Thursday, April 23, 2009


"As soon as a man lives or sees a thing, that thing instantly becomes part of his soul." - Gustavus Hindman Miller

When I was a teenager I went to see the movie Pulp Fiction. There is one scene in the movie that is incredibly gruesome, but it is also really funny. I remember sitting in the theatre laughing and then being completely horrified when I realized that what was on the screen shouldn't have made me laugh. That moment changed my life.

I remember reading once that everything we see is forever imprinted on our consciousness. That night in the theatre I made the decision to choose carefully what I allowed into my head. I have taken some teasing from people who think that I am being naive, and heard the word 'wimp' bandied around in my direction when I chose not to watch horrific or violent movies, but I have stood my ground. From that moment on I have been choosy in what I allow into my head. Consciously choosy.

Tonight I wonder what you are allowing into your head and into your life. Did you know that whatever goes in will be there forever? The things you see and the things you live are constantly creating your consciousness.

What are you letting in?

Ooh, deep thoughts for a Thursday night.


daisies said...

*gasp i had the exact same experience ... and i so agree, its why i don't watch movies that are all about the violence and tortue and blood and gore because the images stay with me forever and what is the point in that? i prefer to be consciously choosy as well, i don't think its naive ... for me, its just that there are enough things in the world that are horrible and scary and sad and i would prefer to spend the time i have when i can surrounding myself with beauty and hope and light. i think there is strength in that actually.

:-) i like your deep thoughts!

Vivienne said...

i like you're deep thoughts too!

i'm so the same way about violence in movies (though this has made me think about my addiction to csi and how i've become desensitized to its gore).

i hadn't really thought about these ideas being in your mind, tucked away somewhere forever! sure does makes me think twice about what i am choosing to let in!

Genie Sea said...

I can totally relate. I have adamantly refused always to watch slasher movies. Freddy and Jason were never let into my head. I don't find them fun in any way.

I don't find realistic and psychotic violence fun in any way. Not murder. Not rape. Not torture.

Since then, this restriction has widened to include movies with overpowering violence like a lot of Tarantino's movies. And now the news. Even the news have been filled with gruesome scenes.

I can't do it. I don't need those scenes in my head.

Naive? Maybe. A wimp? Possibly. At peace? Definitely! :)

Anonymous said...

I fully agree - seems the older I get the more careful I've become. When I went to see Pulp Fiction with friends it was the first time before or since I have ever LEFT a theatre in the middle of a film - it was irrevocably disturbing to me. I was definitely the 'odd woman out' in a group who were enjoying the movie, but decided I preferred to sit in the sunshine in the lobby until it was over. That was the start of my consciousness toward honoring my "no" when it comes to material that I don't care to take in.

Silvia said...

ok. so i love pulp fiction. but regardless of that. it did get me thinking on what i've allowed to get into my head these past months (not so much about movies, but what other people have said, my own thoughts, the news etc.) It ain't good.

Perhaps movies is what i need, movies that will put something good into my head (ok that totally came out wrong, i mean i know there's some good stuff in there ;) and books etc. good happy beautiful images and words.

*sigh* the thought alone makes me feel a little lighter.

thanks for sharing this. it so made my day and it's only 7.08am!


Evelyn said...

So interesting that this morning when I got up I consciously decided NOT to turn on the news - I just didn't want my day filled with all the doom and gloom and preferred to think today was just another day in the Life of Me.

Great post... got me thinking, not just about what I attend to.

3rdEyeMuse said...

love, laughter, light ... letting it in and take hold of me ... sometimes other stuff makes its own way in (by way of the moods of peeps around me & their words, complaints, etc.) BUT, I choose to focus on the best of everything that's added ... and I often sort and toss my outdated thoughts/views ... takes practice, but is possible.

There's great power in each and every one of your choices ... choose wisely.

thanks for the thoughtful post & lovely photo.

holly said...

I wholeheartedly agree. While Pulp Fiction used to be a fave of mine, I have noticed that whatever I watch truly does stay in my head and sometimes I am surprised by just how sensitive I am to something, why I couldn't sleep after watching Crooklyn again, I'll never know... but I have decided to really be careful from now on what I let into my head. I was on a natural high yesterday, simply from being in nature and the sunshine, riding my bike and marveling at life. I did not turn the tv on once (which isn't unusual for me). Thank you for adding further food for thought.

Amber said...

This is so true, and it is the reason I am so careful with what my children see. And lately, our son is of the age when he is saying to me, "but my friends get to play it/see it!" Ugg. I say, "well, I am a better mother." LOL

On a serious note, as a child I saw many, many things-- movies, magazines and in real life, that a child should never see. And some of it really had an bad effect on how I felt and perceived the world, and what was normal and okay. Some things took years of therapy to 'undo'.


Jaime said...

I woke up this morning (about an hour ago) and read the news. What was I thinking? I don't like to infuse my head with horrible stories, let alone, first thing in the morning. I don't usually do this, but a story caught my eye, and then it was too late.

But...lately I have been completely hungry for poetry. I am discovering a new passion for words and how people use them to describe beautiful things. It fills my head with wonder and new ways of seeing.
I like this much much better. :)

monsterpants said...

Hi Meg,
Found you through mutual net-friends. I don't normally comment on blogs of strangers because I usually feel like I'm joining a conversation to no end, or that it doesn't really serve a purpose if I'm not already in relationship with the original poster. So something really had to prompt me to comment on this before I felt proper conviction to speak up. Apologies this is so long. Hopefully someone out there will find it thought-provoking.

I'm 27 years old. I just started watching more intense movies over the few years. I very rarely did so for a long time, because of what you are talking about- it's not only a moral notion (as taught me by the "McGee and Me" kid's show my church showed me in the 90's), but also scientific fact that every cell in our body remembers everything it experiences, and our brains never lose anything that goes into them.

