Friday Flotsam: ‘Memento’, Prayer, and a Couple Other Things

1. Going to get my other eye’s Lasik done at last, so I’ll finally be able to gauge just what I think of the whole thing. Pray that goes well and that I don’t lose any vile jelly.

2. Last week’s movie was Memento, which I had never seen. It’s definitely a unique experience and very well done, especially when you consider how easy it would be to lose the audience in a movie like that. For those who don’t know, it’s about a man who cannot form new memories, and so he only remembers about five to fifteen minutes at a time. So to convey this to the audience, the film is shown backwards: you’ll have a scene that opens with a particular point of reference (e.g. a mug of beer being set down on a table), then we cut to the start of the previous scene and watch him progress up to that point. In between we have shorter, black-and-white scenes of him discussing his condition over the phone with an unseen caller, filling in the backstory and rules.

It’s not at all a feel-good film, but it’s a very well-done one and well worth seeing for the central gimmick alone, though the story and acting and so on are all very good, especially Joe Pantoliano as the lead’s most frequent point of contact.

3. The central premise of the film also illustrates the need for historical knowledge. Without an idea of where you’ve been and what came before and how it led up to the present, tangible messages like notes and photographs can be incredibly misleading. Again and again, we’re shown a point that seems to mean one thing, but then when we get the full context we realize it meant something totally different, changing our view of the characters dramatically from scene to scene. You don’t know where you’ve come from, then you can’t possibly know what you’re doing. More importantly, you can’t possibly know who or what to trust. But you have to trust someone, especially if you have no memory.

4. On that note, here’s an interesting question that occurred to me after watching: how does the protagonist remember that he has memory loss? The rule, as laid out, is that the last thing he remembers is his wife dying. But if that were so, he wouldn’t remember discovering that he couldn’t remember anything afterwards, or remember the nature of his condition, or that he needs to make notes and photographs and tattoos of important information.

You could call this a concession, but I actually think it’s a sign that his condition is, at least partly, psychosomatic: that his injury made it harder for him to make new memories, but not impossible, and that his own mental blocks are what’s actually keeping him in this state. There are certainly other signs pointing this way, but the film never makes it explicit. In fact, it doesn’t really offer any hard and fast answers to the guy’s backstory: we get an explanation at the end, and it’s backed up by evidence, but the person giving it could be lying in whole or in part. The protagonist has no way or knowing, and neither do we. Though the important point of just what is going on in this story and with it’s main character, is made explicit.

So, yeah; a very good film and a really interesting one to watch. You can see why Nolan made a name for himself.

5. If I might judge from my own experience, we often have an idea of prayer as a transactional thing; that we put in our due amount and satisfy the requirement. Or perhaps that we beg God for something. In this way of thinking, the idea of praying without ceasing or spending whole nights in prayer can seem odd, as you just picture asking God for something over and over again for hours.

But as I’m starting to see it prayer is more like breathing than anything: just as when we breathe, we resupply our bodies with precious oxygen, so when we pray we re-orient our souls to God. And we can never do that enough, nor will there ever come a time when we can stop doing it. What will come is a state in which we won’t be constantly pulled away from Him.

To put it another way, the fantasy notion that the gods require prayer in order to survive is actually the opposite of reality. Our prayers are a matter of complete indifference to God, except for the fact that we need them and He loves us. Prayer sustains us, not God.

6. You know, I’ve read a lot of lists of ‘Top Ten Jobs for Introverts’ or people with anxiety or things like that. Most of them have the same jobs: IT, Libraries, Trades, etc. But they also usually include jobs like “Author” or “Artist” and the like.

To which I always think: “If those were viable options at the moment, do you honestly think I would be reading things like this?”

7. Very sleep deprived as I write this, so hopefully it’ll be reasonably coherent.

(So sleep deprived I published this Thursday night instead of scheduling it for Friday).

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