In this episode, Jimmy & Alanna get straight down to business (after some banter about the tongue-tying nature of Alanna’s first name) to ask what it means to acquire a livable intentionality in one’s daily habits, and what might inhibit that process. Addiction, compulsivity, absurdity and self-sufficiency are all explored and discussed within the context of the free-flowing, stimulating conversation between friends.
To start, Jimmy and Alanna discuss pronunciation of names: Alanna’s name causes a great deal of confusion. Despite very elaborate and clear pronunciation on her part, many people seem to adhere to language patterns – regional differences – that prevent them from repeating it back to her (barista Alala). Jimmy shares that only his grandmother was ever allowed to call him Jim (“It makes me feel like I’m old and fat”). Certain names defy the tongue, depending on where you’re from. “Names have consequences,” says Jimmy. Alanna looks up the meaning of “James” and discovers that it means “Supplanter: one who follows.” They debate on the accuracy of that definition – Jimmy, by his own admission, likes being in charge. This then opens up some dream-scheming on Jimmy’s part as he considers the potential scope of Love Good, and Alanna glibly listens and encourages his ideas (some of which are, shall we say, a bit far-fetched).
Jimmy segues from here into the main topic of the conversation: intentionality in media consumption. How do we intake books, art, films – that help us love what is good? What’s our frame of reference? Alanna asks, “What is the correlation between what I’m ingesting and what I’m becoming? Or failing to become?” Alanna shares a bit about the weariness she experiences when her idealized vision of life is thwarted, and how it breeds cynicism in her. “When I sense cynicism in myself, I realize that it’s actually just a cover for a fragile heart.” Cynicism is an armor against disappointment. What we ingest can further numb our sense of disappointment, acting as a coping mechanism: it’s worthwhile to examine what motivates what we reach for in a given day, and why.
“Like most things for me, this all just comes down to beer,” Jimmy declares. “Somewhere along the way my dad turned me onto IPAs. You have to have a certain elevated taste to enjoy it, like scotch or good coffee.” The parallel he makes here with media is an admission of his favorite movie from childhood: Austin Powers. “It is ever-present to me,” he says. In time he realized this left something to be desired, and as he’s matured he’s sought out media that re-grounds him in his humanity.
Alanna reaffirms the idea that acquiring a taste for quality is necessary in order to reap the benefits: but she then brings up the complicating factor of addiction – something all of us, on some level or another, wrestle with. “Would I rather be able to drink only one tiny cup of coffee for an entire day, or drink four subpar cups? And here I must admit I’m kind of a caffeine addict, and so I make exceptions. Making exceptions is at the heart of many default decisions we make, the things we passively consume.”
They then explore this idea of being motivated more by our compulsions than by our higher desires, and how it requires actual regimentation in order to gain control over these two conflicting forces. Jimmy shares about a three-month media fast he did which lead to genuine weaning off of devices – his brain chemistry changed such that he no longer felt the need, the urge, to mindlessly pick up his phone. “Sometimes I fall back on using spiritual jargon rather than doing the real work required to make those changes,” Alanna says. “You can’t pray yourself out of these patterns. Of course you pray and you seek help from a Higher Power to get out of the hole you’re in. But you have to do actual work. You have to use the brain in a different way, find different modes of thinking and being. No one else is going to do it for you.”
Jimmy then shares another broad dream: to have Love Good infiltrate Hollywood some day, meaning, to somehow imprint the cultural conscience with a renewed interest in media that is genuinely humanizing. “It’s not about perfectionism, or painting a rosy picture that’s unrealistic: it’s about reality. About meaning. Most of us live in a little bit of a fantasy, we live absurdly.”
Jimmy asks Alanna how she defines the word “absurdity,” and she shares that the Latin root Surdus means “deafness.” “[It is]to be cocooned to the point of being unable to apprehend life as it actually is – which I think all of us, to varying degrees for varying reasons, have places within us that are tightly cocooned,” she says.
So how do we live in such a manner that allows those places to unfurl? How do we live such that the hallmarks of our interactions are freedom, integrity, and joy – and what does what we ingest have to do with that? (Do the things we hear help us to hear, or do the things we hear make us unable to hear?) Jimmy mentions how joy – which is the most attractive and awakened quality – seems to evade us the more we scroll through our lives on our phones: Alanna agrees, saying that joy has a way of actively engaging with the world around it.
Alanna asks, “Do you think it’s realistic to think that every single decision we make in a given day should contribute to the betterment of the common good? Or is that just too intense?”
Jimmy laughs and says, “I want to be unpredictably good. I think living intentionally becomes easier in time. It’s not that we’re constantly aware that every decision is ordered toward the higher things – but to have that perpetual intention is possible. I think a lot of that boils down to owning our own messes.”
Alanna agrees, saying that when our intention becomes too intense and focused, we lose our sense of spontaneity and joy. “When I used to approach things in a very black-and-white way, really it was because it made me feel safer. It closed me off from learning from other people. You can build yourself into a worthwhile, decent human being based on what you’re taking in media wise: but if you’re not able to appreciate whatever people come into your life in a given day, all of that would be for naught. So it’s both-and. It’s both a discipline where you seek out things by which you frame your life, and it’s – other-ness. It’s being available to the other. That’s fundamental to living a worthwhile life.” Alanna then brings up the helpfulness of remembering how short a life is, in the grand scheme, and how sometimes keeping this in mind makes us more alert and available to the present moment. She brings up a quote from John Steinbeck: “I wonder how many people I’ve looked at my whole life and have never really seen.” When we’re too enmeshed and cocooned within our own agenda, we overlook the people around us. Our intentionality must give way to receptivity. Are we willing to stop dead in our tracks and encounter the people in front of us?
TIRED OF BEING A PASSIVE CONSUMER?
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