Thursday, September 5, 2013

Connecting Through Stuff She Loved: One Tree Hill

So I watched One Tree Hill. It was one of Jenna’s FAVORITE shows. 

All. Nine. Seasons.

It is effing ridiculous.

No really. The first time I watched and it got to the intro, it BURST into laughter. It took a good three, four episodes before I finally got used to it.

Basically it’s about people fucking up and Chad Michael Murray squinting and people making poor life choices to emotional music. Also basketball and brother stuff. And then in the last couple seasons… I have no idea. Still basketball I guess. But also some baseball. And an overly precocious child. The music remained a thing.

There was also a lot of slapping for some reason...


Like... a LOT of slapping... 


Seriously, don't these people know how to use their WORDS?!

But all jokes aside, it was the closest I’ve felt to Jenna in quite a while.

A few months ago, Jenna’s old roommate Paige got in touch with me about a recurring dream she’d for the third time. Jenna kept asking her about me. She was wondering why I wasn’t talking to her as much anymore.

There was more about the dream that shook me to say the least. Conversations Jenna had apparently “had” with other people (that those people had mentioned thinking about on completely separate occasions), even the mention of inside jokes… Stuff that Paige had no way of knowing. It struck me pretty hard.

Because whether you believe what I believe – that it is possible for those we love to find us in our dreams – the overall message was true. I had been struggling to talk to Jenna lately. And apparently I wasn't the only one noticing.

I used to talk to her the way the old guy in Up used to talk to his wife – Just random remarks, a clear picture of her in my mind. Lately that picture is getting a little hazy. The facial expressions she made in pictures weren’t the ones she made with me when we talked. Most of the Jenna from my memory is contained in my own expressions, but I’m never sure just how diluted I’m making her as more and more time comes between my memories and my point of reference.

Conversations with her lately just feel more and more like conversations with myself.

That’s where One Tree Hill came in.

From the few remarks she made about it to me (and her attitude whenever we watched anything she liked and I thought was stupid), I’ve been able to build a dialogue. I know what she’d say every time I rant about something I think is ridiculous. I can make pretty solid guesses about the parts she loved, who she likely crushed on. I’m finally starting to hear her voice in my head again.  I think I actually DID hear her yell "SHUT UP!" when I started laughing at the intro the first time.

But I think the most interesting part about watching or reading things I know she loved is seeing how they must have shaped the way she thought about things in life.

One of the philosophies that Jenna and I truly agreed on is that while experiences and success are important in life, they’re completely worthless without the people you love. What’s the point of building a life if it means sacrificing the people you want to spend it with?

That’s definitely a message reflected in this show. Through all the bad dialogue and ridiculous plots, I will say that I’ve enjoyed the underlying theme advocating the significance of following your dreams, but remembering what’s truly important.

I could also see a lot of the choices made regarding making romance work in the first place reflected in many of the character relationships. It's the idea that shit happens, mistakes are made, but love conquers all. As practical as Jenna could be, I knew her to be a closet romantic. It was always fascinating to watch her romantic experiences because it was like watching echoes from my own life. 

She always said that I was the more patient and forgiving person between the two of us (which is why she was so fiercely protective of me) but the more I really examine her journey, the more I realize that we both had the same capacity for it. Hers was just more selective than mine.

Love was always the bottom line for us. And we would be DAMNED if pride or stupidity or the poor choices of others got in our way. Watching One Tree Hill, I could see so much of that attitude underneath the drama. Maybe the reason the show bugged me so much is because it's hard to look back on your past and who you were before you knew better. I know that she would have grown from her experiences. She was always less actively self-reflective than I was (she was never as comfortable with her feelings as I was), but she was more intuitive about things like that. And we had each other. I was always there to force her to look at the things that motivated her and why, while she helped me let things just... be. A thing that's very difficult to do for me.

I really miss that.

I have to say, it was also pretty interesting to look at the way a television show like this handled death (particularly unexpected death) and especially grieving.

