and in the darkness bind them

I spent a couple hours last night putting the final touches on the script for my next film project with Austin the Director. It was already decent, I think - the characters were interesting and likable enough - but it wasn't really about anything, so we spent a while talking through what it was I thought the piece was trying to say... which is an Artist's Gobbledygook way of saying that Austin and I argued back and forth about the nature of the universe as our script spiraled ever-downward into cynicism and despair.

In the end, we decided that the point of the story was that romantic relationships are all just complex negotiations of power. It made sense for the story and seemed to fit with both our experiences, but at one point I had to stop Austin and say, "Look, dude, you are remembering that we're not talking here about what people are capable of... just how they generally conduct themselves, right? There are such things as grace and love, you know."

He laughed; maybe agreeing, but perhaps in gentle mockery of my naivete.

Austin thinks people are motivated primarily by pride. He thinks a woman chooses a man by carefully weighing her perception of his power-status within their mutual social group against her perception of her own relative power-status to determine if the match increase her power. He says that a woman wants a man other women find difficult to snag, in order to increase her standing among her peers - and that men do pretty much the same. Once a man and a woman have negotiated that power struggle and made that "relationship" plunge they enter a new realm of power negotiations, which they enact again and again until break-up or death or divorce do them part.

He's right, you know.

Power (or control, if you prefer) is one of our most favoritest human illusions, and we will go to absurd lengths to capture and hold onto it. People are pathetic and stupid and proud and grasping and weak and unloving and graceless; and there really isn't all that much we won't do for a quick hit of pride.

I think that the reason we do this is that we are afraid. We are afraid to be alone. We are afraid to die. We are afraid that deep, deep down, we're just plain un-lovable. And so we do the opposite of love and try to control our situation and other people, believing that with enough power, we can make others love us.

It doesn't work, but there is a better, seemingly counter-intuitive way. We can sacrifice power. We can lift others up, stripping off layer after layer of illusion until all that's left is people loving people. We peoples can do this, together; but we don't, mostly, so my characters don't. They play power games all day and get nowhere closer to what they really want and need - love.

Stupid, pathetic, imaginary people... it's nice to have someone other than myself around to mock every once in a while.


  1. hmmm. I'd like to watch a movie about that last paragraph. The stripping of layers of illusion.

  2. Absolutely. That'll probably be the guts of a lot of the films I write over the next several years. One layer at a time.

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  4. I think you've hit on the truth of human nature in the idea that pride (or to put it another way - our love of power and control) is our darkest and most powerful urge. It is the "original sin" in the story of Adam and Eve and, as C.S. Lewis put it - " the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison ... Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind."
    The church frets over all sorts of moral failing and other fleabites, but Pride is what makes us human (in the worst sense of the word) and Love is what makes us human (in the very best sense of the word).

  5. Ya vol, Herr Darren. Nice thoughts.

    Except I stand by my argument (in the face of any and all reason to the contrary) that the first cause of pride is fear. Why? Because Austin's arrogant enough as it is, and there's no way I'm ever gonna cave. Plus, I think I'm right.

  6. So ... on second reading I see that what I have done is taken Austin's thoughts and ascribed them to you. Then what I did was go ahead and agree with those thoughts even though a big part of the blog entry was to say that you actually see things a bit differently. The next thing I did (as long as I'm chronicling my actions and thoughts) was to write this second comment to say that I actually agree with you as well. This brings us up to date with what sounds suspiciously like sucking up, but it's not that entirely, because I think your point about fear being our motivator is very valid, but also that it has to somehow fit alongside pride. I don't think it's an either/or equation but that those two make perfect bedfellows to explain our defective humanity. We rampage with pride and privately cringe in fear - both of which are antithetical to the love and peace we crave.

  7. Yeah, yeah. Austin and I go back and forth. I tend to think it's some sort of weird, mystical symbiosis. Our overall truce has been to admit that I give pride-of-place to Fear because it's more my thing (I'm a simpering chicken), and Austin's into Pride because that's his thing (he's an arrogant, pretentious poppenjay).

  8. Dear Josh,

    My uncle recommended I check out your site shortly after having me watch the infamously acclaimed 'Citizen Kane', and I am wondering what a TRUE visionary is to do if all he or she desires is to make real the visions of his or her mind, but without a perception of pride. What if he or she wants to give their soul away rather than keep it for others' recognition?


  9. I'd love to answer your question, Seth, but I'm not sure I know what a TRUE visionary is. Me, I'm a wretch, crawling through the morass trying to reach something BEYOND myself, something that hopefully resembles the truth.

    My inner vision provides the spark to begin and hopefully the juice to keep going, but I never know when I start exactly where to find the truth that I'm seeking.

    Pride, fear - all of that - it's in some way bound up in the process. If you are somehow clear of all that, then I wish you a gloriously straight road, paved entirely with jelly beans. I would also like to touch the hem of your garment, so to speak, 'cause I've got this pain in my lower back that I can't seem to shake.


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