Continued, mostly, from the previous post.
I ran across a fascinating article in Science today (“The End of History Illusion” by Jordi Quoidbach et al). The abstract:
We measured the personalities, values, and preferences of more than 19,000 people who ranged in age from 18 to 68 and asked them to report how much they had changed in the past decade and/or to predict how much they would change in the next decade. Young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past but would change relatively little in the future. People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives. This “end of history illusion” had practical consequences, leading people to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences.
We are always changing. The world is ahead of us, not just behind. “Time,” said the article, “is a powerful force that transforms people’s preferences, reshapes their values, and alters their personalities.” And we generally underestimate how huge these changes are and will be. And I don’t know who my future self is going to be — I can’t even imagine; I can scarcely remember who I was. But that is why I write this blog, and that is why I read old posts, and that’s why I continue to write for my future self. I’ve said this all before.
Anyhow — it’s a good article, and thought-provoking, and worth pondering its applications to your own life and your own perceptions if you’ve got access to the article somehow (through a school library, most likely; that’s how I got the full paper).
While reading that article, I followed a thread to a review of Amour. Don’t ask me how I got from Science to French cinema; I have no idea and I certainly wasn’t looking for it, but when all the NYT critics place it as their top Oscar pick, it’s probably pretty damn good. I haven’t seen it (yet), but — see, those movies always get me. I generally dislike romantic comedies because they’re so full of (really hot) young people being drama llamas, the starts of all these relationships based on hotness and drama — how long is any of that going to last? But when the camera pans in on a relationship that’s been there for decades upon decades, then I pay attention.
Amour is about an elderly couple; the husband cares for his wife after a series of strokes. In Away From Her, it’s Alzheimer’s. (In The Notebook, it’s also Alzheimer’s — and I much prefer the old-couple scenes to the Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams ones which are very drama llama, and I wish I wasn’t listing such an engineered-for-sappiness chick flick here, but sometimes these sorts of things get screened in homes composed predominantly of females, such as mine.) Even stuff like Hope Springs. (Another instance of a chick flick I wouldn’t have watched left to my own devices, but it was in the TV room, so…) Movies about old people and love are a lot less sexy and exciting than movies about young people and love (although as a demisexual person I really don’t mind them being less sexy at all). You see what it means to have a quiet and enduring love that’s fierce in its perseverance, that has weathered all these twists and turns and challenges and changes and come through it better for the fire. That’s why I pay attention, because that is a reality I have seen, and the reality I would have.
I’ve watched my parents age together, sometimes gracefully, sometimes with conflict, but always with love. I’ve seen — in bits and snatches as a young grandchild who lived in another city — my Guama’s steadfast devotion to my Guakong as he slipped into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And I have always been in awe of that sort of commitment, that sort of devotion. It’s a decision that you make for a future in which your call was made long, long ago; it’s a promise that you make knowing that holy crap, there will be changes, and that you shouldn’t stop those changes, that you need to move the way you have to move to keep your channel clear, become who you’re becoming. It’s a promise to be brave, to move, react, transform, let go, move in, support, step back. To not run away. To come back when you do.
It’s a promise you should make to yourself and to life, really. And then if you get really good at that, and really lucky, then maybe you’ll get to make it to somebody else someday, and they’ll make that promise back to you.
Huh. I didn’t expect to write this post. I really should finish writing my section of the Changemakers paper for Joi; it’s partway through in scribbles. (Update: done. And a note back to the Oliners running the Banter project, and a note to a grad student house that might have an opening for next year, and some reading, and I’m winding down offline and going to bed at my target 1am transition-from-Seattle bedtime. Triumph!)