There were a couple of them on this show and I have to commend them. It seemed like they really wanted to make sure they got it right when it came to that experience. It's pretty clear that One Tree Hill strived to be a show that spoke to teenagers. Sometimes the speaking TO them was a little too obvious, but they didn't half ass important stuff like some other shows who fill that role do.

Television is one of my favorite story-telling mediums WHEN IT'S DONE WELL. It has all the visual techniques of a movie when it comes to evoking emotions, but the structure of the way a story is presented is completely different. On one hand, episodes are so much shorter than movies and must have a beginning, middle, and end. On the other hand, there's the season. And the series. And each of those measurements contains its own story that needs to be told. So if you want to dedicate an episode to a death, that's what the episode is about. But in the scheme of the season, that death can be a plot point. And in the scheme of the series, that death could be part of an overall character arc. Multiple layers, you see. And it's also unique in the scheme of a television show because often, you've gotten the chance to either get to know the character that's lost and/or the characters who are left behind. It so much closer to experiencing a life event WITH them rather than watching it unfold from the outside.

That I think is what makes watching the way the grieving process is presented especially fascinating. Not all television shows do this. A lot of them acknowledge, but mostly skim over the grieving process. It's understandable for a variety of reasons, especially if the show is more action driven than character driven or if the context the show is taking place in makes death commonplace (GAME OF THRONES O_O) and the characters are reacting accordingly. But when they actually take the time to dedicate an episode to what it means to experience a loss...

You know what? I think I’m going to put a more extended post together on all that. Put that on my endless “to-do” list when it comes to this blog.

Back to One Tree Hill...

All in all I was glad I watched the show. I can still have conversations with her. I just really miss asking questions I don’t already know the answers to. But maybe that’s only because it’s not an option anymore.

If any of you guys remember watching this or any other show with her, please feel free to send me your random thoughts and stories. They don’t have to have a beginning/middle/end. They can just be random things you remember her saying about the show.

The one thing I remember she said about it when I caught her watching it once or twice was that Nathan and Haley were “like the cutest couple ever.” Watching it now, it makes perfect sense. I can see a lot of Jenna’s ideals when it comes to relationships reflected in theirs. Though I always thought she was more of a Chad Michael Murray fan… I don’t remember.

This is basically the first five seasons in a nutshell...

And me? Chris Keller. Hands down. Also Dan Scott. I didn't have a thing for either of them (they were pretty much terrible people), but they were pretty much the reason I watched the show.

That last season had some serious drama.I was actually really worried that she hadn't gotten around to watching it that spring before... and she missed it... 
But I heard from Heidi that she, Jenna, and Gretchen had "study dates" once a week to watch the final season together (and not do homework). That made me happy.

Because it was actually pretty good.

YEAH I SAID IT. Whatever.

Life After Death: My Thoughts on Souls

Here it is! The follow up! Told you I'd get to it eventually!

Some time ago, I posted an entry talking about my beliefs about what happens in our last moments. It was basically my definition of what our personal heaven must be. Today I’d like to expand on that idea and talk about what I think happens to us after those last seconds of consciousness.

As I’ve stated before, I’m definitely not an atheist. However, I cannot call myself “religious” either. The closest thing I am to a label is an agnostic. I don’t rule anything out. I’ll say a prayer, I’ll get my chakras aligned, I’ll pay attention to my dreams, and sometimes I’ll address “God” or “the Universe” depending on my mood.

I believe that science and faith are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe they strengthen each other (as I mentioned in my first entry about these philosophies).

 I believe in the mysteries of the universe. I revel in the undiscovered. And I find divinity in existence itself and I think it is perfectly possible to be the most insignificant and significant thing in the universe at exactly the same time.

I can no longer connect to any specific religion because when I really consider the scale of the universe, how much we have discovered in our short time on Earth, and how much we still have to learn, I can’t help but find the assumption that we have even come close to figuring out what “God” is (much less what he “wants” from us) laughable. The desire to be a good person shouldn’t be rooted in fear of punishment or hope for a reward in the next life. The more good you put out, the more likely you are to get good back FROM OTHERS. The universe owes you nothing, but it’s still worth putting out those good vibes. ESPECIALLY when bad things inevitably happen. Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people, but those good people are going to have far more help getting through those bad times than the people who do not live their lives well.

