Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shiva the God of Death: Making Sense of Michael Clayton

Michael Clayton: You are the senior litigating partner of one of the largest, most respected law firms in the world.  You are a legend.

Arthur Edens: I'm an accomplice!

Michael Clayton: You're a manic-depressive!

Arthur Edens: I am Shiva, the god of death.

The quote above is taken from Tony Gilroy's beautiful film, Michael Clayton.  With a tight script, an intriguing plot, and brilliant acting (Tilda Swinton won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the production), recommending it is a No Brainer.  But personally, my deep affection for this particular movie comes down to the relationship between the characters of Arthur Edens and Michael Clayton, played by Tom Wilkinson and George Clooney respectively.  In the narrative, Arthur, a brilliant, but manic depressive lawyer, has gone off his medication and is fighting his own law firm in order to rectify the crimes the company has committed against a Kansas family.  Michael is fighting to save Arthur from himself.  So what does this have to do with me, you ask?  Well, truth be told, my brother, Jacob, is the Michael to my Arthur.  In fact, Jake often teases: "Someday I'll be walking through New York City and find you holding a bag of freshly baked bread (See link below) only to have you tell me that this is BEST bread you've ever tasted."  You see, Jake is my moderator and stability point when everything falls apart.  In my most broken moments, like any Arthur Edens, my world tilts and a painful incident plays over and over again in my head until I'm left with nothing but self loathing.  Like the picture to the left, I look at my own heart and conclude: "Its nothing special."  Losing sight of Richard White's Middle Ground, I live on the extreme edges of a problem.  The same qualities that make me an Imaginative Historian also make me Neurotic and Unsure. In other words, when I'm devastated, I rewrite a situation by gathering bits and pieces of unrelated incidents until I'm sure my worst fears have come true.  I know then I am unworthy.  This week, I'm fighting my way back from such a moment.   So Below are my steps for surviving as an Arthur.

1.) Find Your Michael Clayton: My Dear Crazy Arthurs, locating your Michael is the most important Item in your "Rediscovering My Sanity" Menu.  A Michael will calmly tell his Arthur: "You're a manic depressive" when he's greeted with a Wild Eyed and Over the Top: "I'm Shiva the god of death." In others words, Michaels moderate your extreme reactions.  For me that means not boxing myself in.  When I'm hurt I tend to make rules about what I am and am not allowed to do.  Can I write on my weblog?  I don't know.  Is every awful scenario my psyche replays about the situation at hand really true?  Maybe...  Probably.  Definitely!  After I spiral into despair and then melt into a puddle of pathetic, I call Jake who assures me:  A.) Conclusions Cannot be Written in the Middle of a Story B.) Despair and Self Loathing is a sign of my Chemical Imbalance not a Reality I need to Accept.  Because that's just it.  Life is full of pain and hurt, but when an Arthur is struggling to find his Chemical Balance, he needs a little more help regulating his reaction to a blow.

2.) There's Always a Post Script: Arthurs react to a deep hurt with Great Lucidity and an Overabundance of Finality exclaiming: "I have great affection for you and you live a very rich and interesting life, but you're a bag man not an attorney....[on the subject of taking Arthur to court] You think you got the horses for that?  Well good luck and God bless, but I'll tell you this: the last place you want to see me is in court."  Aw, Arthur.  You and Me, Man.  Every Arthur has his own Triggers.  For me, its the people I care about most.  That 1% of the Human Population I love and adore.  Its hard for me to remember that an essential part of existing with the people we care about is accidental wounds and miscommunications.  Even when things are totally clear, personal histories come into play and change a dynamic with lightening speed.  How do I react when this happens?  Well, for about an hour, I stay alone and sob.  Then for a small space time, like a Good Arthur, I become very lucid, analyzing the situation, and calling my Michael to make sure I've read everything clearly. Most times I'm pretty damn  accurate: You think you got the horses for that? Good luck and God bless! Yet, despite the Lucidity, I also have adopt a sense of Finality that is uncalled for: "Goodbye Forever"  Until my Michael kindly asks me:

Jake: "Do you still care?" 

Me: "Yeah, but everything is broken now."

Jake: "There is always a PS.  Sometimes we hurt each other, but that doesn't necessarily signify that things can't be mended.  You don't know the conclusion yet and you can't.  Stop rushing to grieve for the loss and work on you.  Let the future be just that.  You can't know so don't write everything off with 'Goodbye Forever.'"

Me: "Okay, I trust you.  So I don't have to cry this much?  And when I think awful things its not realistic right?"

Jake: "Nah, you don't need to cry so much.  And yes, that's just your psyche playing on your fears.  Just do the things for you: write on your weblog, read, take your medication, and eat something whether you want to or not.  Its all going to be okay and when you think it isn't remember that's just chemical.  Alright?  And tonight you'll watch A Game of Thrones like I told you to right?"*

Me: "Alright.  And yes, I will watch.  Thank you."

3.) The Future is Unwritten: At least for this Arthur, I can only relate to and love another person like me: Someone with scars.  Because the truth is, I'll always wear my scars.  I'm working on me.  Working on being healthy and getting stable again but the hurts will always be there.  Those idiosyncrasies that others see as broken parts of an individual, well, that is what I cherish because therein lies understanding and intimacy.  How can another person possibly understand me if he hasn't been where I've been?  Felt the pain I've felt?  Of course, here is the kicker.  Those of us who wear the deepest scars often hurt each other, not out of malice, but out of personal confusion.  We're always in the process of figuring ourselves out.  Understanding why we feel anxious or hurt, and trying to cope with that emotion and find the clearest path...and the one least likely to cause us more pain.  Once we've experienced a blow (or least in my case), we walk a delicate line.  Its easier to avoid the risk than to crash again.  However, I'm learning that knowing any other person involves both accepting and inflicting (I'm often at fault) some pain.  Accidental or otherwise, wounds happen and its how we deal with those moments that determine the end of a narrative.  They either eventually draw us closer together or we let them tear us apart.  Hurt is not a sign of anything.  Its does not signify the beginning nor does it signal the end.  It is simply a moment in time.   Like Mike Carey's comic, the future remains Unwritten.

Finally, my Tired and Broken Arthurs, do not despair.  What lies ahead is unknown.  Now is not the time to grieve.  Instead, talk to your Michael, add a Post Script, and remember: What will happen next in your narrative is still Unwritten.

*For any interested readers, I have started the HBO series "A Game of Thrones" as well as the novel by George R.R. Martin the series is based upon.  I highly recommend both.

* Update: The Simpsons recently opened their long running show with a Parody of A Game of Thrones.

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