Fear no evil…

As adults, I think we forget how to be afraid (be very afraid), therefore losing the invaluable benefit experiencing fear provides.

I much preferred encountering fear as a kid. It seemed bloody awful at the time – and Little Me would scorn Big Me for making such an arrogant statement. But, I genuinely believe that the fear you experience as a child is so much more productive and life defining than any of the rational (or likely, irrational) worries you amass as an adult.

Little Me, definitely aligned with The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition of fear:

“An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.”

As a child, it was a visceral sensation; truly unpleasant, and very much fuelled by the imagination. In my case, a wildly overactive one at that.

Growing up, I’d managed to bury and repress most, if not all, of my childhood fears. And I actually forgot what either caused them, or what they felt like. That was, until Kirsty and I made an unplanned trip to the pictures…

We went to see Andrés Muschietti’s new spin on one of my childhood favourites, and Stephen King’s 1986 masterpiece, IT. In terms of movie making and for entertainment value, it’s a solid 7/10, perhaps a 7.5. Big Me is super-nostalgic when it comes to things from Little Me’s past – so, if I wasn’t such a pragmatic critic, I’d probably give it 9.5. It’s an 80s pastiche masterpiece (Stranger Things really lead the way here recently) in terms of look, feel, score and character narrative. HOWEVER, that’s not what got me…

IT reminded Big Me of the things Little Me really feared – I’ll come back to what these ‘things’ really boil down to. What’s strange now, is that these ‘fears’ (well-deserving of their inverted commas), seem rather less menacing – and carry a far deeper meaning. Watching Bill Skarsgård nail his portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (says a big Tim Curry fan) took me back to witness my childhood fears again, firsthand*. This time though, from the outside looking in. Not only did everything appear rather retrospectively rational (despite what my parents told me) – but the fear seemed warranted and relevant, and it made me long for that feeling again. So I set about trying to understand why I miss it and why it (only now) made so much sense… Bear with me here.

Big Me’s take on IT, and my longing for its childhood fear qualities, aligns far better with Oxford’s fourth definition of the word:

“A mixed feeling of dread and reverence.”

So – if that was Big Me’s contemporary understanding of Little Me’s fears, then what did I fear today? How have my fears developed into 2017, and produced this weird yearning for my childhood worries and anxieties?

Sadly, it’s not nearly as exciting as fear of the Bogeyman (or evil incarnate – which I’m coming to). The things that I dread and fear these days – that wake me up in a cold sweat and have me scrambling for the comforting glow of my iPhone screen – seem altogether pathetic and pointless. Yet, I’m still paralysed, sometimes crushed emotionally and physically, by their terrifying power. So, how do they manifest themselves?

Well, most often in the form of receiving emails, thinking about work-life balance and worrying about Brexit…

…Cue a face-palm and giggle from Little Me at this very thought, as he pedals off to Morningside park to start fires and kiss girls.

Fears nowadays suck. I can’t think of a better way to put it. They’re actually really tough to recognise and should be really easily managed – yet they’re entirely all-consuming and insurmountable at the same time.

SO – it looks like Oxford’s second and third definitions of fear are now what Big Me wrestles with daily:

“A feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something.”

“The likelihood of something unwelcome happening.”

This is where I think the Little Me fears, and my desire to experience them once again, really stand up against Big Me’s distinct lack of understanding as to what’s causing my anguish. I’ve asked myself what the fundamental difference between the two is… And here’s my half-baked theory:

Big Me lacks the primordial fear of evil. Please bear with me!

What New Line’s baddies do so very well, is personify a malevolence (evil) that represents the unknown. As humans, we tend to demonise/turn from that which we do not know, recognise or trust. More often than not, we end up labelling the unfamiliar with a subconscious sense of potentially ‘wicked, harmful and unpleasant’. As a kid, this is ultimately what I feared the most – the unseen and unknown. Pennywise and Freddy capitalise on this beautifully – taking fear of the unknown (growing up, rites of passage, becoming an adult) and giving them a very recognisable face and presence.

Which begs the question, how do the heroes in these silver-screen sensations triumph?

Pretty simple really; they face their fears. They confront evil. They, essentially, get to grips with the unknown and accept their rites of passage.

The recognise that their fear generates and feeds the evil within – so, once they understand and confront it, there’s very little left to fear, apart from fear itself!

So, my Big Question of The Day, is:

What would Little Me say to Big Me about the fear I experience today?

