(Author’s Note: Lyrics credit to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” for the headline of this piece. All photography by the author and taken inside of the video game No Man’s Sky by Hello Games.)
My roommate isn’t home.
Joe Manchin is in Morgantown, and my roommate is at the townhall. I wish I was there. I want to let West Virginia’s nominally Democratic Senator know how I feel about him selling my home state out to Big Coal. How angry I am that he’s the latest in a long line of West Virginia politicians exploiting the bigotry and hatred that still infest Appalachia to line carpetbaggers’ pockets. But I’m not like my roommate. I’m not downtown giving Joe hell.
I’m at home.
[Author’s Note: This post contains significant spoilers for Kenneth Lonergan’s 2016 film, Manchester by the Sea. If you don’t want some of the film’s major reveals spoiled, you might want to avoid reading this until you’ve seen the film.]
I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in Hell. Hell doesn’t have to be Satan inflicting infinite pain for eternity. Hell can be something as simple as you and everyone you love suffering… suffering and not having any answers for why you hurt or any solutions to make the misery go away. Manchester by the Sea‘s Lee Chandler isn’t just trapped in his own private Hell. His self-immolation is burning everyone around him.
Throughout the 1960s, Ingmar Bergman would tackle the question “How are we able to live?”
That’s not a question you ask when you’re happy with the state of the world. It’s a question you ask when you have thought seriously about the history and perpetuation of suffering and oppression. It’s that inescapable, nagging thought that humanity’s power structures, humanity’s base drives, and humanity’s future is fundamentally evil and you’re terrified that these cycles of destruction, violence, and wanton cruelty will never disappear.