But seeing. In The Situation as well as its predecessor and best friend, Crystal From The Hills, much is made of characters’ eyes. Not the aesthetic qualities that art traditionally enjoys, but rather an expansion of a philosophical chestnut: that window to the soul thing. Or rather, it’s an attachment thing. Neurobiologists like Daniel Siegel and Allan Schore, and before them, John Bowlby, teach us that attachment is a biological imperative. Meaning, we will die without it, and therefore must attach at all costs. Those costs entail surrendering better parts of ourselves, those precious selves, borne of an archaic interaction, that carry the potential of growth.
Chris Leavitt learned early in life that secrets would keep him safe, if sick, and safe is better than sick…anyday. The truth is his parents should never have gotten together, so ill-fitting were they. Chris’ father, besotted by the elusive Nancy, pursued her obsessively, and she liked being pursued, but soon fell into a different role, one she didn’t understand but which carried her along. The momentum ebbed long enough for her notice other suitors, men who promised something better: maybe self-assurance, maybe reality. Young Chris started seeing visions of these men, and feeling their presence, but knew he should keep quiet. The truth: it hurts; has consequences. One of them was an altercation between Chris’ parents, a climactic frustration for his father–a likely rape of Nancy.
As a quasi-adult Chris he meets Jill, a would-be Nancy, a professional and habitual caretaker, and also a woman who falls into attachment for inexplicable reasons. Eyes. There was something in Chris’ blue eyes. They were sweet, beautiful, and seductive, but also dangerous, unreliable. Over a two day period, life collapses around a sequence of events: the disappearance of a friend, the exposure of his incompetence at work; an altercation with Jill that mirrors the violence between his parents. Accidents. Bewildered, Chris has the strange notion that all that has happened are just accidents he’s not supposed to talk about.
Speaking of accidents, Bryan “Weed” Tecco emerges from his, unseen. That fits his self image. So, too, does feeling unwanted, though the antecedent of that wound is ancient. He, too, has visions of important events that implicate the guilty, but until now, Weed has been content to live his own life, ignore secrets, and play out the role that appears to effect attachment in his life: villainy. And yet, it’s not good enough. These conditions of staying close–keeping secrets, caretaking, being bad–they just aren’t good enough. Something’s gotta give. Something’s gotta change. Weed’s day job is playing games, as a tester for a fictional telecommunications giant named Sahi, and he’s found a game that’s gone wrong, or will go wrong. It’s a special game called ‘The Situation’, which, on the one hand, seems like many others: it rewards quick thinking, fine motor skills, and ruthless decision-making…violence. But another level (literally) the game suggests ambiguous rewards for those who make different decisions; those who see into others’ souls, through the window of the eyes, and practice empathy. And this game, this new paradigm of play, is the creation of a Julian Assange-like figure ostensibly aiming to reach an apolitical, unattached constituency, by making it the unlikely recipient of whistleblower secrets.
The question is whether Chris, Weed, Jill, or countless others like them will hang in there as the adventure of their story unfolds. The question is whether they will settle for the way things are, versus staggering unconsciously along their respective trails, opening their eyes to what was previously unseen.