I think he’d be surprised at the things I’m scared of (electronic messages and post-Brexit Europe). Big Me would agree with this – and be quick to admit to Little Me, that based on the above theory, the above examples are actually great illustrations of the unknown. Which is inherently what drives Little Me’s fear, and manifests as evil. Big Me would also point out that, as you grow up, your intuition changes and tries to convince you that:

  • There are less unknowns (you’re a grown up, act like one)
  • You’re in control (erm – you’re a grown up, please act like one)
  • You’re weak/nuts to think otherwise (you’re a bloody grown up, act like one!)

Therefore, what could Big Me learn from Little Me, in dealing with evil (the fear generated from the unknown)? Simple – recognise it, admit it and confront it. Don’t hide from it. Don’t become a slave to it. Otherwise, you’ll end up being consumed by it. I must admit, this is the skill I’ve totally lost/forgotten about as an adult. My fears seem very different, and not inherently evil – so I ignore/quash them. But, that’s because I’ve forgotten how to fight them. I’ve forgotten what it takes to crush the unknown. Let’s be honest – email is genuinely evil and Brexit is an actual nightmare.

Here’s a terrible graphic explanation of what I’m getting at:

Slide1.jpg

WOW. Thanks Little Me – I’ll genuinely apply that thinking. Too often, I get lost in a world of work and stress, never actually confronting or dealing with my own evils and subsequent fear. I’m going to step back, and see how I can confront these unknowns. It’s not always easy, when every email message that comes into my inbox sends my heart racing at the prospect of what it contains. But I reckon there are far smarter ways of dealing with this specific model. Perhaps I could concentrate on not becoming a slave to the motion/machine, and having a better understanding of what it is the people who are contacting me are looking for? A face-to-face follow-up normally always helps untangle the mysteries of an email’s tone and/or content. Little ME could be on to something here.

To finish, Big Me has one last point to argue internally, with glib Little Me – what about the evil that exists in the world today, that’s not an extraterrestrial or supernatural manifestation of the unknown? What about the evil of humankind – the evil of people? Big Me asks this specifically just after another bona fide nut-bar has tried to blow-up innocent people on the London Underground, thankfully, failing to take any lives this time but nonetheless further spreading the panic/hatred for the evil of terrorism.

Little Me would respectfully remind Big Me, without pretending for a second to truly understand the mentality of terrorists, or the complex political/religious drivers, that more often than not, it’s still a fear of the unknown at play. A lack of understanding stemming from something, that’s become so twisted and misconstrued over the decades (and centuries) that we’re unable to see the root for what it is.

Thanks Little Me. I’ll take some of that wisdom. Breaking down fear/evil and trying to understand more about (and confront) the unknown, ain’t a bad way to approach things in life.

FOOTNOTES:

*It’s worth pointing out, that 2017’s IT was masterfully crafted by the same production house, New Line Cinema, who gave birth to the ultimate (and my favourite) Bad Guy – Freddy Krueger. Not dissimilar in traits and evil impersonation, to Pennywise.

[Headline image credit to New Line Cinema]

[Growing, growing]… Grown

It’s really funny how little things can inspire you to get off your arse and do something. Not ‘ha ha funny’, rather, the scary but deeply motivational kind of funny that makes feel like all the planets have aligned for a microsecond.

I don’t think I understood or appreciated the true value of art until now. Wait a minute; I’m not talking about paintings and ballet and opera and antiques – that’s still above my head (for now – one can aspire). I’m talking about something unique and beautifully crafted, that’s unleashed on our hypercritical world to be totally absorbed and cherished.

Or massively pied and forgotten about.

In this case, it was a story. Well, a continuation of a story – and a visually compelling/cherish-able one at that, to say the very least. Nae pies here.

I saw Trainspotting 2 the other night. And it made me want to write. Any rhyming there was entirely unintentional, but hopefully adds some kind of melodic significance to the point.

HOLD ON. Before you switch off, at the prospect of reading another rambling (and slightly late to the box office table) ‘home-schooled critic review*’, hear me out:

The movie works magnificently on a number of levels. Bullet-points are probably the best way to articulate this, so I don’t miss anything (and because attention spans are seriously waning** these days):

