Don’t Panic

There’s a very ok science fiction movie called After Earth that came out a few years ago. It stars the father son duo of Will and Jaden Smith, reprising their father-son bond from such things as their real relationship and also the Pursuit of Happyness. In a lesson about when to scale back your writing, it’s a high-concept science fiction movie about a father and son getting trapped on Earth 1000 years after it’s uninhabitable, getting separated, and the son having to go on an adventure to save his father, who’s only available through the radio. Because if anyone has learned any lesson from the reboots of Independence Day and Men in Black while Aladdin and the third Bad Boys makes a ton of money, we apparently want less Will Smith?

I bring this up because this very ok movie has a quote in it, said by General Cypher Raige, a character name I simultaneously hate and can’t believe I didn’t think of first, that I’ve been thinking about lately. 

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is the product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Now do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”

I’ve been open about this in other areas of my life, but I have pretty bad anxiety. I get fearful of things that are far out of the realm of possibility, often times paralyzing me from making even the smallest choice. On one particularly bad day I had a bad spiral that left me sleepless I wondered that if reincarnation was real, what would happen at the end of time. That really happened, and when that does happen, you start to think about how you got to that point. So, a global pandemic is not exactly the best place for my brain to be going right now, especially one that has us all locked in our homes, waiting for some vague thing to happen to make it all better. Of course, if you talk to some people it will never be better, but more on that in a minute. 

The reason I’ve been thinking about this pretty awesome quote from a pretty ok movie is because I think it’s an important one, and one that doesn’t downplay the idea of danger. See, when you’re scared of everything, it becomes sort of difficult to figure out what is real danger, and what isn’t real danger. You’re just sort of left in this constant state of panic, one in which monkey ninjas are lurking around every corner, ready to do whatever is monkey ninjas do. Banana nunchucks, maybe? I’m not really sure, I’m not an expert on this.

Trying to keep it somewhat light, kids. 

But that quote stuck with me. Because the important thing about fear is how we react to it. On the one hand, this pandemic sucks. In fairness, I’m not really sure that needs to be said. Pandemics, by their nature, suck, unless we’re talking about a panda-emic, in which we’re invaded by cute fluffy raccoon creatures who just want to eat bamboo and love us. 

I’m not super proud of that joke, but I’m leaving it in.

This pandemic sucks, but I’m seeing a lot of people coming together to help each other out. I’m seeing the good out there, I’m seeing people help each other, I’m seeing people making food for each other, or putting on concerts, or helping with homework, or making masks. Yeah, there’s the occasional jerk. But mostly, I’m seeing people do good, and I think that’s important right now. It’s showing off some of the good out there. It’s a small bright side, but it’s one we need to focus on.

But I’ve been struggling lately, if we’re being honest. And I admitted to you that I know nothing about ninja monkeys, so I think I’m being pretty honest right now. I just feel like some people are very focused on the negative. I get it. There’s a lot to be negative about right now, and it’s not good for some people. I wish I could do more to help, but I’m not a wealthy person, I’m most good at knowing trivia about ok movies and I only dabble a little in monkey ninjas. And it seems almost as if there’s a vested interest in those people who are negative coming in and trying to be as negative as possible. 

That brings me back to that quote. The movie largely features Jaden Smith running around a mostly CGI landscape fighting the scariest CGI monsters that could be created with the budget allowed. You know, instead of the wolves and the Alaskan road that were the original idea for the story. Regardless, the story itself is how he learns to react to the very real danger around him. And I think that’s the important lesson I’m trying to reflect on. 

I’m not a scientist, I’m not going to say it’s not dangerous out there. And I think a lot of people are feeling like I do most of the time: like it’s so far out of my control and how do I control it. The thing is, you can’t. Until we invent a tiny submarine to allow us to go into people’s bloodstreams and fight this virus with cool lasers, there’s not much we can do except let those who can do something do their jobs. Also write up that screenplay and sell it as a father/son adventure for Will Smith. And how we can react to this danger is by focusing on what we can control.

As for me… I’m going to stop listening to the negative. Not because it’s not bad out there, but because there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t make this pandemic go through faster. I can’t make anyone look on the bright side. And I can’t shrink down submarines for a cool action packed adventure that could also may be star the Rock as the surely but likeable Captain who comes between a father and son. What I can do is control my own actions. What I can do is focus on the good around me, because that’s what I want to see. And what I can continue to do is write stupid movie reviews and stories that make me laugh, even if it’s just for an audience of one. 

And that’s what I’m going to continue to do. 

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