Now I must add that I also do NOT begrudge people their religion either! In all this chaos, it’s perfectly understandable that a community that all believes the same thing can make you feel a heck of a lot more secure. Some people also need more rigid moral guidelines laid out for them. There’s no crime in craving structure in your life from an outside force if you struggle with it internally. And who knows? You could be right. As long as your beliefs aren’t a vehicle for hate, live your life in whatever way makes you happy.

I’ve just built something out of what I know and what I’ve experienced. They’re constantly evolving. I don’t like to rule anything out.

Also this is my blog. I'm not telling anybody what to believe.

So I’ve already talked about what I think happens in that moment right before the power shuts off—My idea of “heaven” so to speak. But what happens after that?

A while back, when this whole thing happened, my brain kind of went into philosophical overdrive. I just couldn't connect to the idea of traditional heaven and I sure as hell wasn't satisfied with the idea that this was all we get. But the fact that "one shot and done" just made me sad wasn't a good enough reason for me to believe in something. So I decided to take what I did know and figure it out from there. I started looking for answers outside of religion or even spirituality. I needed something concrete to start building my thoughts. 

That’s when I stumbled across this quote:

I found this to be profoundly beautiful. To have out scientific imprint laid out like that pushed me into a realm of thought I hadn’t yet considered. I took this idea and expanded.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Someone I love very much once told me, “People say that God is love, but I believe that love is God.”

I think that everything that’s capable of love has a soul. Love is the ability to put the comfort, survival, and happiness of another being ahead of your own. It is the opposite of our most basic biological instincts. It is proof that there is more to us than electrical signals and chemical releases.  Science has yet to account for every atom making up our body or the brain’s function. Even computers have ghosts. I find it completely unfathomable that something like our human minds have existed and evolved for this long and haven’t manifested some kind of… Something extra.

I know my theories probably wouldn’t hold up in a peer review or whatever, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s enough evidence to support it and not enough evidence to dispute it.  So… Imma go with it.

For the purposes of simplicity, I’m going to call those unaccounted for pieces “soul particles.” 

Still with me?

Alright so assuming that this is true (which I have no idea if it is), here’s what I think happens next. After that split second when we have our personal experience with “the afterlife.”

One of the most important rules of physics is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed or moved.

Based on that idea, I believe that once our bodies (or our casing, as I like to call it) it completely shut down and no longer processing, all that energy has to go somewhere. So our soul particles are released back into the world around us.

Now energy and particles can get into habits. So I think that for quite some time, those particles remain drawn relatively together (like a core consciousness), and are also drawn to the people and places that hold the most significance to them (or perhaps those who THEY are most significant TO). The way an antenna picks up a radio signal.

I believe that these particles will likely start separating after a while (while remaining connected to their “consciousness” in some way), but I feel like it's likely that when they first start out, they clump together and maintain the essence of what it would be like to be alive, simply because that's what they're used to. Why do I think this? Well... My roommate totally got haunted the night of Jenna’s funeral when he stayed over in our farm house. Without going into too many details, he woke up in the wee hours of the morning to the cat acting bizarre. He then heard a voice whisper to him. Not in a threatening way, but more in a… sassy way (his words). What it whispered, I don’t really care to go too much into detail with everyone who reads this blog, but let’s just say it was an inside joke between her and me and a few other people that my roommate did NOT know about. He mentioned it to my boyfriend on their ride back home

So yeah. For a while, they may maintain some traits of their behavior when they were all cased together, but after a while, I think the particles feel more comfortable branching off. After all, as I mentioned before, they're drawn to ALL the people and places that held them close. It would probably be more convenient to embrace the ability to be multiple places at once.

So after a while, our interactions with our loved ones soul particles become more and more specific to us. Because we're now just getting pieces of them. The pieces that were associated with those people or places. Does that make sense?

