Stories in the Sky

Watching movies on a comically tiny screen is a required ritual of traveling by airplane. All those movies that I would never go see in the theaters become the perfects companion for the twilight hours I spend in a metal box flying through the sky.

Asha and I were deep into one of these movies on our flight to Madrid when something unusual happened. As a rule, I try to appreciate any art. No matter the quality, it takes some effort to create and we should always begin our experience with art with that in mind because it allows us to lose ourselves in a story. I like to give every story a chance and see if it can take me along for a journey.

This movie we were watching, though, upended my normal approach, fracturing my viewing experience. Normally it's not until after a movie ends that I take of the hat of the pure viewer and try to reflect on what I saw. Almost immediately upon watching the film, my viewing experience began to bifurcate: Daniel lost in the story and Daniel with a bird's eye view of the narrative.

I got a sense that certain parts of the film's story wore thin, some felt just right, and others lagged a beat too long. This scene had the wrong dynamic to it; that scene didn't quite move the story as intended. At the same time, I was still enjoying the movie: certain narrative tools always make me smile. The whole experience was kind of like trying on a coat. I was at once wrapped in the coat, inundated with the story as Daniel the viewer, and viewing how it looked in the mirror, seeing the whole arc of the story as Daniel with some perspective.

The simultaneous experience of these two viewing experiences was strange, but highlighted the importance of each. Both are not only essential important to enjoying a film's story but also your own story, too. Without the ability to get lost in your own narrative, you miss out on the moment to moment magic that the present can offer. Without the switch to seeing your story in the mirror in all its beauty and flaws, you lack the chance to mend the story for the better and to see how it all fits. But when you do find the right coat -- the right story -- for your life you don't need to do anything but put it on and keep moving.