Reason Left to Love

As another year draws to a close, I again ponder the future of human civilization and how best to go on living in it.

In my thirties, I resolved to no longer make New Year’s resolutions. It was perhaps the inevitable result of my nihilistic epiphany eleven years ago, to accept life’s small joys rather than torture myself aspiring to lofty ideals I seemed unable to attain.

The fallout of the pandemic altered us all—even if human civilization as a whole appears stubbornly determined to continue its self-destructive course. But it wasn’t until December of ’21 that I decided to make a New Year’s resolution.

From my perspective, 2020 was the “Oh shit, what the fuck are we going to do?” year—and not just about the pandemic. The pandemic may have exposed the pitfalls of our capitalist-dictated global economy (strangling our healthcare, information networks, and politics). But it was the murder of George Floyd, the violent police response to protests, threats to democracy worldwide, and multiple climate catastrophes—unprecedented storms, drought, and wildfires—that brought the shortcomings of “civilization” to the dinner table. Existential dread became the norm. For some of us though, 2020 gave us hope—hope that we’d collectively realize what really matters, seize the opportunities of the shutdown, and somehow make the world a better place.

Then 2021 arrived—the year that humans proved how much we suck (and not in a good way). Determined to repeat our mistakes, we demonstrated what selfish, impatient, and short-sighted creatures we can be. Amid break-ups and reconfiguration, trying to find better paths for ourselves, we returned to old vices, like a divorcée to a young lover. It was a painful year, and no less to realize that no matter our individual choices, not even a global pandemic was going to pull humanity’s collective head out of the sand (or out of its collective ass, if you prefer vulgar over ecological metaphors).

While many oxymoronically hoped 2022 would magically be better and that we might return to business as usual, I returned to my nihilistic acceptance that we live in a new Dark Age.

But this is the beautiful thing about nihilism: It frees you to determine your own moral compass. After finding hope in the wake of 2020’s disasters only to amplify 2021’s disappointments; in December 2021, I told myself, I cannot change the course of the human civilization. I can choose how I contribute to the lives of those around me, however. And I chose to give love to the people in my life. That was my 2022 resolution: to love people.

I’m not always the most cheery person. But my decision to show love and kindness to those around me had a positive impact on my life, even if surrounded by depressing and infuriating realities. Because I focused on caring about people and on how they cared for me—I found life more enjoyable. I also started a new relationship in January with one of the most loving persons I’ve ever met. Despite my dismal view of humanity’s future, I’ve never been happier, right now, sharing it with people I love. Strangely, I’m also excited about what the future may hold, despite the struggles I know are yet to come.

It’s 12:11 AM, January 1st, 2023, and I’m still writing and editing this post in which I’d hoped to announce my 2023 New Year’s resolution, but at the moment, it sort of seems beside the point. I’ll just say (without knowing exactly how I wanted to word it) that I aspire to have both the patience and determination to redevelop my writing habits.

The main reason I started this post however was not to talk about writing, but to add fun, fresh material to my updated website. More specifically, I’m kicking off my endeavor to put together my own “Top Ten Films” list.

The original Alien and Blade Runner among my favorite films of all time (praise Ridley Scott). I also love Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Rather than simply assemble list of personal favorites from memory, however, I believe a published top ten deserves more specific parameters—and a fresh, discerning eye.

To bring this post full circle, I love films that capture some aspect of humanity’s postmodern plight. How do we find meaning and purpose—a reason for living—during such an overwhelming, bleak, heartbreaking, pivotal yet unintelligible period in human history? While the list may still reflect my obsession with dystopian sci-fi, I want to offer a list of films that others will find thought-provoking, perhaps even inspiring. I also intend to watch every film (again) before adding it to the list, to insure it continues to be just as relevant as when I last watched it (if more than a few years ago). With any luck, I also hope to discover a few new favorites!

Replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner

Blade Runner may remain in my top ten. After finally reading Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—the inspiration for the film that deepened my appreciation for the story (though of course, the film and novel are very different animals)—I watched Blade Runner again this past year. The film’s portrayal of synthetic humans or androids (known in the film as replicants) begs the eternal question, What does it mean to be human?

It was another film that I recently re-watched, however, that inspired me to create this list, a film that captures the gritty desolation of our postmodern world, embraces a nihilistic view of humans (referred to as ‘zombies’ in the movie), yet manages to conjure a rich, deep appreciation for life and art.

Swinton and Hiddleston as Eve and Adam

If you haven’t yet watched Only Lovers Left Alive, I don’t want to give away too much. If you’re like me, it may be enough to know that Tilda Swinton plays a vampire against the backdrop of Detroit’s empty streets and abandoned cityscape. A ghastly yet passionate creature, Swinton’s character, Eve, breathes life into her heady, depressive vampire lover, played by Tom Hiddleston.

How can you’ve lived for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living. It could be spend in surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship, and dancing.

Eve, Only Lovers Left Alive

Though filled to the brim with literary and intellectual references, the story avoids grandiosity to dwell a moment on an intimate yet poignant reunion of two lovers. As vampires who’ve lived long and rich, full lives, they carry the weight of humanity, both its triumphs and its failures. As lovers whose affection for one another has endured for lifetimes and living worlds apart, they remind us of the simple yet greatest pleasures two people can enjoy.

At turns witty and comedic, both banal and poetic, Jim Jarmusch doesn’t overly indulge anyone’s expectations for a vampire movie, yet creates one of the most believable—both deeply human and bleakly monstrous—portrayals of a vampire I’ve ever enjoyed. Yet, the film isn’t really about vampires at all. It’s about us—anyone thirsting for beauty and vitality among the ruins of mindless human consumption and decay.

Rather than hold your breath in anticipation of 2023, I encourage everyone to pause a moment and remember what thoughtful, creative, and kind creatures we can be. Put away your phone; give your friends and lovers your undivided attention. Draw a landscape. Write poetry (even if it’s terrible). Read a novel. Watch a film that reminds you how to love.

I’ll have more recommendations in the weeks and months to come. By the end of 2023, you’ll have a complete list of ten films that embrace humanity’s complexities and drink deeply.

Tilda Swinton as Eve, enjoying carefully rationed, untainted blood

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