The other night I watched the most amazing movie, It was called Breaking and Entering, and it was about people who attempt to set some pretty random Guinness world records, like the guy who was in danger of losing his wife and children because he couldn’t stop joggling. That’s juggling and running a marathon at the same time, for the joggling uninitiated, and yes, it’s as ridiculous-looking as it sounds. We’d get a shot of he and his wife being interviewed together. She’d be there, thin and tight-lipped, trying to show support for her husband, at least outwardly. He’d be next to her, fidgeting, talking about how he knows his joggling was ruining his home life but he couldn’t stop. So much so that when his main joggling nemesis kept breaking his joggling records, he’d dutifully start training again, even though he promised his wife he “could quit any time.”
But the guy who truly captivated me was the Grape Guy. Yes, this man was attempting to set multiple records for catching grapes in his mouth, and he had set a goal for breaking the distance, height, and speed records for this highly useful skill. The best parts of the movie were when they would interview the Grape Guy’s brother, who was the epitome of a dude-bro. He had a smirk on his face the entire time he talked about his brother’s obsession, a little wink and nod to us that, yeah, he knew that it was ridiculous too but whaddayagonnado? He shrugged and said “Yeah, look, so it’s weird okay? What can I say though? It’s his thing, it makes him happy. And his wife is like ‘That’s nice honey, go play with your grapes,’ and so he does and he gets a bang out of it. So what?” Indeed, all of his friends felt the same way–he had a whole posse of them calculating vertical thrust and distance-to-height ratios, and there they’d all be, out in a field, chucking grapes at their friend until he’d break another record. That dude gave zero fucks that what he was doing was weird; he was happy and his friends were happy for him.
And I spent most of the movie thinking “Who are these people?” I mean, why does setting a world record for longest toenails represent the highest pinnacle of human achievement for some people? Then they got to this guy who wanted to set the world record in being the person who holds the most simultaneous world records, which, up to that point, was 100 records. So this socially awkward, nerdy guy found 101 world records that he thought he could break and set about doing it. And I spent the whole movie thinking this guy was a freakshow for attempting to balance 20 milk crates on his chin or trying to set the record for longest distance for pushing an orange with his face. And then he said something that made it all click: he said “I do this for my meditation practice. I pick a record then I immerse myself in doing whatever it takes to break that record, and it forces me to focus solely on this one activity.”
And then I got it. I mean, the refrain you hear all the time these days is “I’ve tried meditating before. I can’t just sit there. My mind races, and then I get pissed because I can’t do something as simple as sit quietly for five minutes.” Right? Well this dude is clearing his mind, but he’s doing it in unconventional ways–he’s focusing on becoming the best backward bowler that he can be or whatever, and when he’s doing that, he’s not thinking about making his mortgage because he lost his job or why his last relationship failed or why he doesn’t have the manse on the hill. He was just all about his mind and his giant hula hoop or his bowling ball or his milk crates.
And I think this is something to note for two reasons: first, the very simple reason that often your mind works on problems when you’re thinking of other things. It’s the same concept as how you can spend an hour at a party trying to think of the name of that kickass movie you saw about gay Pygmy love, but you don’t think of it until 3:28AM, when you sit upright in bed and loudly exclaim the movie title. And secondly, it taps into that old Mexican proverb: Everyone needs someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Something to do.
And for me, that just rings true. I’m of the age when everyone is finally starting to settle down. People have gotten married, and now they’re starting to have kids and be family-focused. We’re not all going out and spending five nights a week bar-hopping, drinking, fucking, and talking shit. You hit your forties and it becomes all about raising kids and advancing your career so you can put said kids into college or so that you can afford your parents’ nursing homes.
But see, I dislike children and I could give three fucks about the corporate ladder. And so I’ve been floundering. So now what?
Something to do.