Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Philosophal Lesson to be learned from the television series Grey's Anatomy

The Lesson to be Learned from the television series Grey’s Anatomy

clusterlovers from the show

Okay, so I don’t normally watch any form of television, but once in a while my wife and I will get into a series or some such nonsense. We followed the vh1 series where “Flava Flav” dates a dozen girls – but don’t judge, if it wasn’t American to rubberneck we wouldn’t have invented the term.

The first disappointment the male reader will discover is that though “Grey” refers to a relatively young relatively attractive character on the show, neither the topic, nor the presentation of her anatomy are the subject of any of the shows.

My friend Butch had the opposite complaint: when his wife tried to hook him in, he casually asked whom had slept with whom (the doctor follows the professional and social lives of a dozen interns and doctors as the progress into surgeons. Well to keep track of which character hooked up with which character, you nearly need to draw their names in a circle, put arrows and lines between each two and you end up with what the military refer to as “clusterlove.”

So I’ve seen most of these series, and from a philosophical standpoint, a moral can be drawn from the plot devices. The structure of each show is barebones enough: each episode begins with a narrator (usually but not always Meredith Grey), who introduces the theme of the show, usually summed up also in the title, and then quickly embodied in some unique patient catastrophe. For instance, in one episode, a fourteen year old boy wants his breasts removed because he feels like a freak, and each of the doctors is involved in a situation (sexual or professional) where he or  she feels like a freak. Otherwise, we’d just have a lot of random side plots between each character, but no unified show.

So how does a predictable plot device become the basis of a moral lesson. This relates again to one of the central virtues of allism, which says that the each flows into the all, and the all grounds the each. Rather than going through our own lives with a dozen or so miniplots racing with each friend, job, and chore we have, we can take certain parts of our life as “lifeanchors.”

This in fact happens all the time already, though we might not intend it. A man’s mother is diagnosed with cancer and he now has a new perspective, sees all things through that set of lenses. The world becomes a dichotomy between the healthy and the doomed. Time becomes precious. Images of the grave and one’s own suicide jump into the mind unbeckoned.

If your wife serves you divorce papers, suddenly the question of your worth as a man is in question, and how you are treated on the job, by your friends, by the ladies who smile at you or flirt with you, become commentaries on that one central thing.

For those of us without a great obsession in our mind, we can still willfully set a life anchor. When we want to focus on one goal, say a literary project, or the mission of losing 30 lbs, or raising our kid better, or whatever else, we can consciously stop and reflect on each thing we do in relation to that. Let the central goal take the spotlight and make it a refrain or motif for all the other things we do. In this way, instead of being distracted by the must-be-dones in daily life, we can use them to reinforce them, so that even cleaning a bathroom can help us win a tennis championship.

Take care, Caretakers!

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