Thoughts and other trivia...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Back to the future

I was watching this film, If Only (Paul Nicholls and Jennifer Love Hewitt), on cable the other day. At first, I was startled at how much it was like a ten-line idea for a script I've had for a really long time. But then, as the film unfolded, I realised that, in its treatment and in the direction it was taking, it wasn't quite what I had in mind. To be honest, there's nothing really spectacular about the concept itself but, I think, it has immense potential. My own script idea stemmed from a personal experience and something that has bothered me for very long.

I remember reading somewhere, a long time ago, that we are able to deal with the regret of having done whatever it is we've done but it's the regret of not doing certain things we wish we had done that is inconsolable. I've paraphrased, of course, but it's true, isn't it?

Unlike the shockingly large number of people who claim that they have no regrets, I have quite a few. A harsh word, flashes of anger, little bit of carelessness, some indifference, plenty of impatience...I'm guilty of them all. Very guilty, actually. But, I'm okay with these indiscretions. Of course, I feel bad about it all but I don't kill myself over these things because I wouldn't be human if I hadn't done stuff I regret. I try not to repeat the mistakes but, being imperfect and all, I'm guilty of that as well. But, that's okay too. It's the second part of the statement that is often the problem...regretting things I should've done but didn't do.

How the hell do you deal with that? Because that moment is now lost forever and there's no telling what might have happened if you'd done what you didn't. (If you were Navjyot Singh Siddhu, you'd quickly respond to that by saying: If ifs and buts were pots and pans, my friend, there'd be no tinkers. Or, as a variation, something about his aunt being his uncle.) There will always be those small things that you'll regret not doing. For instance, the investment that a friend urged you to make but, for some reason, you didn't and, right enough, that stock shot up through the roof. Or, that absolutely lovely khaki-ish cargos at Benetton that you didn't buy because you thought it was a size too large. Man, I could kill for that! Depending on the size of one's greed and desire, a periodic kick to self helps one to live with these things.

Then, there'll be those other issues that no amount of kicking will help. How do you handle those? Because you know if you'd done what you didn't, your life would've been different today. You can't beat yourself over this, I know, but the knowledge that things could've been different isn't easy to live with either. And, so, the only way to deal with such a problem is to practise what I call the 'sleeping dog' theory...don't mess with it, just let it lie.

In If Only, Nicholls watches his girlfriend, Hewitt, die in a road accident on a day on which he could've done so many things differently and almost all of which would've ensured that the accident didn't happen. Unfortunately, he does what he does and she dies. Of course, this is not to imply that she dies because of his actions. It's just that by choosing to act differently in the many situations he found himself in on that particular day, he could've helped to avert the accident. Anyway, when he wakes up on the following day, he realises that he has been given a chance to live 'yesterday' once again. So, after he has come to terms with the opportunity, he makes a conscious and concerted effort to things do them the way he actually wants to do them rather than in the manner he feels compelled to, either because of the circumstances or due to his ego or whatever else. There's a twist at the end, which, for the benefit of those who haven't seen this soppy film but may still want to, I won't give away but, obviously, he is able to change things enough to ensure that Hewitt doesn't die.

Like I said, the idea for a script roughly along these lines came to me in relation to a personal experience. And, ever since, I've wondered what I would do if I were given such a chance to change what happened back then. What would I do? Hmm...if wishes were horses, beggars would ride and pigs not related to Pink Floyd would also fly!

That's the trouble, isn't it? Our lives are nothing like the movies. Paul Nicholls' character gets a chance to re-live a day and change what happened. You and I don't. A pity.


Blogger Sonia said...

it's all for you to learn. and it's all meant to be.

7:50 pm  
Blogger Szerelem said...

As Dumbledore said in Harry Ptter The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed Its not easy to say that doing anything differently would change our life....

4:04 am  
Blogger km said...

I'm sure you've worn out your copy of "Groundhog Day" like most of us :)) One of my favorite films. So you won't be surprised if I say I find your post's conclusion terribly bleak.

Now, I don't know the particulars of your life and may be you made some *spectacularly* bad choices. I've made a few of them in my life. But how long can I blame the past for my life today? The present is where I am making all my choices. The past is over and done with. To hell with it.

Thinking about the past and kicking ourselves for not doing something is the awesomest blame game of all. The blame conveniently shifts to something outside us. Oh, the unfortunate circumstances. It is a game we all know we can never win and that's just the fun: playing the victim.

Sorry if I am sounding too harsh, but blaming oneself for one's past choices is about as meaningful as congratulating oneself for future accomplishments. Look at it another way: at any given moment, we CANNOT know what we don't know. And so we do the best we can.

I am all for accepting one's choices - with as little judgement as possible. (It's not easy when there are stocks, missed career and romance opportunities involved, but think of all that as material for 10 screenplays :))

BTW, I know all this is true because Bill Murray says so.

4:40 am  
Blogger Enemy of the Republic said...

As John Travolta said in Pulp Fiction: "That is a bold statement." I wondering more than ever if it is true. I hope not, but I dare to think that it is.

4:51 am  
Blogger Arthur Quiller Couch said...

In my world, he'd go back and do things differently. And she'd still die.
That's life.
Shit happens.

8:52 am  
Blogger kundalini said...

but isnt it wonderful when those 'big regrets' turn out to be blessings in disguise? helps then to think of regrets as "disguised blessings", yet to unfurl. :)

9:45 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Sonia: Surely, there must be an easier way to learn :-)

Szerelem: I know what you mean. But, that’s the whole’s easier to live with the consequences of what one may have done. When you’re unable to do what you might’ve so desperately wanted to, it’s almost impossible not to dwell on what could’ve been!

