Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Lost Friend Effect: A Theory

I've been doing some thinking lately, and feel the necessity to write down my thoughts. They, as always, are of no particular significance insofar as I may be the only person who can relate to these obscure concepts, but I, as a write, am willing to take the chance that maybe someday my words will mean something. Even if it's just to my future self.
Thus the intro to my thinking.
I was reading "The Time Traveler's Wife." I picked up the book a few times at Target last year and thought the cover and the idea was interesting. However, whenever I read (and reread several times in my purchasing deliberation over some months) I pictured the characters to be old, and some old scientist guy was making a time machine and visiting his wife at different times. Thus, I figured I would not be able to relate to the characters (having not been an old scientist or an old scientists' wife) and therefore, I would sadly always put the book back on Target's book shelf right next to Twilight, which I had read. (note the mental sneer)
Anyway, after seeing the movies preview 1,000 times and having those catchy songs get stuck in my head for weeks at a time, I wanted to give the book a try. I decided that maybe I would have something in common after all with the characters, since they were obviously younger, and Rachel McAdams never picks a role that girls cannot relate. Also, I wouldn't mind picturing Eric Bana for the duration of my read.Thus, to make a long story short (I know, too late) I finished the book in a mad rush (2 days total.) I was in awe of the modern, yet stylish and creative writing techniques of Audrey Niffenegger, because let's face it, I'm a sucker for multiple writing styles in one book to add character personalities. Anyway, the book was amazing and as I anxiously hurried through the last few pages and read in a trance of pure entertainment, I found myself longing for more after the final words.
As mainstream media would have it, I flipped on my trusty Instinct, hit "movies" and magically within seconds found the showing times of the movie at MJR. I hastily showered and threw on some clothes (because I was on a two day reading binge) and called up my sister to drag her to a showing conveniently a half an hour away. I was in a crazed frenzy with a need to have more of my beloved Henry and his friends, to hold on just a little bit longer to his story.
This is sad, I am aware of that. You're probably thinking, "Wow man, this girl needs to get out more." But in fact, it may be the opposite. YOU may need to stay in more, because this is the awesomeness that happens.
Any devout reader can tell you (I hope) the extreme connectedness you feel towards protagonists (or perhaps antagonists (like Iago!!)) when you read a story for any length of time.
It doesn't take much for this to happen. In fact, while speeding to my sister's house to pick her up to see the movie, I was wondering what this feeling was that came over me. Why was I in such a hurry? Couldn't I wait until she finished the book so we can enjoy it fully together? Why did I have to go right after I turned the last page? And why did I feel like an addict?
So here's my theory.
Any reader can tell you, as I've said. You read a book for a lengthy period of time. You become one with the characters. In fact, I would bet my right hand that most people picture themselves as one of the characters and see the scenes play out through their eyes. This is just what happens. This is why books are better than movies. And here's the strange introspective kicker. The reason that I was reading the book in the first place was because I was so insanely bored with my own life. My friends were nothing new, my creative thoughts were non-existent, and quite simply I just wanted to get away from life, and to stay away for a little while. This is where most people reach for the liquor bottle, or call a hooker, or ex-boyfriend, or simply turn on the tv. But me, I reach for the bookshelves. Because let face it, where else can you escape for two days where you meet new people, go on crazy adventures you're too much of a coward in real life to do, fall in love, and for only the price of $11.99? Yeah, that's right. Books were the best inventions made for reality-escaping-introverts like me. And yes, I say this with a grin across my face.
So while driving on the dark, rainy night thinking of my friends Henry and Clare, I feel this loss. And there's no way to really explain this loss except for picturing a friend you spent everyday with for awhile, and then they disappeared. You can't reach them, and you have no idea how their life will turn out. That's what it feels like for me when I finish a really good book. You feel empty for your friends. Because when you really think about it, you spend at least about 48 non-stop hours with these people floating around in your head. And really, these events in the book that play in your head are not so different as actual events that play in your head also. How different is the registry? Everything is still perceived in the same place, just one is fiction. You are thinking about both events the same. Well that's a bit drastic. But seriously. What's the difference of listening to your friend talk about a story for 2 hours, and you imagining it, than reading about one and you imagining it the same. In fact, you actually are more inside the head of this fictional friend, than you ever could be inside of your friend's head. (This idea was brought to me from my friend whom I was telling this theory to on the car ride over to my sister's)
Anyway. This theory is getting a bit too Descartes for me. What is reality? Yeah, he doesn't know either. And that's another point that I wanted to make. Awhile ago, my friend Stephanie was expressing her anguish for not having any more philosophy classes. She and I both discussed our loss and our feelings of the "lost friend effect" when it came to Sartre, Kant, and Descartes. I miss their ramblings of the populace and reality's effect on them. I admit that I would prefer having conversations with them any day over, "So last weekend we got so wasted..." stories. People don't philosophize anymore and it's just appalling.
So that's my theory of The Lost Friend Effect.
In other news, I felt this sudden inner pull to purchase a watch. I had no idea where it came from, but I found myself frantically searching the web for a watch to suit this desire. In retrospect, I usually despise watches. I never wear one for a few personal reasons; a. I am very neurotic and used to check the time constantly, b. I can't stand the ticking, c. I fell into this whole hippy phase where I don't necessarily believe in time, d. I hate time dictating my life. But minus those few objections, I found myself at work always wondering what time it was and would become frustrated when I was away from my phone (which you can't have on the floor) and there would be no clocks around. Also, at school all the clocks are off so you never know if you're late, and in each classroom they neglect (purposefully I presume) to install clocks. I grew irritated having to dig through my purse to find my phone just to find the time, and therefore, I bought a watch that tells me the time and date so that I can (I guess) be responsible, or just avoid further temperaments with time. Plus, it even glows in the dark.