08/11/2014 12:35 EDT | Updated 10/11/2014 05:59 EDT

What I Learned This Week: There's Nothing Wrong With Nothing


Throughout the more than 1,000 blog posts I've written about lessons learned, most have been sparked by things I personally observed or experienced. Despite the fact that I read voraciously and search the 'Net incessantly to keep ideas flowing, rare is the blog post inspired by something that someone else said or wrote.

So consider this one "rare" then, as it was inspired by the last lines of the marvelous Richard Linklater film "Boyhood." In the scene, which caps close to three hours watching lead character Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane) grow from the age of six until 18, he sits in a desert, ruminating about life with Nicole, a girl he just met.

Me paraphrasing, Nicole brings up the fact that it's kind of naïve to think that one can "seize the moment," because the reality is that most of the time, "the moment seizes you."

You have no control over any moment, except in how you react to it.

Now I'm not revealing the film's ending, nor are any of the scenes I'm about to mention story-ruining "spoilers." The beauty of Boyhood is that it succeeds despite its deviation from the traditional screenwriting formula, where every action is supposed to have a purpose, lead you to the next step and ultimately, to a neatly-wrapped conclusion. Linklater's oeuvre does none of that; it reflects life -- well, at least Mason's -- simply as it unrolls.

Sometimes, a life event may well be an important link to the future, and your choice at a fork in the road decides your ultimate destiny (see the film "Sliding Doors" as the antithesis of Boyhood). But most of the time, it's nothing. And that's the brilliance of this film -- nothing really happens as everything happens.

For example, there's a scene where Mason and a group of friends are drinking beer and trash-talking at some abandoned home construction site. One of the kids picks up a circular saw blade and flings it into a sheet of gyprock standing against a wall. As a dramatic device, this should be a turning point in the film. After years of movie-going, we are conditioned for the treacherous blade to careen off the gyprock and straight into a character, thus setting off a chain reaction of events that drive the story forward. But instead, the dangerous disc thunks into the sheet and stays there harmlessly. Just another nothing moment.

Same goes for Mason's encounter with bullies in the boy's bathroom, and a little love-letter passed in class that brightens his mood after a bad haircut. Catalysts for nothing; just things that happen, then life moves on.

So in reflecting what I learned this week, the main lesson is that:

Most everything leads to nothing. And more importantly, there's nothing wrong with nothing!

Notwithstanding the beliefs of the more spiritual among us, not everything is connected (sorry, Butterfly Effect). And even when there is a connection, it does not necessarily imply causation. Life is WAY MORE random than we think, and WAY LESS predetermined and profound in the way it rolls out.

Maybe this is reflective of a general August "chill out" mood swing, but thanks to Richard Linklater and Boyhood, I'm learning to see and accept things as they are, and not put too much weight or thought into the "why."

I recognize how little I actually control in life, and how much fun there is in watching it go by, reacting when I need to. That said, I'm gonna strap myself in tight, and enjoy the ride.

So come on, moments! I'm waiting.

Seize me!


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