One week ago, I took part in an activity that I had not done in ages – an activity that took me back fully to my roots of geekhood. While through the course of my life I have taken part in multiple Black Friday Crazy, Insane, Too-Early-Morning runs, attended more than my fair share of midnight movie viewings (like Tim Burton’s BATMAN; the three movies in THE LORD OF THE RINGS; and other cinematic masterpieces, but – thankfully – NEVER for those “prequel” things that laughably claim some affiliation with the STAR WARS franchise), and stood in line for hours in advance to get tickets for and/or to see a concert…at a little past midnight on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, I reclaimed my nerd heritage and once again became one of “those” fans, one of “those” people.
Yes. I stood and waited in a line outside in the blustery Miami weather to get a copy of THE DARK KNIGHT on DVD at midnight at Best Buy.
A number of people have asked me why I took what they perceived as a slight leave of all my senses and went to go get this DVD at this outlandish time of day. Was it a special edition only on sale at midnight? Nope. Did I get some kind of commemorative T-shirt for doing this? Nope. Did I get my copy on Blu-Ray with a signed note of thanks from Christian Bale? Nope and nope. Did I forget that I am now a moderately responsible adult, knock-knock-knocking on 40’s door, with a child on the way, and a job to get to at 8:30 the next morning? Nope, nope, and nope.
I went at midnight to get the standard two-disc edition widescreen DVD. The exact same DVD I could have bought the next day when the store opened at its normal time. No extras, no bells and whistles, no Blu-Ray fanciness.
So the question becomes if there was nothing to physically entice me to get this DVD at midnight, then why in the name of the Justice League DID I go at midnight, ruining my shot at a good night’s sleep? While I want to be all snarky and just say “Because I could,” the answer is actually just about as simple and as nigh-philosophical as my flippant response above: I went for the experience. For the community.
No matter what our personal idiosyncrasies, we draw comfort in knowing we’re not alone. No matter what personality quirk or habit we may possess, when we see someone doing, reading or saying something similar or exactly like what we might do, say or read – something lights up in us. Something sparks a moment of connection with someone who may be a perfect stranger to us but is also in that moment a kindred soul. And we feel – or we remember – we are not alone. No matter the isolation we may have felt for a season, in that instant, we know that there is a shared union with others, even though we may have never seen them before and may never see them again.
As someone who has in the past year and a half lost multiple ties – ties to a community (Athens/the South), ties to a body of believers (the 706), ties to friends who are more family than anything else (those in Auburn and those in Texas), ties to a collection of geeks (Classic City Cards and Comics) – along with not so much ties as they were anchors (my dog and my dad), ANY momentary connection, no matter how ephemeral in nature it may be, does and did cause a heartfelt, sincere moment of “You are not alone” in me.
Now, before anyone asks about Ashley and Unnamed Baby, yes. We are still connected. The bonds between us, quite frankly, have never been stronger (as was evidenced, to me at least, in the Grown-Up Conversation™ we had on the couch yesterday). And I don’t in any way mean to infer that our relationship is in any way lacking – but some people may be able to “get it” when I say that even couples who have each other can’t JUST be isolated and set apart from the rest of the world.
Maybe it’s because I’m still not fully recovered from the events of the past two months. Maybe because it’s the Christmas season and I’m hyper-sensitive to these things (and yes, just like more people in our culture who’d ever care to admit it, I always get a little more melancholy/introspective/bittersweet in my emotions during the holiday season). Whatever the reason – but in many ways especially because this IS the time of year when isolation can and does become such a strong feeling in the forefront of many people’s minds – it did make me think about the pain of loneliness that many people do feel during this time of year, and of the story that is read (and hopefully understood) time and again around fireplaces, living rooms, community groups, and even churches.
In the New Testament, in the book of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8-14. Go on and Google it. I’ll wait here while you open another browser window and do so. In the Message translation of the Bible, this passage even has the subheading “An Event for Everyone.”
Now, if anyone has ever studied the lives of shepherds in turn-of-the-century middle-Eastern/Jewish culture, you know that these people had a shared community; that they were brought together through a shared – well, not so much interest as it was a job, but sometimes we aren’t really afforded the luxury of hand-selecting everyone we’re thrust into a community with. Anyway, these guys (yes, “guys” – it was still a Y-chromosome dominant society at this time) were a community, bound together and brought together through something they shared, and – in many ways like my geek brethren – they were shunned by society. But they still had each other. They even (SPOLER ALERT) traveled as a group to see the newborn Jesus whom these angels were singing about.
I’m not so geeky as to think there is a deep “JESUS AND THE DARK KNIGHT” or “O HOLY DVD” parallel going on here in my finding a feeling of community in the mostly-male crowd encircling Best Buy at some ridiculous hour of the night and the community of shepherds who went in search of the Savior. I went looking for a movie that I saw a few months earlier that I thought was kinda cool; they went in search of the fulfillment of a promise and prophecy about their redemption and salvation that had been a part of their shared culture and heritage extending back for millennia. Jesus > Batman.
But what I did come away from this experience with (and from this posting, which is turning out WAY longer than I anticipated) was a feeling of connection, that I was not alone. And that I am just barely bright enough to know that this connection was based on a perception, that it wasn’t real, but was systemic in its evocation of a longing many of us feel in our hearts for a connection with something, someone, anyone, anything, anywhere if for nothing more than a momentary respite of the sense of being alone in our souls.
We crave a deeper, more truthful (and Truthful) connection. We long for that joy spoken about in Luke 2 when we find that the connection – the community – will last for longer than the 2.5 hours it will take to watch the film, the hour long discussion afterwards, and the 2-3 days of flame wars on message boards that comes next (well, maybe that last bit was just for me, but still…).
And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to read that little passage in Luke 2 and talk about IT with someone for a change. Ultimately, it may lead to a more satisfying discussion about life. But, feel free to bring in the concept of secret or dual identities if you feel so inclined.