Thinking about the consequences of Thorin cathexis: or, I’m no movie star
[At left: Alan Lee's depiction of Orthanc. Source: wikia]
Have to laugh under my breathe, because as I start to write this, three late adolescent males at the table next to me are having a very intense discussion about Orthanc. They are so excited that, yes, I googled it. The freaking LOTR is everywhere. One of them also has a Saruman t-shirt on.
Thanks to everyone who read or left a comment on the three “Cathecting to Oakenshield?” posts. I know they got brutally emotional toward the end. It’s a bit the mood of the moment. Several people have told me I’m paying the emotional bill for my self-discipline over the summer, but of course, time doesn’t stop passing and events continue to march forward, as well.
I don’t think I’m going to be able to reproduce the chain of thoughts that got me here without doing more writing than I have time for at the moment, but this is what’s on my mind.
So what gets me interested in Thorin despite my initial disinclination? Beauty. Sufficient beauty to let me tolerate painful thoughts. Or maybe it’s frightening thoughts.
What sells me on the role? Concentration.
And what’s the end result? This image that reminds me to be strong in certain situations.
To say it in pictures:
Gets me to notice this:
Of which I am reminded at a decisive point by this:
The next question is: be strong for what? What is the goal?
I feel like the end result of this journey — what we’re looking at — is then this:
Now, as I wrote, I like that picture a lot. It definitely captures my attention for all kinds of reasons. But.
I’m asking what this means on a bunch of levels. And yes, I accept that I’m not going to get answers now — I have to go on the journey (or stay on it?) to find out what they are.
I wrote before about my uncertainty about the usefulness of this Thorin metaphor, given that Thornton, with whom I identify so much, fails, in an atmosphere of disturbing signs about his likelihood of recidivism, so that I’m completely pessimistic about his chances for changing the fate of Marlborough Mills in the time after the series ends. I’ve watched character after character fail or die — all the ones who mean the most to me: Thornton, Guy, Lucas, Porter — and Thorin will die, too, and he has so many connections with Thornton. Pride / inadequacy. My teeth hurt. My G-d, how we all suck, all the time.
Writing that last post took so much out of me that I couldn’t formulate the other two things that are bugging me, but: I have two more questions.
OK, so let’s say the sword metaphor is something about cutting through the knots I’ve tied myself into, of which there are many. However. What I always wanted to achieve was not the endpoint but the midpoint — that is, I never wanted to be the Thorin in the pretty, photoshopped photograph at the endpoint (whose legs, I assume, are not even his own) — I wanted to be Richard Armitage concentrating on what he’s doing, doing it well, loving it most of the time and accepting the negative externalities because the flow was so great. To use the words of The Armitage himself, I’m no movie star and I never wanted to be one — that would be a frightening negative externality. This was a major problem in my last job, where I was supposed to be one. I thought I could combine doing what I wanted in the way that seemed best to me (which was part of why they hired me, let’s admit it) and the consequences being perceived the way they wanted, but I couldn’t. I can conform — till all of a sudden I can’t. I don’t have the energy, the will — and let’s face it — the capacity to swoop in for the kill. Personality-wise, it seems, I’d rather stop short of something than actually get there.
Painting this as a great capacity to ask questions has not on the whole kept people employed as historians. People want the deliverable.
And oh, the terror of not being good enough, of not having worked hard enough. I cannot, cannot, cannot get caught up in the same trap, where the discourse about my insufficiencies or apparent laziness starts to control my self-perception. (Assuming I’m even aware what my insufficiencies are, but I can guess.)
So I find ways to self-sabotage. To prevent being trapped. Having spent so much time this summer at close range to my parents’ marriage makes the reasons for that more clear to me than they have been in awhile — attraction might lead you to love too much. Love=dependency, and dependency is dangerous. I do not want to you to love me because I fear the effect it might have on me. Stay away.
Or better: I want to be lost in love but not thinking about the rest, about having to be loved. What I don’t want from this journey — I don’t think, anyway — is the end. I want the process and experience and thus the way consistently into the process. The outcome is unimportant. Is that true? I think that’s true. It’s why I kept avoiding the outcome so persistently in my last job. Isn’t it? To continue the marital metaphor: I want to lose myself in love — not be married. Not have the marriage be a locus for having the love criticized.