KM: Whoa! That’s probably the longest comment you’ve ever left here. Thanks, man! :-)

But, things aren’t as bleak as the post might’ve led you to believe. It’s just that, as I said to Szerelem above, sometimes it’s impossible not to dwell on what might’ve been. In my case, maybe I dwell on it a bit longer than some others might do. But, that’s because I didn’t really get the chance to do what I wanted to do in the situation. It’s not as much about the choices that I’ve made...I can live with that...but more about not getting the opportunity to play any part in the situation I’m referring to and, worse, about being reduced to a bystander.

7:09 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Enemey of the Republic: It is a bold statement indeed! :-) Oh, and I just loved Pulp Fiction.

AQC: Ouch! That’d be terrible! Sure, shit happens and life is unfair and I accept it. But, once in a while, some of it gets to you. Especially that which you cannot control.

Kundalini: It’d be great if it turned out to be a blessing in disguise but sometimes you just know that that isn’t going to happen.

7:10 pm  
Anonymous chandni said...

when you leaving and where u goin?

I am back..

1:49 pm  
Blogger zypsy said...

"Unlike the shockingly large number of people who claim that they have no regrets, I have quite a few."

I don't believe anyone who says he/she has no regrets in life. A chance to change what happened back then - i guess everyone will grab it no matter what their reasons are.

Agree with you on the sleeping dog theory to deal with "things that we should've done but didn't do" People think and analyze too much, for me it's the past and it's gone. You learn from it and move on, or you just ignore it.

"...pigs not related to Pink Floyd would also fly!" a beautiful song, btw:-)

6:17 pm  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

Really liked this post. To quote Vonnegut - "Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are `It might have been.'"
Dwelling on the past may be pointless, but it is human nature.

11:05 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Chandni: Welcome back :-) I'm off on Friday...going to Bombay and then, for a couple of days, to Alibag on Saturday. Back in Bombay for 2-3 weeks after that.

Zypsy: When they say they have no regrets, I don't think people are being dishonest. It's just that, I believe, they haven't thought it through.

MT: Didn't know about the Vonnegut bit...makes sese though :-) The only 'mice and men' bit that I knew is from Steinbeck.

I don't think dwelling on the past is a mistake...being pre-occupied with it may be.

12:59 pm  
Blogger zypsy said...

not dishonest or anything in particular, but i just don't believe it.

as you said, maybe they haven't thought about it. or maybe it's too painful, or stupid, or embarrassing, or maybe, they don't even wanna talk about it.

6:06 pm  
Anonymous **silvermoon** gel said...

My daughter and I rented that movie this summer and saw it. I remember it well, and ironically, also thinking about regrets in the way you do here.

Oh, and man I love hearing you *do* have regrets. I cannot fathom those who truly don't have regrets. Are they not as honest to themselves as me? Or not as creative? Or am I too sensitve? Maybe I'm too picky or remember too much since I do have some regrets. Mostly, I feel my life is the one I'd choose, but yes I wonder...

Yes, like you there are actions I regret but it is definitely the action I did not take or the change I did not make that gnaws away at the marrow of my bones. My release for that angst is writing poetry...Otherwise, I'm there with the dogs and playing with them. LIfe does go on. :)

12:53 pm  
Blogger sattva said...

the ghosts that haunt the ghost? hope they are exhorcised soon :)

7:13 pm  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

what's the point? I mean wanting to change something that you cannot? and yes I agree with a.q.c. in that she still dies. meaning things will not change. Much. Or may be they will. Who knows? And there's no point trying to second guess life or fate or our actions. We do things based on what we think is right at that moment and we have to live with it. no matter what. Because you and i cannot go back and re-live a day. Except in our minds. Atleast a million times over.

10:14 pm  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

check this out: repenting hyperopia: an analysis of self-control regrets

2:45 am  
Anonymous driftwood said...

It is a REALLY bad movie. Though the guy is a good kisser.

But you know what's nice about real life? The kind that is yours and mine? The background music in a movie makes real life that much more easier :).

7:52 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Zypsy: Or, since they've heard everyone else say that they have no regrets, maybe people think they're not supposed to have regrets :-) Or, maybe, it's a bad thing to have regrets! :-)

SilverMoon*Gel: Like I said to Zypsy, I don't think that people are really being dishonest whe they say they have no regrets. I think that they simple haven't given it much thought.

Unlike you, I don't have any form of "release". Ad, sometimes, when I go down that road, it does get a bit tough. But, by and large, it's pretty much under control :-)

Sattva: :-) While they do haunt sometimes, luckily, the ghosts don't stay very long :-)

11:21 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

M: It's hard to argue with what you say. But, all of us have our weak moments when, even though we know better, we allow our minds to wander and, as you say, re-live a part of our lives that we wish we had lived differently. And, this is really the point, because we're able to re-live those moments in our heads, we flirt with the notion of how different our lives might've been if we'd done what we didn't.

TR: Unfortunately, I'm unable to open any PDF files at the of the few things that need fixing on the comp. But, will check this in a day or so. Thanks!

Driftwood: C'mon, it wasn't that bad. haven't you seen far worse stuff? :-)

"Though the guy is a good kisser." Hmm, and you know because...? :-)

About the background music, wouldn't it be nice to have a occasional drum-roll or a crash of the cymbals once in a while?

12:14 am  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

no problem, try this for a decent summary.

12:17 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

TR: I had a quick look at this link and while it is VERY interesting, it's not quite what I was talking about, is it? I'm in a bit of a hurry at the moment...still have my List to take care of before I leave. Will write more on this, if I can, a little later. Thanks again!

10:15 am  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

i know it isn't -- i was hoping you'd find it interesting enough to follow up on something that's discussed in the text (of the pdf), i.e., this. which is more like what you were talking about, i think.

6:17 pm  

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