The events of late have reminded me of a movie that I love. It is, of course, the movie in the title of this post.
First of all, gotta love Steve Carell. Has he ever bombed in anything? And no, I have not seen 40 Year Old Virgin. I probably should get to that, because of the impending apocalypse. Or the apocalypse that we are currently in…or whatever.
So the character that Steve plays (Dodge) is experiencing the 21 day countdown ’til the end of the world. Matilda the Asteroid is coming to obliterate the earth. Dodge is experiencing the futility of continuing in normality- like when people call his place of business asking if their insurance covers damage from the apocalypse or when his maid gets concerned at the thought of losing her job- not to mention the dude at the gym who is still pumping iron (because Lord knows, you don’t wanna lose your gains before you meet Matilda).
I have wondered what to do with myself since the paradigm shift whereby half of the work in the world has become “nonessential”. Our life’s work- at least for many of us- has been abolished, and all that we have left are the routines that make us feel semi-normal while we try to regain some sense of footing on the slippery slope of whatever the fuck this really is that we are experiencing.
So at one point in this move, Dodge is invited to a party where his friend’s wife is trying to set him up with a friend of hers so he won’t die alone. His friend Warren says, “He’s not going to die alone, he’s going to die with everyone else.” As are we. This is a collective death. A death of hope? Of what used to feel like simplicity? I don’t know, but something has died. I’m just hoping for a resurrection and not a rotting corpse.
At the party, his friend’s wife makes a pass at him and he says, “You’re Warren’s”. She replies, “No I’m not. Nobody is anybody’s anything anymore.” It’s like once our social constructs collapse, everything loses meaning, and we become very, very lost. I mean, how do we cling to the things that used to mean something when we are at risk of losing everything?
And what are we losing? Well, peace, for one thing. Those of us who have sought after peace our entire lives are watching it burn down like [insert fast burning thing here]. Those of us who have tried to maintain some semblance of health in the face of mounting medical pressure to embrace tests, procedures and medications minus options for quality of life.
Have I thought the world was going to end before?
Yeah, several times. Either my world specifically or the world at large. Has it happened yet? Nope. So of course I’m hoping this is one of those false alarms, but shit things look bad. I mean, I can still walk outside and nature doesn’t seem to be freaked out, even though we are literally doing our best to assault and eventually destroy her. But humanity…humanity is on a major freak out.
So are we overreacting? I’d say yes. But not overreacting against injustice. Injustice is always bullshit. Overreacting against illness? I dunno. I don’t know of any people who have died first hand. No one. I don’t even know anyone who has a story of the death of someone close to them. I do, however, know a quite a few people who have been sick with something. We are overreacting because someone or something is pulling our triggers. Human beings are motivated by emotion, and when you can make someone feel an emotion (like fear or rage) you can pretty much count on them checking out in the logic department. It’s not that this is a bad thing, it’s a primal survival tactic. What we, as humans, need to do is be aware that we can be triggered and then when we are being triggered.
But back to the movie.
“Being afraid of dying alone is why I got married in the first place,” Dodge says. And he ends up being alone anyway (at least for a while). And maybe we are all just that. Alone all together, just hoping someone will be there for us/ with us when we depart. Someone to actually know that we’ve left the building and to have that matter, somehow. Like when your favorite band is in town and you go to the show and get all the feels. And then it’s over, and there’s that bereftness you feel that the magic has ended… We want someone to be a witness to our existence, and then maybe to miss us, too.
And isn’t that what life is about? Seeking (and finding) a friend for the end of the world? Like, of our world? So we don’t have to die alone? Aren’t we, like Ram Dass says, “Walking each other home”? To our inevitable end?
Even Bukowski said: “We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” Shouldn’t we stop this fuckery and learn to live in peace, and learn to live in wellness and not in the fear of lack that makes us have to finds ways to get rich off of the suffering of others?
Then there’s this really gorgeous part of the movie where it looks like people are lining up to be baptized in the ocean- kind of a procession towards some benediction on this beautiful, sunny, sand and sea glass colored day. And then everyone enjoying spending time in community, just being in the sun and being human.
But being human is forbidden right now.
Breathing and having breath is almost a crime if you are close to another person. I mean, I haven’t actually had anyone make me feel that way in person, but there’s this oppressive sense that that’s what everyone is thinking. Maybe it’s just what we’re supposed to feel because the news say it or because it’s floating in the ether all around us. It almost makes you feel ashamed for existing. Like your breath is a blight on the planet and you should just stop. breathing. already. for. God’s. sake.
Carell’s character makes his way to see his father who he hadn’t seen in decades before the impending doom. His father apologizes for not being a good father, and Steve says “It doesn’t matter anymore, we’re in the same place now”. And that’s true of us, and of right now. A lot of the things that used to matter, don’t matter anymore. Our jobs that are taken away from us with a declaration of governmental decree. With the threat of violence and the collective loss of our health via a man-made or monkey-made or bat-made massacre…the old things don’t matter. We have bigger foes to fight than the old ones. And we need to fight them together.
Now I haven’t mentioned the fact that Carell’s character found a girlfriend during all of this chaos. Right? Somehow, in the madness, he actually does find a friend for the end of the world. He takes her to a pilot (actually, his dad) who will fly her home to be with her family, but over the last week or two, he falls in actual love with her. Not some desperate, we’re gonna die love, but this sweet, gentle, boy meets girl kind of love. The kind where you don’t want Matilda the Murderess to come and steal it away.
Dodge gently tucks her into the airplane seat while she’s sleeping (as if!) to spend the rest of her hours with her family. He whispers: “You were the love of my life” before sending her off…
Course, I’m not going to tell you how it ends.
But I am going to tell you, we are walking each other home. That’s all we are really doing. And it’s up to us to decide what that walk is gonna look like.