During my freshman year at the University of Buffalo, a soupy mixture of hurricane Katrina, lost love, leaving my friends back home, and general homesickness drove me into a state of depression. I eventually left after a semester, only to return home to try and piece things back together. But sometime during my second freshman year, and my first year at SCAD, I developed a fondness of horror movies. After a bout of classic 80’s an 90’s movies with my then roommate, it developed from a fondness into full blown obsession.
Ever since I can remember, I was horrified of the dark. Being a kid, I was gullible and even the most vanilla of ghost stories kept me from sleeping alone in my room with the lights off. I eventually developed a style of sleeping, covering my entire body with my sheets, apart from leaving a small hole for my mouth. I eventually grew out of this, but still never felt any kind of connection with horror movies of any kind until many years later. To tell the truth, I had pretty much put them out of my head.
Reflecting back, I now attribute my emotional connection with Horror movies to some of those events. The hard headed, angst teenager that was concerned with figuring out how the mixed up method of love works, who thought bottling things up instead of letting them out was a better solution to all of my problems began consuming film after film. From Hellraiser to the Gate, Alien, Psycho, The Sadist, The Exorcist, Halloween, Nightmare on Elmstreet, I began with the classics that came on during monster marathons around Halloween. I drew a distinct attraction to zombie films, especially those of George Romero, as well as some newer films like 28 days later.
Two major things came out of this connection. Firstly I realized that being scared, though albeit it sometimes rarely with horror movies, was one of the most intense and real emotions. Not to say love or hope or any other emotions aren’t as strong. But for me, actually becoming psychologically invested in these movies was such a rush, like a redbull for my emotions. As silly as it sounds I was feeling again and it brought me back to reality and out of my funk. Secondly I realized that while many films capitalize on making us feel good with “hollywood” endings, horror movies typically show how humans react when shit hits the fan. Not only revealing what happens to people when under immense amounts of stress, but also how people treat one another when chaos breaks out and social and moral constraints cease to exist. Both of these areas have been and still are major areas of analytical concern for me, almost to an addictive state.
Throughout my schooling, I continually fell upon the notion that failing, learning from my failures and thus learning the correct way was the best way. However upon reflecting back on the past years in college, highschool and even further back, I’ve realized that there are some definitive holes in my theory.
"Learning the hard way is the best way, bro" I proclaimed to my then eleven year old cousin.
Smiling he returned, “Yep, learning the hard way is definitely the best way, Geof”.
He had been spending the summer with us, attending a camp which I worked at when I returned home for breaks. I think we had both done something stupid, so I was explaining that everything could be justified if we simply learned from our lesson.
In a philosophy class sometime during my junior year, a related topic arose. My professor brought up the idea that the human mind justifies traumatic and awful experiences by trying to find some good in them. Sure maybe this dichotomy of good and evil does exist - take yin and yang for example. It is a solidly plausible theory of how the world works. There’s some evil in all that is good, and some good in all that is evil. But as far as justification goes, where is the line between bad happening and learning something good from it?
Nazi party member, Josef Mengele’s human experimentation was no accident, and the end goal of gaining knowledge from these experiments was intended. However Mengele’s actions carried out against humanity were so far beyond ethical boundaries of both then and today, it has brought and continues to brings to light the issue of the ethics of using the data from Mengele’s experiments for our purposes today. On one side you have Mengele and the atrocities committed against fellow humans, on the other you have data gained used today for medical research and further enlightenment. It’s a “well it was a horrible thing, but why not use it” issue.
Now of course this is a skewed example of something bad happening and learning something from it. I am not justifying Melgele, or somehow implying he learned his lesson, or anything of that nature. My concern with this is how “bad” can a situation or event be, and yet still allow us to continue to justify it by deeming and valuing something “good” as coming out of it. Hypothetically, if Mengele had been searching for the cure for cancer and, in doing so, achieved succeess but at the cost of eliminating every Jew - would that still make it something still able to be swallowed?
I too have played into justifying negative events in my life by finding something good as a take away. I’ve hurt people, and It makes the pain easier to take. Sure, it’s great to learn a lesson, and it’s much better than simply admitting failure and just starting over. But there is something more to it than learning the hard way.
Supposedly history repeats itself, in essence proving that we, as humans, don’t actually learn from our mistakes at all. In actuality, maybe we don’t learn from our forefather’s mistakes seems like a more in tune theory. As humans, we are bound to make mistakes, and sometimes learning something from those mistakes is the best outcome we can muster up. But I feel that thinking while making the mistake is what I was missing. Impulsive decisions? Not so much. Getting caught up in the process, forgetting, and not thinking about things indepth enough? Absolutely. A continual, repeating analytic process of the deeds being done in balance with the doing of said deeds is what I was missing.
Maybe if I had continually reflected deeper about my actions in these cases, I would not only learn a valuable lesson in the end, but I would also end up with a more cohesive, well thought out end result. Maybe it would still be a failure when measured by certain standards, but something that I would still be proud about. And maybe, just maybe, I’d hurt a few less people along the way as well, and leave a few less in my wake.
To my cousin, if you ever find this, scratch the idea that learning the hard way is the best way. Learn from your mistakes, but at the same time try continually reflecting on what you’re doing. Be decisive, and be well thought out. Your actions and your words are your true weapons in this world. Being a knight or being a gangster, that is entirely up to you.