Tuesday, August 06, 2013

To Everything There is a Season

I was supposed to be doing some work on the weekend but somehow ended up at the movies instead.  Movies are the vice I always give in to, even if there is a lot of other stuff that needs to be done.  The movie we saw was The Way Way Back - a vacation story about a blended family who takes a trip to the beach for the summer.  But really, this Duncan's story, an awkward 14 year old who is dealing with being bullied by his Mum's smarmy new boyfriend and trying to find connection in a world where he feels so isolated.  I suppose this is a typical teenage story.  Didn't we all feel like that at some stage?

To say this movie struck a chord with me would be underplaying it a bit.  I didn't particularly identify with Duncan but I understood him and he gave me something that I just love getting when I go to the movies; a realisation.

The first scene of the movie is the car trip.  A conversation between Duncan and his Mother's boyfriend Trent breaks the silence leading Trent to question Duncan about what score he would give himself out of 10.  When Duncan reluctantly gives himself a 6, Trent gleefully tells him he's a 3.   This is not a good beginning for Duncan.  He's 14.  His mother is going out with an arsehole. He has absolutely no power, no friends, no life and nothing to look forward to. He feels unwanted, alone, awkward and lonely but something incredible happened to Duncan on his summer vacation: He bloomed.

I like to think that everyone has a blooming moment.  Perhaps yours happened at 14 and aren't you lucky that it happened so early if it did?  Maybe your bloom happened as a senior in High School or after you left and got a job.  Perhaps it was meeting the love of your life that did it.  Maybe it was getting your license or going overseas or doing Tough Mudder.  I don't know - I guess there are no rules to this kind of stuff.   A time to every purpose...

Duncan's "time" happened on summer vacation while holidaying with a family whom he felt didn't want him.  One day, while at a cafe Duncan randomly connects with the eccentric and immature water park owner Owen, who offers Duncan a job for the summer.  Duncan is excited by the prospect of spending time away from his family and accepts immediately.  At the water park Duncan finds himself.  The mavericks who work there - whom you can also imagine may have at one time felt as Duncan does - accept him totally as one of them and Duncan responds in the only way that someone completely accepted can and that is, he becomes his true self.

Maslow had a theory of self-actualisation that somehow fits into this story.  Although the threory was widely contested in the psychological community I still love to this day.  There is something so Earthy and real about it.  It feels real and that's enough for me.  Basically, in order to be self-actualised there is a hierarchy of needs that must be met.  The needs are graduated like a pyramid each step moving away from the physical and basic and into the spiritual and emotional (from food, shelter to love, confidence and belonging).  It isn't until all your needs are met that you can be self-actualised.  I think sometimes people confuse self-actualisation with success.  You can be a 'success' and 'functional' and 'loving' and still not be self-actualised and I suppose if that's how you see self-actualisation the hierarchy of needs really doesn't make sense.  IMO Self-actualisation is a state of mind, a meaningfulness one finds in life that goes beyond the material and into the soul.  Successful and loving people don't necessarily have those qualities (though, they might) and maybe self-actualised people don't necessarily meed success as a material form either.   Do I think you can skip steps and still reach the top though?  Perhaps..

I was reminded of Maslow's hierarchy of needs while watching The Way Way Back.  Duncan had the basic needs but not the emotional ones.  At the water park he found a sense of belonging and connection among people who accepted and embraced him.  He let go.  He bloomed.  He stepped up.  He defied Trent's assertion that he was a "3".

I realised that apart from our basic needs there are a couple of things that might help us to become the best person we can be:

1) A place (no matter how insignificant) where we can be completely ourselves and accepted for who we are by other people.
2) A champion who will stand up for us when we can't stand up for ourselves.

Duncan's family saw him as a 3.  In their stifling presence he was awkward, shy, weird and moody but that's not who he really was.  At the water park, with Owen championing him, he became a 10.  He found his champion and his special place and he left that sleepy summer town behind not a better person (as that would suggest he needed 'bettering') but a person who was allowed to bloom, finally.  It was his time.

I guess I've been struggling with being seen as a 3, seeing myself this way too.  I hold out hope for a champion and a place to bloom and moving up that pyramid - don't we all?

Although it's not quite Monday anymore, this one organically came up out of this post and so it must be its time.  I love this brand of 60s folk rock and whenever I play this song it seems to always be the right song to play.  I guess that Old Testament is not all fury and hell after all.

Turn, Turn, Turn - The Byrds

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