  • Trainspotting 2 is a sequel. Bear with me. Nine times out of ten, they’re shite. They normally stumble around a nostalgia that reeks of the desperate little brother/sister*** who couldn’t quite match their shining older sibling’s storytelling ability, but tries nonetheless to re-tell the same fable, lacking any of the originality, excitement and poise. Not T2. Wow. Boyle, Welsh, McGregor et al collectively nailed it. In fact, I was more engaged with this one than the first. Trainspotting, the original, shocked and excited me as an awkward 13 year-old lad. But Trainspotting 2 well and truly perma-scorched itself into the back of my retinas in a way that only a scattering of movies have done in my lifetime. YES, they came close to crossing the ‘don’t try it again just for the sake of it’ line with Renton’s rebooted Choose Life monologue – but, surprisingly, rocked the absolute hell out of it second time around. Better and more brutal than the first – and a very perfect dystopian commentary on our ‘connected’ society (whatever the fuck that means).
  • The soundtrack, IMHO, rocked beyond that of the first movie. It cleverly remixes some of the original movie’s tracks (with enough rosy hue to get you excited), but also introduces a number of other, classic and modern pieces that complement the on-screen savagery, beautifully. I hummed and tapped the choons when I got home that night, and bought the soundtrack on iTunes the very next day – mostly so I could dance round the kitchen during my LSB-w/c cook-off (Lorne Sausage Bagel with cheese – seriously, try it). The album purchase wasn’t part of my Apple Music package and set me back a whopping £10.99, but, I didn’t care. I wanted to re-live it all, again and again. My 18-year-old self would be cringing, not just at the dancing, but the fact I’d PAID for music. Who does that!?! I’ll tell you who, 32-year-old me, with a quiet fear for the now way more powerful, yet strangely invisible internet music police, but also out of sheer admiration and gratitude for this awesome aural amalgamation of beats.
  • It’s entirely an Edinburgh story and film. There’s nowt better than seeing your hometown on the big screen. It fills you with pride. Particularly when you’re reminded of its humble grandeur and volcanic beauty (the Arthur’s Seat scene made me beam).
  • It’s a mental rollercoaster; hurling the full spectrum of emotions at you (some I had never before experienced, like ‘angrow’ – a confusing mixture of anger and sorrow – only made-up words can accurately describe Boyle’s drug-taking scenes). I also haven’t laughed out loud in the cinema for years and the Loyalist pub bit made me guffaw. Ironically brilliant, on a number of levels.
  • The visual effects are ace. Particularly in a day and age where CGI is the norm, and quite often done to death. The first film used some nice yet properly horrifying animated pieces (remember the dead baby on the ceiling?) Well, number two does it just as well for me, with the likes of some lovely wee stop-start camera masterpieces that enhance the banging soundtrack and brilliant narrative.

But I guess this could all be considered insignificant, even trivial when you think about how subjective film can (and always should) be. Movies probably move us in profound ways and move us all in profoundly different ways) because they connect with us, and our lives, on a much more personal and subconscious level.

For me the best takeaway wasn’t actually the music, or the effects, or the ‘ride’. Likewise the most message wasn’t really one of drug abuse, friendship, revenge or extortion. It was growing up. Mic drop. It was kinda rites of passage-type stuff. A nostalgic reflection of what was, and what could be. And how they’re deeply intertwined (whether we like it or not).

My childhood movie memories have been constructed with the solid pillars of 80s coming-of-age classics, and their associated anthropologies. Think The Goonies, Stand by Me, and The Lost Boys.

But there’s one big difference – watching those films as you’re growing up isn’t the same as seeing them when you’re grown up. Cue penny-dropping moment.

Seeing Renton, Sick-boy, Spud and Begbie reminisce about the good times and the bad, forced me to do the same. And despite their inevitable, downward-spiralling and melancholy outcomes, it made me feel really good.

Take a pinch of forgotten pride for your city, some nostalgic warmth and mix with a stark, but strangely reassuring reminder that you’ve ‘grown up’ – and you get a great feeling. So great, that I wanted to share this experience.

I think that’s what makes good art. Something that affects you (and alters your perception of things) on a deeper level. Something that makes you do something. Evidently this works both positively and negatively. I wouldn’t shy away from the fact that on occasion, video nasties (as they were called when I was growing up) can encourage those who’ve lost their way on the path to explore, and act on, the much darker and more dangerous sides of our psyche.

But for me, and hopefully others of the same age & breed, this trip down memory lane (mega pun intended) was surely nothing but a good thing.

Thank you, Trainspotting 2. You’ve woken up something inside me. You’ve helped me realise that I’ve grown up, some things have inexorably changed, but that’s totally cool and life’s kinda what you make of it.

🙂

FOOTNOTES:

*One of those incoherent, and mostly self-righteous social media posts, that vaguely critiques some form of art/content, with the writer’s primary agenda being one of ‘I saw this/tried this/did this before you, so check me out’. All hail the trend-setting fountains of knowledge, who ironically (and annoyingly) struggle between your and you’re. Wankers. And this proves that I’m now totally one too. Fuck.

** Apparently, human attention spans (how long something actually locks our true focus for) are now a whole second behind that of the goldfish – our woeful seven seconds plays deputy to their solid eight. For actual real. I blame banner ads. What were we talking about?

***For the record, my brother and sister aren’t desperate. They’re both rather lovely. And can both tell a jolly good story. But I’m still way better… at everything. Including life.

[Headline image credit to Film4]