Friday, July 2, 2010
Last weekend, David and I accidentally ended up watching an indie movie called "The Timer" that really struck me. The story takes place in the near-future, but half the population has a timer device implanted on the inside of their wrists that starts counting down to the days when they're going to meet "The One" -- Mr. or Ms. Right, soulmate, beshert (Hebrew word referring to your intended -- your One), whatever you want to call it. In the make-believe science of the film, the timer works by reading levels of oxytocin output. When you and your intended make eye contact for the first time, your timer beeps, so you know your match.
"The Timer" follows 30-something year-old Oona in her desperate quest to meet her One. Along the way, she ends up falling for a grocery clerk. What ensues leads to a movie that is original, entertaining, and yet, profound. The film explores the societal consequences of the device, including:
*What happens when a 13 year-old (the youngest age at which you can get a timer implanted) meets his One when he is that young? How does it impact the families of both kids?
* Is being alone worse than being with the "wrong" person?
* Can we ever be sure about love? What do we do when our hearts and our heads conflict?
* What do you do when you're waiting for your One? Enjoy random hook-ups at will? Stop hooking up? Hook up, but only a couple of times, since you know it's a dead end?
About 10 minutes into "The Timer," I couldn't help but notice the parallels between Oona's desperation and the straits that many Orthodox Jewish singles find themselves in. I don't think this is a phenomenon unique to Judaism, but I think it is very pronounced in the Jewish community, where family is given the highest priority and young people worry about meeting quality Jewish singles past their mid-twenties. In this paradigm, people lose themselves in their quests to find another. They mistakenly think life will begin or that problems will disappear when they meet their partner. Instead of looking inward, they look to external sources like Rabbis, educators, or shadchanim (matchmakers) to validate that another person is their beshert.
Few people stop to consider the implications of the term beshert anyway. It implies that there is just one other person on this planet, which I just don't believe. I think it's more like there's Mr./Ms. Right Now instead of Mr./Ms. Right. If there is only one person for everyone, how do we explain happily married divorcees and widows? I saw how much this beshert concept falls short when I introduced my husband to a childhood BFF of mine. They were so alike (same geeky, obscure books on the shelf and everything), and got along so well, I sat there and thought, "If I weren't married to David, I'd set these two up!" It was a little surreal.
Back to "The Timer." The movie was a good reminder that many paths lead to happiness; there is not one way to travel life any more than there is one beshert for you in life. Different paths lead to different outcomes, but they can all be happy outcomes. I find that both liberating and scary, and I hope I can recall this when I am trying hard to make the "right" choice in a situation, fearful of choosing the wrong path.