As part of the pre-production process for my upcoming film, A Thousand Moments Later, I put together a document for the actors and crew to give them something to think over. The document contained some prose and some reference photos of key moments. What follows is part of that document.
Love. What is Love? When we say, I love you? What does this mean? And how could it possibly be a choice?
A Thousand Moments Later is a story about the development of such love.
This type of love is not what we normally think love to be but rather the love to which the ancient Greek philosophers referred to as agape. Spontaneous and unmotivated, agape is love grounded in the aspiration that another be well and happy. This kind of love is not motivated by one’s own aspirations or even preference for a particular outcome. It is unconditional in the purest sense. Indeed this kind of love is the love spoken of by Buddhists and called mettá or maitrí in Sanskrit. The etymology of the term mettá is often rendered as loving-kindness and I think this captures well the intent behind love in this Western sense of agape for both are fundamentally a deep sense of caring—a strong yet gentle impulse to care.
To care and to be care about (not cared for but cared about) — this is the foundation of all romantic love. Yet this mutual and very symbiotic kind of love is hard won. It is hard won because while the genesis of romantic love may be pure, as the years go by love can become mixed with resentment born of power-games, of pain from the things left unsaid, and even just plain old boredom and isolation. In such cases the sense of being cared about has been severed through circumstance. And this can happen without any intention by either party.
But notice something very important here. Love as defined here is not something one gets from another but rather it is something that one gives to another — you do not receive love, you give it. In fact, I would claim that one can never receive love. You can only give it for love is the act of caring. What you receive from the other is a sense of being cared about — supported. And it is when one feels this sense of being cared about that one’s aspiration for the other to be well and happy increases. It’s symbiotic. But someone has to start. And this “start” is a choice.
Love is, therefore, an act of freewill. When it’s not an act of freewill, it is not love. Something else is motivating it. Moreover, when things are going wrong in relationships and arguments become the special of the day, we are in fact fighting with ourselves—with our own fears and doubts about our own lives in isolation. When fear of abandonment manifests into an argument what is the real issue here? Ego!
Ego is the manifestation of the self as a self—cutoff and in isolation from another. At best this is delusional. For upon reflection it is easy to see that no one lives this way. We are, in fact, interdependent by nature but ego cannot see this fact and through its blindness a sense of importance is developed. My happiness. My life. My feelings. My my my. Me me me. The ego is selfish by definition. Suffice it to say, it is only through the transformation of love from one based on the physical to one based on the mental that relationships survive longer term. And similarly it is only once the physical has become mental that the ego can be slain—allowing for this transcendent caring to express itself. While we continue to define ourselves in relation to another— cutoff and in isolation—we are doomed to wander through life uncertain and unable to commit to anything other than the egos own sense of importance.
Now, Ron Howard once said that film narrative is about mapping basic human emotions to interesting actions. And Elia Kazan (East of Eden, A Streetcar Named Desire) before him famously told us that we are trying to make the psychological, physical.
In this regard, A Thousand Moments Later is the story of the potential to love in this purest sense. And the story argues that agape and mettá are both real and possible and often brought to bear in key moments. Moments that define who we are beyond the mask we present to the world — beyond the mask of ego.
This indeed is a difficult task but how could it be any other way?
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