What Going To A Movie Taught Me About Community

I’m sitting all by myself in the movie theater.  This is pretty normal for me, though.  I’ve found that in a world that is constantly pulling to distract and to stress us out, having moments of respite in a movie theater where you can’t take out your phone or have to speak to anyone (ugh, the worst) can just be so rejuvenating.

Plus the theater I go to serves whiskey to your seat.  So yeah.

But this time is different than usual.  We’re all gathered to see a movie that came out in 2007, and which, for some reason, very few people got behind when it came out.

The movie is called Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and it’s a parody of movies like Walk The Line, Ray, and other musical biopics.  And the beauty of this movie is that it’s both hilarious and has awesome music.  Music that won it awards!  And yet, no one appreciates this incredible gem, one of the best comedies of the 2000s!

I was always disturbed by this reality, and so going to a movie theater full of people who actually like this move is a dream for me.  I’m so excited to not just laugh by myself on a subway watching it on my phone and to actually see it on the big screen with others.

But I have no idea what I’m in for.  Because as I’m sitting there, it starts to hit me that these people, these must be the type of people who feel exactly like me.  People who also love this movie, and who are excited to be with… with me!  Or with, others like me, at least.

And so when the guy who is running this “event” comes out to speak about the movie, and everyone cheers (and at some point I realize I’m cheering too), and then when he starts talking about how the movie is under-appreciated and everyone claps and nods in agreement (again… me too), I realize that there is something special happening here.

In fact, it makes sense.  In a place like Brooklyn, where millions of people live, it makes sense that there would be 150 or so people crazy enough to pay to see a movie from more than a decade ago that no one else cared about.  And not only that, they must be the people who feel the most like me.  The people who are the most fanatic, and the most upset that this movie was not appreciated, and the most excited to see it with other fans.

My thoughts are confirmed as the movie starts, and people start cheering again, and then, as the jokes begin right away, they start laughing before the gags even happen.

The moment young Nate takes out that machete to play with, we laugh because we know he’s about to get cut in half (trust me, it’s funny).  And the moment the dad says, “Wrong kid died!” we all say the line along with him and laugh and cheer because we realize we’re so excited to say that line throughout the movie.  When the mother starts dancing with the father, we start laughing because we know she’s about to die (again, funny).

I have never been in a movie where so many people laughed so hard or cheered so loud.  And I saw White Girls in the South Side of Chicago.

And it doesn’t stop.  From beginning to end, we are laughing our heads off.  There is a communal feel in the air as it progressed, making us feel even safer and happier enjoying it together.  Some people turn to others and laugh together.  Sometimes they quietly recite lines before they happened.

When the movie ends, everyone applauds in joy.  We had all had an experience we had been dying to have for ages, and it is even better for that very reason.  Instead of just seeing a movie we wanted to see in a theater, we got to see it together, and that makes it all a million times better.  In fact, that was the beauty of the entire experience.

As I walk out of the the theater, I can’t help but think about the experience as a microcosm of something bigger happening in the world today.  More and more, thanks to the internet and other cultural changes, people are finding niche experiences and communities like this.

There are people, disparate and spread throughout the globe, who have a shared love (or hate) of something, and when they are signaled to, and brought together, they are fulfilled in ways they never could have before. And by definition, the more specific the niche, the more these people feel fulfilled, since the more specific a joy, the harder it is to find others who share it and the deeper that joy lives inside of a person.

Every now and then, I’ll go to Death Cafes.  I have a weird fascination with death, and it’s almost impossible to find others who share this fascination.  But then I read an article about these cafes where this is all people talk about, and I found my people.  The people who are willing to think about the unthinkable, and sit in a cafe and talk about it for hours.

And it’s how new communities are being formed, how people are re-creating their experience with spirituality and religion, and part of why the world feels so upside down and confusing today (the more people find their niches, the less the power of the large corporatized institutions we have relied on for a stable culture).

Yes, watching Walk Hard was a beautiful experience, but it was beautiful also because it had this exact element within it.  The specificity.  One movie.  The communal gathering.  The laughter.  The joy, lived out and shared with others.  No longer alone, but joined in our emotions.

That’s, in a sense, what this site is.  And what we’re trying to build.  A place where people who are dying for more spiritual creativity in their lives.  A home for the wanderers and the misfits of the Jewish world.  An outlet to live out that aspect of ourselves together.  To experience our shared desire to let our neshamas out in the ways most true to us, even when it upsets people, even if it doesn’t make sense to others, and even if we ourselves are still learning along the way.

That’s why I love this place.  That’s why I love what we’re building in Brooklyn (if you are curious about that, please contact me).  And that’s why watching Walk Hard in a room full of laughing fools was more special than even many spiritual experiences I’ve had.