A month ago Pete came to visit and, as twenty-something almost thirty-anything men are wont to do after a few beers, we started talking about dreams and regrets, about aspirations not yet realized, aspirations never to be realized and aspirations contentedly abandoned. Mortality came up in that somber period between the third and fourth drink when the tunnel vision is most easily mistaken for a more disheartening darkness closing in.
I told him what depressed me most were movie trailers for films I might never see, and he laughed, as you might, but let me explain to you the way I tried to explain to him.
Future anniversaries, future children or grandchildren, are all an undeniably more exquisite part of life, milestones no one could bear to miss. But regardless of how beautiful or tender, they still only exist as potentialities, sweet but tenuous daydreams of unrealized possibilities. You don't see a glimpse of your personal tomorrows beyond dates on a calendar or promises to a friend.
No matter how shallow or contrived next summer's blockbuster will be, sitting in a theater and watching clips from something that will be experienced by thousands, but not by you, is infinitely more depressing. A movie trailer is a window into a future that is already realized, a film that will be finished and released, barring apocalypse or earth-shattering financial collapse; and even then it will exist and might be witnessed with all of its clichés and stilted dialogue. Here is a concrete snippet of human experience you will never share.
It is made worse for me because trailers generally are released three to six months before the movie. For a man who, with very rare exception, has never planned farther than two Fridays from now, that may as well be centuries away. They remind me that these hours that seem like years waiting in office meetings are the barest flicker within the catalogue of humanity's history.
It seems that recently there has been more of these previews creeping across more media: teasers for TV shows and video games, sample pages for novels or comics, pre-release "leaked" singles for an album due out in the fall, tech conferences displaying the latest consumable gadget all the cool people will have next spring. More and more windows reveal a future I am less certain that I will be able to open the door onto, to step out into and experience.
I told Pete half-jokingly that when I got old enough I would become a hermit, having slowly and carefully whittled down my consumption of media to only things I already knew existed, showing up late to the cinema to close my eyes against tomorrows while still taking in all of today. Eventually I'd move out into my shack with a bundle of things I'd always meant to get around to, but had set aside because that new thing I'd been looking forward to was out. I would be found mummified and unfashionably dressed, with the forensics team unable to estimate a time of death because of a vast, anachronistic array of miscellanea and pop-culture artifacts; My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse on my lap, It Takes a Nation of Millions by Public Enemy in and old Discman at my side, the DVD menu for The Human Centipede burned into a television screen before me...