La Pianiste and sadomasochism

So, I watched the Michael Haneke film La Pianiste (subtitled into English, my French is not that good). I've become something of a Haneke fan, having recently also seen Funny Games (the original) and Caché. I like movies that make you think, that aren't predictable, and though Haneke could be considered pretentious, predictable is definitely not a word you'd apply to his films.

La Pianiste and Funny Games made me feel like I needed a shower afterwards. They're disturbing to watch and make you feel as if you're an accomplice to the horror that unfolds (which was precisely Haneke's point, at least with Funny Games). When I saw that La Pianiste had to do with sadomasochism, I was picturing something more like Secretary, but I should have known better coming from Haneke. His version of SM is incredibly raw and twisted. There were parts that made me uncomfortable precisely because I identified with them, and then there were parts that just fucking creeped me out.

I've been doing SM for what, six years now, and it's interesting to get outside the bubble of the BDSM "community" and see how others perceive it. There are plenty of people who practice power dynamics in their relationships who've never heard of "BDSM," yet almost everyone seems to have an opinion about what it is. It's kind of funny watching people act like they've just discovered some new cult - and then pretending to know what it's all about. Really, you can't. I have no deep understanding of why adults dress up as babies. I can't even fathom what motivates furries. So I don't feel qualified to offer any opinions on their mental state.

I'm disappointed that Haneke didn't break the mold of OMGPERVERTZ!!11!. It seemed too trite to depict the main character in La Pianiste as this tortured soul who sought masochism as an escape. He made it too easy for the audience to feel disgusted by her desires, and too easy to avoid confronting their own. Sexual masochism was portrayed as necessarily a dead end. Haneke's not known for happy endings, and I didn't expect one here. Yet I'm disappointed by the misunderstanding of SM.

Why I don't keep in touch

Recently I've become horrible at keeping in touch with my friends. I haven't been an every-day-phone-call kind of girl since high school, but lately I've gone months without contacting a few friends. It's weird, because they're interesting people, there's no bad blood between us, and I truly care about them. Yet I find it hard to pick up the phone or shoot off an e-mail. I know it's partly guilt because it's been so long, and I don't know what to say ("sorry, I was abducted by aliens"). It's also because my life has been in something of a rut these last few months, and I don't want to drag anyone else down, nor do I feel I have an abundance of interesting tidbits to offer.

I'm also not the most social person unless I'm prodded. In college, I was forced to interact with people. One day two concerned friends showed up at my dorm room after I'd been MIA in the cafeteria. (Unfortunately, I was in the middle of having phone sex when they started pounding on the door.)

Furthermore, my friends are widely dispersed, so it's difficult to see them or get any two of them in the same place at once. (Actually, only two of them have ever met each other, and they don't get along well.) Here are the locations of my six closest friends. The closest is two hours away. (Sorry Canadians, I was too lazy to find a map with provincial boundaries. Those markers are supposed to be Calgary and Vancouver.)

Anyway, whine whine whine, I need to make some friends nearby, and I need to keep in touch with the diaspora.

This is obviously political humor, but I'm also a geography buff.

I forgot our anniversary.

Is it horrible that I forgot it was 9/11 until I got online?

Is it horrible that I don't feel anything about it anymore? I didn't know anyone who died, I don't know anyone who had family or friends die, and I'd never been to NYC before 9/11 (just once, a year and a half later).

The Long Road to the Light

I was trying to remember the other day when was the last time I was truly happy. Now, happy is not an exact metric, but I'm using it to mean relaxed, fulfilled, purposeful, relatively free from worry, and generally content.

I had to go back 10 years. I was 22 and living in Bozeman, Montana and working at a retail store. The work was interesting in the sense that I got to interact with a variety of people, and learn about a variety of things (it was an outdoor gear store that sold camping, climbing, and other sporting equipment).

I lived pretty simply - I had no TV, no computer, no car. I bought a bike and taught myself to ride it (I'd never learned as a kid). I read voraciously since I didn't have a TV. I didn't have a lot of friends - the people at work were mostly younger and had different interests - but I got along with everyone, and they were willing to help out when I got really sick.

I had no debt - none. I made enough to cover my bills and had money left to stash away for college. I was removed from the family drama that had plagued me since high school; they were 1400 miles away, and I talked to them maybe once a week. I remember being a tad lonely and homesick, but not too bad, and writing in my journal helped a lot. I also meditated and was fairly spiritual. I think I went out on one date, and though I had crushes on guys, it wasn't consuming me.

I wonder if I'm romanticizing that time because it was so long ago, and so different than my life now, but I have a clear memory of What Came Before, and that was misery in spades. What Came After was good for awhile - I started at Montana State University and my first semester was great. It began to spiral downward until 2001, when I nearly killed myself. 2002-2004 was a definite improvement, even if you consider the failed attempts at dating. Since 2004, since my current relationship began, since starting grad school, it's been a whole new level of complexity.

I don't deal well with complexity and uncertainty. I like to know what's going on and when, and I like to have a short to-do list. I like to know where everything is in my house, which seems impossible when living with a partner of any sort. After 3 years in a relationship, there seem to be so many layers of meaning even when asking a seemingly simple question. I don't know how to create simplicity in my life when it partially depends on another person. My impulse is to jettison all the "unnecessary" - but for him, much of this is necessary. So I'm back to learning to deal with the complexity.

I'm just completely overwhelmed by it all right now. It's like a massive tangle of wires, and I don't see any reasonable way to untangle them.

Peaceful Warrior

I remembered reading this book years ago, and had a moderately favorable opinion of it, so I thought it'd be a good idea to rent the movie this weekend. Meh. The words Buddhism or Zen are never mentioned directly (except that one character nicknames another "Buddha"). Yet it's obvious that most of the philosophy is taken from Zen. The movie seems like it's trying to be Buddhism 101.

What irks me is the introduction of mysticism into Buddhist philosophy. It seems like every representation of Buddhism in pop culture contains some reference to the supposed superpowers of its followers. We're ninjas, we can leap tall buildings in a single bound, we can dodge bullets, etc. This totally misses the point of Buddhist practice and provides a distraction. Basically, if those are the skills you desire, Buddhism is a bad place to acquire them. I also don't like the connotations of the word "warrior." I realize it's used in the context of "warrior of the mind" or whatever, but you really cannot escape the violent origins of the word.

I am no Buddhist purist - I drink, I eat meat, among other unskillful habits - but I know what I'm doing isn't consistent with Buddhism. What I don't like is people being led down an unskillful path and having that path labeled "Buddhism." It's false advertising. It's sloppy. It reminds me of the Christian churches that use rock music to attract a younger generation. There's nothing necessarily unChristian about rock music, but if your way of living is so attractive, why do you have to call attention to it? Let it speak for itself, without ninja moves or funky guitar riffs.

The commodification of Zen really irks me, as in this blog. To be sure, the writer provides helpful tips, and some of them do seem to be geared towards simplifying one's life or becoming more spiritual. But "6 steps to lose the Buddha (belly)"?