Someone smarter than I am once said, “Free your ass, and your mind will follow.” It’s a reassuring thought, especially on a week when I’m experiencing maximum jet lag and Comic-Con withdrawal.
(By the way, here’s my suggestion for making San Diego more enjoyable: give out tickets for the panels, and empty the rooms between events. Everyone who buys a membership gets five tickets for each day they attend. Press gets panel tickets through the appropriate publicists. Exhibitors and other guests get a certain number of panel tickets from the Con when they pay for their booths. If you want to see more than five, you can pay a nominal sum (perhaps a dollar each) that will be donated to a charity, like the CBLDF or the San Diego public library. Your ticket guarantees you a seat at the specific event your asked for, and I think this can all be done with bar codes. True, the movie studios won’t get their great publicity shots of people camping out to see Twilight or Avatar, but the fans will get treated with respect, and have more time to see more show if they aren’t on line outside Hall H all day.)
I took the red-eye home from Los Angeles, where I was visiting my son, the genius. In my youth, I loved the red-eye. It saved me a night in a hotel, and I’d arrive back in New York to see a beautiful sunrise. This time, I couldn’t sleep, my seat wouldn’t tilt back at all, and it felt like something of an endurance test. The sunrise was still beautiful, but I needed sleep.
While I wasn’t sleeping, I thought a lot about my various tiny aches and pains, my discomfort, and what this meant, exactly. When my leg itched, why did I consider that to be a bad feeling? Why did scratching feel good? What did I mean by “good” and “bad” when I was talking about physical sensations? Why are these things evaluated and judged?
Before I get too far into semantics, and we go on to discuss what the definition of “is” is, let’s consider what is specifically human and what is more generally mammal. I’ve seen my cat scratch her ear, therefore deciding that scratching felt better than itching, even without a a developed frontal lobe. She seeks out the sun for a warm place to sleep in the winter, and stays in the dark in the heat of summer. She doesn’t like some flavors of cat food, no matter how much other cats may scamper towards them.
Humans have all sorts of weird preferences, too, little things that make us different from one another, or even from ourselves. When I was a child, I didn’t like eggplant; now I love it. My cousin hated mushrooms, one of my favorite foods. I have a friend who freaks out just from the smell of melon, and to me it evokes summer sensuality.
Do we experience these things the same way, but have different opinions, or do we have different sense receptors from each other? If the melon in my mouth tasted the same as the melon in my friend’s mouth, would she like it? Was she traumatized by a honeydew in her youth?
As humans, we all enjoy five senses. Every culture discovered thus far has had some kind of music and dance, using sound and motion to create feelings that we must think are pleasurable or we wouldn’t keep seeking after them. All society’s define family, at least in part, by the sharing of food. All parents to whom I’ve talked love the smell of their babies’ heads. Is there a single definition of pleasure, or do we each find our own? If it’s the latter, how do we each know what others mean?
At Comic-Con, it was easy to see the different kinds of people selecting their different choices for a pleasurable experience, and going tribal about it. I didn’t go to any of the movie panels, but I heard lots of people who were excited to see Robert Downey, Jr. or Kristen Bell. The word about Marvel publishing Miracle Man swept through the main hall as quickly as if communicated with smoke signals or Morse code. By Sunday, some folks were carrying around hand-written signs saying, “Twilight killed Comic-Con.”
(For the record, I don’t think Twilight killed Comic-Con. It brought in a bunch of young girls, and that freaks out some of the old fanboys, perhaps. What’s killing Comic-Con is the distaste the studios feel for their audience, which they show by making them stand in line like cattle preparing for slaughter. Hence, my suggestion above.)
Comic-Con attracted attendees there for the comics, the television, the web series, the movies, the cartoons and the overlaps of all these things. We were a nation of different tribes, each and every one seeking out their personal pleasures. It’s an oddly cerebral kind of joy to share with strangers.
With luck, a work of popular art will free your mind. A great work will free your ass. Here’s hoping there’s more music at Comic-Con next year.
Media Goddess Martha Thomases had her best celebrity sightings at The Black Panel, but that’s always the case.