Jan 19, 2010

Live Together; Die Alone

The wife and I were watching the Golden Globes the other night. (Don't you hate it when people use the phrase "the wife." It seems so calloused and insensitive. Like she's just an object in the house. "I was sitting The Couch with The Wife and The Dog watching The Television and eating The Dinner." I'm going to start over.)

My wife - my beloved gift from God and object of my affection - and I were watching the Golden Globes the other night. Well, we were fast forwarding through them and catching snippets. We didn't do to well when it came to rooting for our favorites. Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Emerson got robbed by John Lithgow. Arrogant genius James Cameron won twice. Meryl Streep won - I just get tired of her winning everything. Lost got shut out. (How does this show not even get nominated?!?) But there was one bright moment before we ditched the show. Glee won best comedy show. I'm sure there were people all over the country who were up in arms that 30 Rock didn't win . . . AGAIN. But we were thrilled.

But what I like most about the show is the realism. I know some people (like my brother in law Mike) will laugh at that - saying that no musical show or movie can ever be realistic since it is a musical. I am, however, talking about the story lines. It shows teens, teachers, and parents alike trying to make it in the world. The teen stories are very close to what I have seen in working with students: overly concerned about sex and relationships, social standing issues, dreams to "escape" their hometown. And the show itself is pretty uplifting in its messages and atmosphere - even thought I certainly don't agree with all the statements and positions offered up.Glee has quickly become one of our favorite shows. We have been watching the first set of episodes again, since new ones won't show up until March. And we have both CDs from the cast. For those of you who don't know, Glee is a show about a glee club in a high school in Ohio. As you would expect, the glee club is not the hippest spot on campus. It is mocked and kicked around by both the nationally ranked cheerleading squad and the abysmal football team. Things begin to change when the star quarterback joins glee club, eventually causing several cheerleaders and football players to follow suit. The music is fun. The acting and performing are top notch (unlike ABC Family's lame teen shows like Secret Life of an American Teenager).

One of the biggest story arcs is the quest to belong - to have a place where you can be yourself and to have friends who will love you no matter what. It drives just about every episode. The first group to sign up for glee club were, as you might expect, like the Island of Misfit Toys. They wanted somewhere that they could feel special - somewhere that their disabilities and weight and sexuality wouldn't doom them to a life of getting tossed in dumpsters, locked in port a pottys, and doused with slushees. And as the season went on, these kids provided this safe place to each other - for the most part.

Does this struggle ever really end? In Glee, we even see the adults searching for acceptance and love and a place to belong. Everyone in the show totes some level of insecurity or scarring - just like in real life. And, just like in real life, the people who seem the most confident and put together are often the most messed up. In one very well shot scene, one teen girl puts her own agenda first and shuns those students who had helped her. In her moment of greatest success, a teacher tells her, "Congratulations. You have gotten everything you ever wanted. Enjoy." And we are left looking at the girl as she has a devastated look on her face, more miserable than she ever had been.

It is amazing what a social creature mankind is. We hear people say they want to be loners. "I am a rock. I am an island." But I have not really met too many people that wear that too well. We all want people to love and accept us. We need that. Why has Facebook exploded so rapidly? People love being able to connect and interact. They love being a part of something. Companies that are succeeded are ones that foster this mindset. I worked for Apple for nine months last year. I honestly think that Apple's most brilliant innovation was not the iPhone or the iPod. It was creating a sense of community. Look at how people describe Apple and the people who love the company. The call it the Mac Cult. There is a definite culture fostered by Apple for its customers. For those people, it becomes something they are proud of being a member of. Think that is crazy? Look around at how many Apple logos you see on cars. Do you see Microsoft stickers around? People are proud of their Apple gear and their affiliation with the company. (The fact that Apple actually is just that much better is beside the point.) And you know? That same exact mentality is generated for employees of the company. It is one of the most attractive things about working there. You belong. You are special. You are accepted just the way you are. Trust me, it is an amazing place to work. It isn't perfect - name a place that is. But it certainly works very hard to make its workers and customers feel special.

We all desire that kind of camaraderie. People need it. We need to know that someone will miss us, that someone wants us to be around. It is essential for us to survive and thrive. Eventually, it has to be more than swapping status updates and wall posts. We want to be able to truly open our hearts and know that someone else will still see all the crazy spill out and not run screaming. Finding a true friend, a true place to belong is a lifelong quest. Stockpiling Facebook friends won't cut it. There are many times that I would gladly trade the 600+ "friends" on my Facebook account for one person to go to a movie with or have a good chat with at Bagelheads.

The title of this post comes from Lost - another of our favorite shows. On the surface, it is about survivors of a bizarre plane crash on a very special island. You can dive into the many different stands of mythology and philosophy and the like. But even the creators have said that the heart of the show is relationships. They are all broken people who are struggling to fix themselves and find how to interact with those around them. It doesn't matter who they are and when they got there, each character has to learn how to relate to the people and world around them. They aren't just faces getting eaten by a smoke monster, like so many sci-fi offerings. They feel like real people with real struggles. It doesn't matter if you are trying to open hidden hatches, fight off tropical polar bears, or survive tenth grade - we can't do it alone. At least not very well. We need to have others to help us on our way. And if you find people that you can harmonize a kicking choral version of "Bust Your Windows," even better.

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