So for example, in the cases of most supernatural occurrences or “hauntings,” the “spirits” are often reported to be caught in some kind of pattern or have very limited wants. This isn’t because these are souls trapped with one thing to accomplish. I think it’s just a piece of a soul. Like a piece of code.

Meanwhile, dreaming about the ones we’ve loved and lost has been incredibly common across the board, but sometimes people have reported getting information eventually verified as true that they couldn’t possibly have known. In my experience, I’m pretty sure that I’ve noticed the difference between when you are dreaming about that person you love and when a person you love has entered your dream. So that’s where that comes from. Maybe the soul particles are drawn to you and get filtered through your brain and influence your waves… Or something.

So it’s stuff like that. Energy that interacts in subtle ways, maybe influences your mood, the weather, your choices, who knows? Maybe some of them even seep into you and bind with the soul particles you already have. If that’s the case, maybe everything you do from now on, they get to experience with you.

AGAIN, THIS IS PURE CONJECTURE (with a touch of babble). I’m not a physicist, I’m just someone who knows some stuff about physics. I’m not a theologian, I’m just someone who’s thought a lot about this and doesn’t sleep much anymore. I’m sure there is plenty of research to support or argue against these theories. This is just what I’ve come up with and I like it.

So yeah. That’s what happens to your soul particles—At least as long as they have an anchor to hold them together. I think that once all the people you loved die too, you have less of an incentive to hold yourself together and eventually your particles start to drift.

Now this next part doesn’t even have any science-ish stuff to back it up. This is pure guesswork.

So I think that once your particles start to drift, they mix in with other particles to form NEW souls. It’s not always evenly distributed of course. Maybe that’s why some people feel connections to past lives and others don’t – They have a clump of soul particles that stuck together that have some sort of memory. Maybe that’s why some people feel connected to others after only meeting them for a few minutes – Maybe we can detect familiar particles – A piece of our former selves.

The girl I nanny, Alyssa, also said something pretty interesting about souls. We like to talk about alternate universes sometimes (you know, typical small talk) and when we were first examining the possibilities of what would happen if a change in the timeline caused her to never be born. She just shrugged and said, “Well yeah, maybe not in THAT body. I’d be born somewhere else.”

That struck me: The idea that our souls aren’t tied to just one predestinced body...The idea that our souls are just waiting for a body to make its home – like we’re waiting to catch the right train. In some ways that makes perfect sense. Perhaps the souls that are extinguished too quickly, before they’ve had a chance to make a large number of ties to make them linger, get eager and just try again. The implications a belief system like that could have when it comes to infant death, or especially miscarriages (which I’ve learned through investigating various grief support groups is a very unique, complicated, and difficult grieving process), opens up a huge realm of comfort, perspective, and new philosophy.

I didn’t go off on this tangent to her of course. We had chapters to read and art projects to finish. But this is just one more example of why I love hanging out with this child (more in depth tangent on that in progress).

So there you have it: My completed theory of the afterlife.

Interestingly enough, whenever I’ve talked to any other person who has suffered an abrupt and traumatic loss who isn’t particularly religious, they seem to have come to very similar conclusions I have. I don’t know what that means, but… like I said. It’s interesting.

I know this probably won’t appeal to the religious OR the scientific demographics reading this blog (I like to pretend more then seven people read this, isn’t that cute?), but it’s what stuck. With a loss so traumatic and horrible and everyone being so damned understanding, I get really paranoid about when I’m being patronized. I think maybe that’s one of the more… underlying things that has driven me to find a theory about the afterlife that’s actually rooted in facts as well as faith. I don’t want to feel like I’m just trying to lie to myself to get through this.

I dunno. As I’ve said before, I find so much divinity in existence itself. Actually being able to prove something doesn’t make it any less wondrous. Having an idea that’s appealing and comforting doesn’t mean it’s probably a lie. And just because we have some answers doesn’t mean we’re even close to finding all of them.

Some romantic part of me hopes we never do.