There comes a certain point, if you move away, when you only return home for holidays and funerals. I’m getting on a train today for the latter, so maybe I’ll write some things later. Instead, I’ll share this thoughtful guest post from my talented friend Rob. Check out more of his work at RobertJamesCooney.com
“Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?” Celine asks Jesse in Before Sunrise. I must have been in my first or second year of high school when that film grabbed me. It appealed to my romantic idealism and my deep need to be involved in philosophical conversations like the one that unfolds between these two characters.
Fast forward, oh, about 18 years and I got into one of those conversations with my friend Natalie, after we watched Before Midnight in a theatre. Initially we agreed that it was brilliant but a lot harder to watch than the two previous films. There’s a realism to the scenes of argument that caused anxiety to rise in my chest as the characters I loved picked each other apart.
I left wondering: ‘If I identified so much with Jesse as an idealist, would I also be that much of a prick when things go wrong? Did he just change? How have I changed?’
Oddly enough, Natalie and I each sided with the opposite sex. She thought Celine’s behaviour was largely responsible for the conflict and not even half an hour of me ranting about all the things I watched Jesse do wrong was enough to sway her.
So maybe that was the point, or at least what I took away from it. If we are those characters, so full of love and intelligence and grand ambition, look what we can still do to one another … if we’re not careful, if we’re not self-aware.
If everything we do is to be loved a little more, I can’t explain half of modern dating behaviour. Especially the way we put ourselves out there to be reduced to the crass binary choice of someone swiping right or left (fuck Tinder).
The truth is, everything we do in life is a way to escape loneliness. To actually be loved a little more requires self-improvement, effort, time. We can escape loneliness, at least temporarily, with a lot of behaviours that actually distance us from real love — everything from unfeeling sexual conquest to drug abuse.
Most men and women don’t mean to be cruel to the opposite gender, but we end up doing a lot of damage just by trying to use each other for some transient purpose.
Everything we do in life is to escape loneliness. I know that now, and that’s how I’ve changed. It’s hard to hold on to romantic idealism when you’re so frequently witness to terrible human behaviour. But when we feel lonely, we always have a choice. We can do something counterproductive, or we can work on ourselves, love ourselves more, and become more worthy of the love we hope to receive from others.
If I ever get really lonely I can pop Before Sunrise into the DVD player, imagine I’m Jesse again, and fall asleep rewriting the ending in my head so I just never leave Vienna.