Last night, Jess and I watched a movie. Not something we do often, mind you, but the house batteries were at full charge after a long, sunny day, and my laptop has a DVD player.
It was something to take our minds off yesterday's events. Everyone around the compound is feeling a little down that those people were killed. We gave them a proper burial, even though a team of guards had to go out into the group of zombies outside the gate to secure the bodies. Also, to take steps ensuring that the dead people from the firefight didn't come back themselves...
It felt like the right thing to do, burying them. It's a sad consequence of our need to protect our home that those people died, and the least we could do was honor their deaths by giving them some of our time and effort.
Afterward, the wife and I watched Akira Kurosawa's "Dreams".
Somehow in the nearly six years Jess and I have been together, I've never gotten her to watch it before. She'd never seen any of Kurosawa's films, and I'm a huge fan. I've got a few of them sitting around, and I decided on "Dreams" for a very simple reason: it is beautiful in every frame.
I'm not going to go off on a tangent about the director's brilliance or the influence Kurosawa had in the film industry. None of those things matter any more. Watching the film, from the opening sequence with the Kitsune in the forest to the final part showing the old man fixing the waterwheel and the funeral procession after, I realized something of almost overwhelming importance.
Last year, when I posted about the unfinished books out there, singling out "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan and "The Kingkiller Chronicles" by Patrick Rothfuss, I touched on the truth that hit me full force last night.
One of my all time favorite quotes is from Alan Moore's "Watchmen". It is this--"I am looking at the stars. They are so far away. And their light takes so long to reach us. All we ever see of stars are their old photographs."
The realization that hit me? It's that watching movies, reading books, talking about cars...anything that has to do with the world as it was before the zombie plague destroyed humanity is just opening up the shoebox full of memories and looking through the pictures of times that can never come again. Yes, we aim to make something new and better...but we can't let go of what was.
"Dreams" really made me think. Kurosawa made the film out of many dreams he had experienced over a lifetime, and you can see the growth of his spirit and character from one sequence to the next. How he left behind things he once considered important in order to move on to new frontiers and goals. Part of me recognized the futility in holding on to my favorite books and movies while the rest of me recognized the deep sentiment I have attached to them.
In the world as it is now, we use fiction and entertainment in general less and less over time as a means of escape. Part of that is sheer necessity due to the lack of enough electricity for most folks to be able to do something as simple as watching a movie. People still read, of course, but the strain on our time that it takes is harder to justify every day. I'm not saying that we should give up our books or movies or what have you. I think that would be a dramatic gesture at best, with little sincerity to it. I'm just saying that I've noticed a trend, or rather that I realized one was happening, and it blows me away.
Think of it in terms of a visual illusion. You look at the picture one way, and see the vase. Then you relax your eyes and see that instead of a vase, it's two old ladies facing each other. The mind-blowing part isn't in the realization that there are actually two images present. It's in the fact that once you see it, you can never look at that picture without seeing both images. It's the same with the stacks of books and movies around my house.
I see them, and remember the feeling I had when I read about the heroes and villains within. How they made me feel. From Kvothe to Indiana Jones, Gandalf to Luke Skywalker, the sense-memories of late nights in dim light spent reading while immersed in my own imagination are strong. The smell of popcorn and the cool breeze of a dark theater tickle my mind when I hear the opening themes to my favorite films. These memories and sensations are so deeply rooted in my mind that I can never forget them, nor do they lose their impact.
But now a new set of feelings runs parallel with them. When I think about cracking open a book or start rifling through the DVDs in my office, I see them as antiques. Sad, old things that are shiny and new, but still relics of an era that has irreversibly passed. It's a little like living with the ghosts of old friends, seeing them when I sit down to work and hurting a little as I think about what has gone.
I've been thinking about this all morning, and the further realization just hit me: the people that died yesterday don't even have that. They made it through The Fall and more than a year of survival only to meet their end at the hands of people who would have been happy to take them in, had their hunger-addled minds not driven them to become dangerous. I grieve for them, for the potential that was lost with their passing, though I didn't know them. I wish things had been different. I would have shared my thoughts with them.
Maybe we could have taken comfort in one another as we mourned the passing of an age.