Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Truth in ugly: hating The Hunger Games

I read the Hunger Games the first month it came out. I hated it. I hate the film. And the more that people loved it, the more scared I became of those people.

For those unaware, it is about a fight to the death among 24 teens (yes, you did see this a decade ago in Battle Royale). Regardless that it is 100 years in the future, reality TV still is more important than reality. As part of the ‘New America’ with a real war, and years of economic depression and unemployment, Teen Fiction still has 16-18 year old females who find fashion more important than violence and don’t know how babies are made. So heroine Katniss eats animals she hunts or traps but in a fight to the death we learn a lot more about playing to the camera and how to have a ‘fab’ outfit than say, how to shove an arrow head through the ocular socket into the brain of a guy attacking you.

I think of General Aidid portrayed in the film Black Hawk Down, “In Somalia, killing IS politics.” Somalia has been at war for two decades. I wonder how child soldiers would give ratings to their fellow ‘contestants.’ Would it be on fashion? On good TV sound bites?

“I don’t deserve to go home.” That’s what one sniper of 4/39 said to his best friend. Watching through the scope, they get to know the person, the patterns, the similarities, the collection of small tics and habits that make the individual. And then they pull the trigger and take it away forever. It is ugly and brutish.

 At the end of the film they wonder what will happen now, “We should home and forget.” Katniss says.

“I don’t want to forget.” Her fellow contestant says, trying to lean forward to nuzzle her in affection. Killing was a romantic bonding experience with sponsors, TV ratings, and kids who spend a week in the muck and still look like a J Crew ad: The Hunger Games.

How is it I can suggest that killing someone, or someone struggling against a disease like cancer should show the cost; not just smiles and music and be labeled a ‘hopeless idealist?’

Dave Hingsburger, learning disability advocate, wrote about his neighbor, Tessa, painting a picture of this woman his would see out in the city having tea and conclude that cancer doesn’t have to have ugly parts but can be cheerful and consistent. Even though he saw her but once a month, he truly believed, perhaps had to believe that the other 29 days were the same as the day he saw her go out for tea. That radiation, repeated chemo, nausea, insomnia, weight loss, hair loss, bowel dysfunction, fatigue, fugue did not have to be bad or ugly as long as they are met with a smile. She died. His highest praise was that in going out ‘you never would have known.’

I can’t live up to that. Who can? It is an idea which makes all the people with chronic, life threatening and life ending diseases and Tessa herself a failure for all the minutes and hours and days where others would know. The times on the floor, top riding up, belly exposed, helpless or crying; the times dependant on someone feeding you a drink and cleaning up your drool.

Chronic, progressive and life ending diseases change the body, because they must change the body from what worked to what doesn’t. Buddhists would say that is part of what being alive is about: that change.

Recently my life has been ugly. So I didn’t write, because the failure to be what I worked to be, shamed me. There is ugliness is my disease presentation, in my body, in how local society averts the eyes, in the sentences I say and days where I end up causing instead of help, whether myself or another.  It is a failure to be what I so much desire to be. And, so there is ugliness in my closest relationship: two people, years of fiscal tension beyond breaking, continual pain and a sense of being lost by both. I could focus on how much is my fault, or not, or I could accept it, and look past it. Do I focus on the ugly or try and find solutions and remind myself that even when it is bad, it doesn’t always HAVE to be ugly. But that that if it wasn’t ugly at times, it simply wouldn’t be true.   I will, even at best of times, only be the shadow of the divine I aspire towards.

Yet, I am closer to being the kind of person I want to be this year than last, and this month than last. But it doesn’t make it so ‘you never would have known.’ And the same strong will/stubbornness that keeps me going, will also suck me into exerting will over something which has no need to be won, but which a few deep breaths and a soft answer could make life better for everyone. If I am not learning what I need to stop screwing up, then I am not looking at myself honestly.

Maybe the reason Linda and I are in Limbo is that there is no support, so arms lifting up arms too tired, someone to remember the dozens of small things which if ever forgotten bloom into large pain (how can any one person remember them all?). But socially, and with doctors they show you and tell you, that first you get diagnosed and then you are treated or not, either die or stabilize, you are chronic or terminal, your needs are consistent or predictable. Except that none of that is true, not for everyone. When I tried to get to bed a few days ago and fell to the floor, I couldn’t get up and fell asleep there. It compacted a lung, deadened an arm and pulled my neck. It was messy. It simply was.

There are, due to the last decade of war, over a half million individuals in US, UK and Canada who carry the mental and physical trauma of war.  It wasn’t a romance. You aren’t a contestant.

How will a population in love with the idea of a girl who wins a game of killing 23 other people by singing and having a really good fashion consultant make good decisions on things which involve complicated and ugly. And because the stats saying knowing or being one of those with complicated lives is a matter of time, being ready to make those decisions matter.

Someone said, ‘the fight goes to the person who wants it bad enough.’ I don’t think that is always true, but it is true in some ways. I offended someone by explaining that my anti-rape tactic would be to kill them. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to say it in society. But it seemed obvious: when you train to gouge out eyeballs, and stick things in eardrums, and stab in the throat and the groin, if you want to win, it will get ugly.

I don’t want to celebrate ugliness, or focus on it solely. Because doing that makes a life that devoid of joy or laughter. The good parts of a life, even one where the disease, or individuals have removed many choices, is in celebrating the choices available. The film 128 hours is about a guy who merely tried to survive himself, and his own bad choices which led to loss, and a new beginning. He could have stopped a ‘loss.’ Loss is that ache which never truly goes away, and in the dark times, can seem overwhelming. Joyful moments of living are those times, minutes and days when that ache isn’t pulling at you.

I miss working ten, twelve, sixteen hours a day. I miss the satisfaction of working hard. In having all nighters. The feeling of coming off a 15 hour shift would make me hum, all the way to a quick shower and sound sleep.

This week, I haven’t been able to be awake, even sitting or lying still for longer than 10 hours, sometimes only three.

My work is to find ways to celebrate each day I survive: to be joyful in bringing joy to others, seen and unseen. Now I simply need to find solutions and pathways within the very limited energy and resources I have.


Anonymous said...

hug I love you im here if you need..

GirlWithTheCane said...

Life is ugly...except for those brief periods when it's not.

I hated "The Hunger Games" too.

- Sarah

Anonymous said...

Dear Beth,
I'm glad I never read the hunger Games.
Things often become strained between people when one has a difficult chronic illness. Things show - the pain, the exhaustion, the many symptoms, ugly symptoms or the ugliness they lead to. Too much work & suffering on both sides and too much strain, pain & suffering on all sides. I hope that love remains and will have some gentler, easier days in which to grow & flourish.

We have found a buyer for our house. She is getting a very good price and we won't have to pay closing costs or a commission to a real estate agent. Not looking forward to the packing & moving. I think I'll be happy if we can find a decent apartment.

Sorry you're not able to stay awake as much as you wish. Hope you have some time &strength for an outing .

Love, Sharon

Anonymous said...

Dear Beth, had to send my previous post as anonymous as google woulndn't let my message through.
More love,

JaneB said...

I have NOT read hunger games because I had similar thoughts on readiung the description and decided that Life Is Too Short. There are so many other lovely things to read! Hugs, and love, and best wishes