However, I think there's as much danger in NOT ever allowing in something dark or subversive as there is in indeed letting those ideas in. To ignore them entirely is to live in a dream world, you are attempting to create a utopia for your own brain, even at the expense of so many life lessons and beauty that cane be taught through pain and darkness, not to mention a lack of connectedness at what I visualize as a sort of "horizontal" level- that is, the level where we connect with other human beings who have experienced pain, violence, and the dark side of life.

I happened to watch "Taxi Driver" the evening before I read your post originally. I had never seen the film, and maybe you haven't either. It's extremely violent, with gloomy themes stemming from what happens with a dreadfully lonely insomniac (a very young Robert De Niro) when he's surrounded by a city of sin and crime (e.g., the 12 year-old prostitute, played by a very young Jodi Foster).

Reading your post the next day felt like a "shame on me" finger was being waved (not necessarily by you ;) it was just a vague sense). I almost felt guilty, until I realized how incredibly much that film moved me, and drew me into the human condition, connecting me to all the others in the world who have felt some ringing of truth from the film strike them just so, too.

That evening, I watched the much-talked-about Swedish vampire movie, "Let the Right One In" which ultimately looks closely into the life of a 12 year-old girl who sadly has this condition where she needs human blood to survive (and suffers all the other vampire ailments as well- general unpleasantness, not being able to go out during the day, etc). It is full of all the gory imagery of a horror movie, but is not scary and instead focuses on how much it sucks to be her and how it affects the community she lives in. It makes you think: vampirism isn't real, however- are there conditions people suffer in the world that could do this kind of metaphorical damage to a community, or that could hurt this badly?

That night my boyfriend woke me up because I was hyperventilating in my sleep. As soon as I was conscious I started bawling. I had been having a nightmare, set in Sweden, in which my dad was found dead, head-first in a tar pit. He'd been hit with a blunt object and pushed face first to suffocate him further. His legs where still laying on the surface of the tar. I was mortified and the tragedy that struck my heart was overwhelming. I couldn't stop crying. ('How could my brain make up such a horrific scene? I'm not that kind of person! I don't think that way!' I thought to myself.)

When my head cleared a little, I of course realized that the dream was so obviously spurred by what I had just seen on the screen- the image of his body was very similar to the vampire's victims, and the setting was Sweden- that's more than coincidence. I also thought, as I lie there, of how you had written about everything we watch sticking in our brains.

This dream may sound like even further argument for you to avoid such images. But as I finally settled back into sleep, I felt a strange sense of deep gratefulness. If the dream was so scary and tragic, how can that be? (I'm not a masochist, by the way.) The fact is- I can say with almost 100% certainty that I have never felt so much love for my dad, nor such a strong sense of protectiveness over him, nor how tragic losing him one day will be one. Because of this dream- which I almost surely would not have had if it hadn't been for the gruesome, grizzly film I'd just viewed- I was feeling something POSITIVE which I had never experienced before. The positive effect of internalizing a very horrific concept, in this case, was deeper Love. Not wanting to take anything for granted.

I thought back to "Taxi Driver," and realized my appreciation for this film was similar. Even though De Niro's character shoots up a bunch of people, and that's horrible, we can relate to him in his loneliness and frustration. Seeing the violent images hammers the point home in a way that says, "YOU CAN'T IGNORE THIS. EVEN THOUGH YOU MIGHT FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE IF YOU TRIED TO." This ability to relate is not to be viewed as a scary thing, but a sympathetic, compassionate thing. A FEELING thing. Not to let such things in denies us very significant and, I believe, important feelings we are designed to feel.

And not only does "Taxi Driver" spur you to think about life in a way you may not if you focus only on those things which are positive at face value, but it's also one hell of a beautiful piece of art. Scorsese is a genius director and it's also an history lesson, to get a glimpse of both filmmaking and of NYC in the 70's. I'm so glad I've started allowing this kind of art into my life.

ALL that said, I would end by saying this- I do understand you said "consciously choosy" which does leave you some wiggle room. And it's not that I am saying you should let just any garbage in, but I felt extremely compelled after all this to comment that- like so much else in life- we would be wise not to throw the baby out with the bath water, to not say that all violence/ darkness in art is bad for my brain cells (just like you wouldn't say that all violence-free art is good for our brain cells). We have to balance everything, deciding in each moment what is good and right for our own souls.

And I truly believe that if we have lightness in our souls, we don't need to be afraid of exposure to dark things, or even of those things being memorized by our brain cells for eternity. For only in light is darkness transmuted, and a dark concept can only be transmuted and used for good in the presence of a light, like that of a light soul.

Thanks for reading this long mutha!
Warm regards,

Evelyn said...

Gwen - great post. First off, I didn't realize that maybe people don't post because it seems strange to enter into something without the relationship, however I know on my blog I wish I got more posts (and encouragement).

Second, without pain there is little opportunity for growth, so there is a reason for the good/evil in the world. We learn a lot from the evils of the world. Yet, there are those consumed by the negative, obsessed with it (I have seen a few in counseling sessions), others who are overwhelmed with it, some who are oblivious, and other conscious and balanced with what they bring into their lives.

Personally, I struggle with violent films... they bring me to other memories that are not comfortable, but I have no judgments of others and their viewing and engagement habits. I think many of us know what we can handle and what we can't. Ultimately, the painful reminds me to regard the positives in my life.

I loved your post and the examples you use really are thought provoking. Just wanted to acknowledge this because I know I would not want to leave anyone with the impression that what you choose is "bad"... or instill a sense of guilt.

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