The Truth is Out There
Last night, Eric and I went to a screening event at the Egyptian Theatre in downtown Hollywood. It was a panel celebrating the art of the The X-Files, and the creator, Chris Carter, and one writer, Vince Gilligan, and the art director were going to be there.
I’d heard about this last minute and jumped on the chance to see two episodes on the big screen. The X-Files was my first foray into not just watching a TV series, but being a living, breathing part of it. I think the first episode I watched was about Eugene Tooms, the liver-eating mutant who emerged from his bile-infested cocoon every seventy some-odd years to feast on the human organs.
It wasn’t just the subject matter, or the setting. It was the characters of Mulder and Scully that I was initially drawn to. They were both professional individuals, both in search of the truth (he a believer, she a scientist/skeptic), who grew to trust, respect and yes, love one another. I remember watching each episode thinking wow, I want to do that. I want to be part of something that touches others like this show touches me.
I joined the fandoms, and I wrote fan-fiction, and I went to conventions. I participated in the life force of the show. Because it was more than a once a week hiatus from the real world. It was the world reaching out and saying Justin, you can do this. If you believe hard enough.
It’s hard remembering that belief here in Los Angeles, where I get caught up in the fight, the climb to the top of the ladder. So much of this job involves maneuvering around people’s personalities and egos, and I have a hard enough time figuring out my own. So when Chris Carter sat down to talk, and I had a direct eye-line to him, I tried to bask in that moment.
Here I was, sitting twenty feet away from the man who inspired a lonely teenager going through an eating disorder and sexuality questions. I thought of how far I’d come, and how far I had yet to go. But it made me realize that these people, the ones who succeed, don’t get caught up in the damaging and crippling defeat and rejection that Hollywood or any job really, loves to offer. They just create because they have to, and they don’t know any better. They are in search or their own truths, and their conviction so powerful that it translates across written pages and into collective souls.
I’m still processing this moment. I wanted to go up and shake his hand, but maybe I didn’t need to. Maybe being in the presence of him was enough, and what I needed. I believe that this is what I’m meant to do. Write, tell stories. It’s the only thing that makes sense. But when I think too hard, that’s when problems happen. So maybe I should think like the characters who inspired me so much.
Mulder’s faith, his insistence on the truth and answers. Scully’s logic, her unwavering loyalty. Her devotion not only to herself but to something greater. Sci-Fi stories, at heart, use tropes and aliens to explore themes and help us understand our place in this universe. But all stories do that, I guess.
In one episode, after a particularly harrowing adventure, Mulder tells Scully that she is his touchstone. She replies with, you are mine. I feel like writing is my touchstone, and creating and just being one with words. I’ve lost that feeling lately. I’ve lost what it means to me.
And it’s not because I’ve lost my way. It’s because I’ve been focusing on all the wrong things. That’s when the real world gets in the way. And that’s when taking forty-five minutes to watch characters ponder life’s mysteries helps to balance myself out again.
I’ll never be able to truly thank Chris Carter. But I can follow my truth, and believe in myself. And maybe that’s what it’s all about.