Yesterday I went to the movies.
The circumstances at most movie theatres these days are pretty isolating. Each patron is given a separate seat, with a high back and at least one armrest to simultaneously provide drink occupation and limb stabilization. The rooms are lined with rows of seats stationed side-by-side, prohibiting conversational access to anyone other than the people on your immediate left and right. Granted, you can turn around and address the people seated in the rows behind you, but the high backs of the chairs mentioned earlier make for physically unpleasant conversational circumstances should you intend to sustain a dialogue of more than a few syllables.
Furthermore, as the movie theatre lights dim and then fully darken, your sense of vision becomes limited. Indeed, the aim of this atmosphere is to focus concentration on the giant, illuminated screen at the front of the room. After all, you came here to watch a movie.
In such a large room where people are situated in their own, individual seats, using their own, individual armrests, and disguised from each other by an insulating and cloaking cover of darkness, you may find movie theatres to enforce isolation. You may find them to prevent community.
But like I said, yesterday I went to the movies.
I was nestled in my little cushioned cradle, my travel mug suspended in the armrest that was mine to use for the duration of the film. I watched as the audience members with their patterned popcorn buckets and slushy, neon drinks across the room disappeared into the darkness of the dimming room. When the trailers cued up, I subconsciously began to tune out the rest of the world, readying myself to take in the story of the woman behind the Miracle Mop.
And then a sudden surge of something unexpected pierced through my movie-viewing pregame experience.
On the screen was a white-haired Alan Rickman, suited up and seated at the head of a conference table, speaking in his iconic, resonant voice.
And in that one moment, a grief-stricken moan emerged from my mouth, in chorus with the melancholy calls of the moviegoers around me.
In a split second, we had gone from a collection of individuals each encapsulated in a unique mini movie-viewing world to a community of people connected through shared grief over the loss of another.
And although it was a very sad moment and we will continue to mourn the loss of a friend from this world, that moment was a tremendously beautiful example of the resiliency of the human spirit.
What happened in that theatre was this. In a world where so much of our society is set up to encourage isolation, the collection of people seated together, despite the structures that physically separated them, let forth an instinctual call to community. No one who cried in that moment debated whether or not to articulate a sigh of mourning. No one who spoke paused beforehand to consider the effect that lending a moan to the crowd would have. Those who spoke had been moved by instinct. It was a gut reaction to the sight of a recently lost friend.
You see, despite the establishments in our social world that may or may not be leading us down our own, sequestered roads in life, I find it incredibly beautiful that it is still our instinct as human beings to share in something together.
And I have to hope that somewhere out there the ones who have left us are comforted by that thought.