08 August 2012
Published on August 8th, 2012 @ 12:49:52 pm, using 1040 words, 19605 views
It’s highly unlikely that I was the only person in the world to sit up and take notice of that line (or any other line I’ve ever sat up and taken notice of, for that matter.) Yet, the irrational feeling that that’s exactly the case never fails to take hold of me at moments like these. I suppose, the words that affect us the most strikingly, whether read or heard, usually find us in such an atmosphere of privacy that we can’t help but feel singled out.
There are the combinations of words we admire for their sheer beauty, the ones we appreciate for the wisdom they evidence and impart, the ones we welcome as lessons worth learning, and then there are those that simply act like mirrors, that enable us to see ourselves, that describe something in us we lacked either the proper tools to carve into visibility or the occasion/need to put into words.
You never know who you’re gonna meet, do you?
(Silvia Broome in The Interpreter)
How do we keep the experience?
(Ouisa Kittredge in Six Degrees of Separation)
You’ve just always been this fucking thing that swallows me.
(Diana in Nine Lives)
I always feel like a freak because I’m never able to move on like this.
(Celine in Before Sunset)
I think… Maybe I’ve never wanted this to change.
(Joanna in Last Night)
Little pieces of me in each of those and also this latest:
I’m tired of people telling me it’s a “just get over it” situation. Fuck you. You don’t know what it’s like in my head.
(Will McAvoy in The Newsroom)
Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom is a misfit with his fair share of gumption. Things do not affect him the way they would the average person. Nor does he cope with things the way the average person would.
In the episode “Bullies,” during a visit to a psychiatrist, Will is confronted over the strangeness of his behavior, judged and cornered into admitting his actions don’t seem normal. He shoots back, “Fuck you. You don’t know what it’s like in my head.”
That line is still reverberating in mine.
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) of Moneyball uttered a lesson-worth-learning sort of line in that movie, from another screenplay partly credited to Sorkin, that I think fits in nicely here as the piece of advice Will McAvoy does not and would never need. “It’s a problem you think we need to explain ourselves. Don’t,” Billy Beane cautions. I’m convinced it’s precisely the thought that comes into Will’s head and makes him shoot back so decisively.
I’m still knocked out by that certainty and defiance. I find it stunning. Will does not follow through on the promise of that line, doesn’t fulfill its potential or own his strangeness 100% but still, the line is there. “You don’t know what it’s like in my head.” Nobody knows what it’s like in anyone else’s head. We’re kept perpetually occluded, to paraphrase Philip K. Dick, we’re kept from a deeper understanding of other people’s experience, save for the rare radiant moment when a connection is established and communication perfected.
Our heads create very specific contexts for the events of our lives, major and minor alike. We often decide for ourselves which is which, prioritize the minor over the major, relegate the major to a negligible detail, and struggle to reconcile what is, with what is expected.
On the expected front, we are taught to feel bad about being uncomfortable degrees of different. We are taught to work hard at seeming normal. We are implicitly egged on to work hard at seeming, period. Seeming is more often than not the ultimate objective as well as one of the most important things we’ll supposedly ever master.
Some years ago while exploring the age-old adage of being oneself and its implications, I referred to a few lines from The Madness of King George (that post, here) on the importance of seeming, or rather the importance placed on seeming. Will understands and acknowledges it. Enough to avail himself of the mitigating “I’m gonna return it!” not once, but twice. He understands and goes along but only so far. When pushed into a corner, when made to feel ashamed for having done what felt only right to him, he fights back, without discernible thought or consideration. He gives in to a primal instinct, a gut reaction that prevails over the suffocating pressure to seem, caution deliberately thrown to the wind. A modulated, rebellious, triumphant “Fuck you” which made me want to high five him.
Weirdness, visible to the naked eye, unashamed and duly unexplained.
Here the exchange in its entirety:
Dr. Jack Habib: So, as soon as you heard they were doing opposition research, you ran over to Tiffany and bought the ring?
Will McAvoy: That’s insane. I just sent my agent or it would’ve shown up in the papers.
Dr. Jack Habib: Will…
Will McAvoy: I’m gonna return it!
Dr. Jack Habib: Does that seem normal to you?
Will McAvoy: The world is made up of two kinds of people, the ones who think they’re normal and the ones who know there’s no such thing.
Dr. Jack Habib: Great. You took one semester of Intro to Adult Psych but the world is made up of a lot more than two kinds of people. And I was speaking in the psychiatric sense of the word. Does going out and buying a ring…
Will McAvoy: …which I’m going to return.
Dr. Jack Habib: …as bizarre, I don’t know what to call it… seem normal to you?
Will McAvoy: You weren’t around for the exposition, Jack.
Dr. Jack Habib: She had an affair with her ex-boyfriend.
Will McAvoy: For four months, while she was with me.
Dr. Jack Habib: It’s four years later.
Will McAvoy: And you know why I don’t talk about it? Because I’m tired of people telling me it’s a “just get over it” situation. Fuck you. You don’t know what it’s like in my head.
(The Newsroom - “Bullies” - Aaron Sorkin)
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