To continue the movie star metaphor: It’s the outcome that makes you the star. Maybe this is why I am so consistently defensive of and about Armitage’s right to do what he pleases — you can say, being a movie star gets you better roles and I wonder, and you want better roles because? (The same argument is frequently made about the ranks of the professoriate — you can “accomplish” more in a better job. However, a better job is inevitably defined in terms of being a job that allows you to accomplish more. Circular; begs the question.)
What do I want?????
The other, not unrelated, problem is what the heck I am doing to get wherever the heck it is I’m going. OK, so let’s say what I’m going for is the flow in the vlog picture, Richard Armitage playing Thorin with total concentration. I know how to do this as a professor. (In terms of work. Obviously I’ve had flow experiences as a musician and in religious settings and while writing.) From 1998 to 2011 it felt like a bad marriage; or rather, three of them in sequence as I searched for better relationships and then people believed that my marriage was so good that I’d never leave it. I was finally forced out of the marital estate. I attribute the chain of events that led to that as a consequence of conflict I experienced between the desire for flow and the problems around the consequences of it — and more importantly, my own ability to resolve that dilemma, and to keep all the crap out of my ears and concentrate.
So I was leaving the profession and sort of waiting to figure out what happened, and then this job descended, and I was asking these same questions even then. And unable to resolve them. And I took the job and now, to continue the marriage metaphor, I am living in sin. Not committed. Both partners can leave each other at any time. Now: it’s been said more than once, if I do that movie star thing, which everyone expected me to do in my last job, there’ll be a ring on my finger. You made me, promises, promises. But I know there’s some real sincerity there. I may not ever be able to be married again — but this is a marital problem who would not start off the relationship from the assumption that he had the right to abuse me to get what he wanted. And of course at that point I might have other suitors. My research is rich and strange.
I just may not ever be able to be married again. But in that case, why am I still dating?
I don’t want to be one of those people who just turn eternally around an axis they can never abandon, repeating my trauma ad nauseam. I want out, to know I’m on the way out, even if I’m not getting there this week. I experience a true fear of continuing to whine about my life here, when I’ve had at least one opportunity to leave and now I can walk out the door at almost any time. I’ve bitched plenty about being a professor and occasionally talked about the joys of it, but I’m so afraid of the question of what else I would do that I’ve only ever been able to conceive of it in terms of tasks that are components of this job, like teaching, about which I remain unbelievably ambivalent. I’ve listed some alternative careers but I can’t love any of them, either. And the question of what to do next is just so frightening that I keep putting it off, even as I keep putting off doing what I’d need to do — making the movie — that would make me a movie star.
How do I stop being afraid? I think Thorin’s a clue to that, maybe. If he’s not also just leading me into another brick wall, like Thornton.
How do I become Richard Armitage being Thorin swinging the axe and the sword? Do I do it as a professor? Because that’s all I really know how to do.
And these two questions sort of mesh with each other and then with the first. Because whatever I do, if I stop being a professor, and even if I keep being a professor, I’m going to fail at it a few times before I’m successful.
Pride / ego — pressure from external sources — how specifically to achieve flow in work. All bound up in these pictures, and the various dramas Armitage has been acting out for me all this time.
Yeah. And then, while I’m hovering my finger over the “publish button,” stuff like this appears.
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Source: Me, My Thoughts, and Richard Armitage
Serious synchronicity here. Stay alert? Take aim? Concentrate? Calculate? What then?
And here’s that freaking sword again — on the right margin. Thanks, Jas, for rocking my world. No more pics tonight, please, I don’t think my brain can take it.
To learn my own story, I’ll have to abandon the linear notions of causality I learned as a historian.
OK, fine, G-d. I’m listening.
You don’t have to send me any more sword pictures. G-d?
If the universe is not speaking to me, what is happening?
But / and if it is: what the heck is it saying?
~ by Servetus on September 8, 2012.
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