[SPOILER ALERT] Spoilers might not be such a bad thing.
I wasn’t on line that first night. I didn’t see the new
Star Wars movie until a few days later. I did everything I could to avoid
spoilers. People everywhere were making the same request. There were apps to
prevent one from accidentally seeing spoiler information on line.
Do spoilers really spoil things? We are intelligent
creatures. We know the many, many tropes used in our society. We can and often
do speculate. Many of us take pride in having figured out a plot before the
denouement. Entire TV series have been predicated on giving the viewer the high
that comes from figuring out the plot before the reveal. At the same time,
writers and directors seek ever more clever ways to lead us astray with
unexpected plot twists. The best writers and directors have figured out the
truth and it is a very Jewish one, requiring a balance of opposites. Both
discovery and the unexpected can provide pleasure, an adrenaline or endorphin
rush. Can’t make the plot too easy to figure out – can’t make it too hard,
either. Give the audience the thrill of solving the puzzles along with the
thrill of unexpected twists. This same technique can be applied in different
formats and genres (we all know that feeling when we know the answer on Jeopardy
or Wheel of Fortune and the contestant doesn’t.)
At one point in my life, I was perplexed, even troubled by
the many spoilers in the Torah. Parashat Sh’mot has one of the true classics of
the type – G”d’s revelation to Moses of how things are going to play out in
Egypt. You’re gonna ask, Pharaoh is gonna say no. I’m gonna make life miserable
for Egyptians, Oh, and by the way, I’m gonna harden Pharaoh’s heart. In the
end, I’m going to kill his first-born. They you will leave and the Egyptians
will give you stuff on the way out. Part of me is surprised that Moses didn’t
respond somewhat like Job. Had I been writing this story, I might have Moses
saying to G”d “Hey, since You already decided how this is going to end, can we
just skip to the chase and get it over with?”
So what about all those books your read over and over,
those movies you watch again and again? You know exactly what is going to
happen, yet you still read and watch. Could it be that there’s more to it than
just the thrill of discovery? Not to mention the fact that we re-read the entire
Torah over and over each year. We all know what’s going to happen.
Ever watched a movie you love for the nth time, only to
see something you never saw before, or have a new insight? That certainly
happens to me with the Torah all the time (though the effect is likely enhanced
by the fact that I am sometimes purposeful in seeking that. However, with the
Torah, with movies, books, etc. I have also experienced new revelations when I
wasn’t looking for them. There’s that Jewish balance again.
Balance isn’t always just between two sides,
either. Sometimes there’s a third element. There’s the original new experience,
there’s the repeat experience of the original, and there’s the cover song, the
remake, etc. George Lucas can grouse all he wants, but I have to credit J.J.
Abrams with finding a wonderful balance between all those elements.
Sometimes there are just two opposing concepts or values
to balance, and sometimes there are many, many parts to balance. I wonder,
sometimes, if all the inconsistencies and other problems we have with Torah and
our other sacred texts aren’t the result of the attempt to balance so many
different ideas, values, viewpoints, histories, etc. An argument could be made
that this is a detriment as opposed to an enhancement – that the attempt to
balance a few too many conflicting ideas resulted in a huge mess. There may be
some truth to that. However, life is messy, so why shouldn’t our sacred texts be
messy? (I could make a similar argument if I were reviewing “Star Wars: The
Force Awakens.” Disney, Abrams, and all involved had a lot of things to balance
What goes on inside our heads when we watch/read/encounter
something new, watch/read/encounter something again, watch/read/encounter a
remake (or listen to a cover?) It seems pretty obvious that something that was
unexpected the first time will be somewhat less effective in future encounters.
As obvious as that seems, I’m not entirely sure it’s true, and I’d love to see
some of the brain research on that. There are some scenes that seem to still
have the same level of effect on me. Perhaps the feelings of comfort and
familiarity add their emotional impact and make up for any slightly lower
intensity of reaction. I don’t know about you, but that dead body in the hole in
“Jaws,” that alien bursting forth from John Hurt’s chest in “Alien” still make
my heart leap. “Feed the Birds” still brings me to tears (sometimes, even just
the mention of it will trigger me to tear up.) I still laugh at all the same
places in films and TV shows.
[SPOILER ALERT] You know what, try as hard as I did to
avoid spoilers, an obnoxious person insisted on telling me that Han dies. I can
say, in all honesty, that I don’t think knowing that changed experiencing the
moment one iota for me.
I think the reason I read primarily Science Fiction for
leisure is a desire to try and find stories that both reinforce existing tropes,
and also stories that create new ones. However, the Sci-Fi story that truly has
new tropes (or no tropes) is exceedingly rare. There is a reason why, even
today, stories use many of the same tropes we find in our sacred texts. Yes,
things change over time. Some things remain essentially the same. In this
parasha G”d says “I will be what I will be” or whatever ehyeh-asher-ehyeh means.
(The thought popped into my head just now-could it mean “everything old is new
again?”) Our universe is what it is, and our G”d is/will be whatever G”d will
be/is. Once, in a very rare while, some of us can/will rise above the tropes
that are our/define existence. For the most part, however, we human beings are
what we are, and we’ll keep doing the same things, or new variations thereof.
Some might look upon that thought negatively. I think of it as possibility and
opportunity. So what if we know what’s coming? Every encounter, even with
something we already know, is a new encounter
[SPOILER ALERT] Most of the time, there’s nothing to
spoil. We already know.
Thousands of years later, we’re still reading this same
story, with its spoilers and all. Perhaps the spoilers are there to teach us not
to worry about them so much?
Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Secular Year,
©2016 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings on this parasha:
Sh'mot 5775 - Why Us (Redux 5765)
Sh'mot 5774 - Pas De Deux
Sh'mot 5773 - Wicked, Wonderful Moral Ambiguities
5772 - Is Might Ever Right?
5771 - Free Association IV
5767-Logic & Metaphysics
Shemot 5766 - Free Association III
5763 - Free Association II
5760-Tzaz Latzav, Tzav Latzav
5761-The Spice of Life
5762-Little Ol' Me?