, and the what was an almost bigger error of my ways in managing to avoid jumping into that crevasse of pessimism, despair, and despondancy, of "some things are just not meant to be."
This person, my person, doesn't matter to you. You each have your own. You have some now, some in the past, and some you will meet one day in the future. But this one matters to me. And they and I agree, "I like meeting new people, but I feel like forming strong connections is very very very rare." And I know we are not the only ones who feel this way. So watch your temper, and if you're going to use all of this technology at our fingertips, watch your fingers. Your head is what's really in control. Don't fool yourself into pretending it isn't. You have the power to stop yourself from reacting, from over-reacting, and thinking before you walk away. I don't know what next month, or maybe even tomorrow holds, but right now what I do know is that they and I knew enough, even in those tensest times, to not take our gloves off. "Be careful there," someone once said, "civility is more than taking one's glove off before plunging the sword in." And because of this, I may have a very dear friend for possibly years to come. A friend who now says things like, "... I’m just saying, Amanda, I got your fuckin’ back." And I don't know if there are any sweeter words than that.
Good people in your life are a gift. Learn to appreciate them. But even more, learn how to find and recognize them, while the relationship is still a diamond in the rough. We all have inclusions. We all have a chink in our armour. Recognize it not for its vulnerability, as a way to hurt someone, but as a way in. Leave the porch light on, leave the door ajar. Find the strength in yourself to not close the door. You might be surprised who walks through, and what that particular person may come to mean to you.