We borrowed Pixar’s Cars this weekend from Dad and Sandra, being that we were one of the ten families in the country with kids who hadn’t already seen it.Â I had already read a few reviews that said it was basically an animated Doc Hollywood with cars instead of people, but since Doc Hollywood holds a special place in my heart, I was okay with that.
Chris and I refer to Doc Hollywood as “our honeymoon movie” because we got married on a Friday and were both due at work and school on Monday.Â We had rented a cabin at Patoka Lake for the weekend, but for some odd reason, all the restaurants up there were closed that weekend, it was rainy, and believe it or not, even the primary honeymoon activity gets boring after a certain number of times in two days.
So we left the lake early, went back to our first apartment in Corydon, but first we had a nice lunch at Frisch’s Big Boy and stopped off at the Twin Cinemas and caught a matinee showing of Doc Hollywood.
There is something in both Cars and Doc Hollywood that speaks to an ache and a longing in our contemporary consciousness.Â I don’t think it’s about rural life versus urban life, although it’s easy to mistake for that.Â I don’t think it’s even mostly about the pace of life these days and a growing nostalgia for a more Mayberry-like speed of life.
I think it’s about community and belonging.
I don’t have the necessary naivete to think that life was really, truly slower and easier in the “good old days.”Â For one thing, the lack of time-saving conveniences and the addition of a lot of work that we just don’t have to mess with in modern life makes me think that people were probably just as worn out then as they are now, if not moreso.
I do tend to believe that we have longings in us that are placed there for a reason.Â I think we’re all homesick for heaven, and that homesickness comes out in a lot of different forms, nostalgia for a way of life that may have never really existed being one of them.Â I think we all long for a place where we belong. To quote the theme to Cheers, we want to be where everybody knows your name.
I may be the only person who actually liked the remake of The Stepford Wives with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick, but it speaks to this sense of alienation too, albeit in a very different way.Â The Stepford Wives is about the sense of loneliness that comes from trying to belong. Trying to belong is a very different thing from belonging.Â The difference between the two is the largest part of why I needed to leave our last church home.
Belonging is when you fit into a community, not in spite of your differences and uniqueness, but because of them. Â Both Doc Hollywood and Cars celebrated communities where every quirky, oddball member has their own valuable role and is an integral part of keeping the community functioning. The television show Northern Exposure was another example of this.
I grew up in a small, rural town seven miles from my current house, where my dad and youngest sister still live.Â I think my dad has a hard time understanding why I like living “in town.”Â He complains that you don’t have any privacy; that the houses are too close.Â My dad is a man who appreciates the ability to take a whiz off the back porch without fear of the neighbors seeing and complaining.Â Then again, Dad was the youngest of five kids in a really poor family where indoor plumbing was not a given growing up.Â I can respect his greater need for space and privacy.
Rural or urban, I like living where sidewalks and front porches are the rule, not the exception, and people use both regularly.Â When we first moved to Pal, Chris used to say this was the walking-est town he’d ever seen.Â People walked around town in the evenings, apparently just for the (arguably questionable) entertainment value.Â They stop and talk to each other.Â Yes, the dogs bark incessantly.Â Yes, people let them dump in their neighbors yards and ignore leash laws.Â Yes, people are nosy and gossipy.Â I don’t care.
Better that than living in suburban houses with a five-by-five stoop that’s probably four-by-four bigger than its use justifies.Â Better that than living an acre in distance and ten thousand miles in “none of my business” from your nearest neighbor.
I know that ultimately, it’s my own attitude and behavior that determines the metaphysical distance of my neighbors moreso than whether my house has a porch and a sidewalk.Â But I do think that some physical spaces, some neighborhoods, are more built for neighborliness than others.
In the last couple of months, I’ve discovered through Chris that my neighbors think I hate them.Â I don’t hate them.Â I’m just deaf as a post.Â Seriously; I have scar tissue in my ears from a childhood illness, so I often can’t tell when people are talking to me. At a distance and with background noise, all people sound like the adults in Peanuts cartoons to me. So apparently, my neighbors have been saying hello and baffled by the fact that I don’t acknowledge them.
I could fix that.Â I could make a batch of cookies and go up my street, handing them out and explaining “If you’ve every said ‘hi’ to me and I’ve ignored you, I’m sorry.Â My hearing sucks and I’m usually really distracted.Â If you ever need anything, just knock.”Â Part of my hesitance to do so is my introversion.Â But mostly, if I’m honest, it’s because I know people are … messy … by nature.Â Opening myself up to people opens myself up to their problems, their “stuff.”Â Which is scary.
I have lived much of my life very closed-off, in a vain attempt to protect myself from getting hurt.Â Limiting the number of people I cared about to as small a number as possible has done absolutely nothing to protect me from being hurt.Â On the contrary, all it’s done is make me more isolated and desperate when the painful things came. Â So now, I’m trying to be different. I have no experience with being different, so I have to call on my imagination to try and figure it out.Â I have to use the imagery provided by movies and books and television to create an inner picture of the neighborhood I want to live in in the external world.
The process of moving into that “inner neighborhood” in my outer reality is not a matter of real estate, but a matter of becoming a good neighbor myself.
Gee, that sounds familiar.Â Where have I heard a story like that before?