Friday, November 16, 2012


seen @ Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas, Jamaica, Queens, NY

I don't think I've ever been really afraid of crashing in an airplane. The last time I flew was in 2007, and other than some trepidation during takeoff, which is probably natural, it was never a big deal for me. Flying is one of those things where you're quite conscious of how much trust is involved in the act. From takeoff to landing, so many things can go wrong, and while one can say the same thing about other forms of public transportation, with flying it's different because you're up in the sky, a state of being that is not natural for humans.

Given that, plus the amount of lives involved in the average airline trip, it's a wonder perhaps that more pilots don't get strung out on drugs and booze to maintain their nerve, as Denzel Washington's character Whip does in Flight. The movie makes a point of the fact that no one else could've landed that plane under those circumstances. But does the fact that Whip was high as a kite negate his heroic act?

This is a concept that has always interested me from a literary standpoint: how bad people can do good things, and vice versa. In fact, I had an idea for a graphic novel several years ago along similar lines - even got about a dozen pages or so into it before I decided I didn't like the story after all. At the time, the angle I came at it from was how hard it was to be "good" when one's natural inclination is to be "bad."

Whip makes no justification of his alcoholism in Flight; in one scene he goes on a tirade in which he repeatedly says that he chooses to drink and that's all there is to it. We like to think that "bad" behavior needs justification of some kind - one was abused as a child, one was raised in a bad neighborhood, one never had proper role models - yet sometimes, there is no rational explanation. I'm reminded of We Need to Talk About Kevin in that sense. Why was Tilda Swinton's son a bad seed, at least around her? Don't know. Why can't Whip choose not to drink? Don't know... and that makes it even more frustrating. Flight, good as it was, was also very difficult to sit through.

It's a terrible thing to say, but I've long suspected that we prefer living with our bad habits, whatever they may be and no matter how bad they are. I suppose it's simply easier, to some extent. I know I should watch what I eat more (and I try to, honestly), but it's easier to eat a cookie or two when the mood strikes. Overcoming those bad habits requires a conscious, and often forceful, act of will. This morning, while watching TV, I suddenly decided to do some exercises during the commercials. No reason, except I didn't wanna lay on the couch like a lump the whole time. I think I'll do that more whenever I watch TV. (Turner Classics is commercial-free, though; what'll I do then?!)

My question, though, is which is our natural state of being: indulging in "bad" habits, or exerting the will to overcome them? Which act makes us more human in the long run? I guess that depends on which side of the moral barometer you fall on. Any ideas?

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