The Nightmare Before Christmas

One of the musings I wanted to do with this blog is my bizarre takes on music and movies/entertainment. I do not believe any fiction is pure fiction; everything is a metaphor. The beauty of fiction is you can interpret the metaphor however you’d like. Our beautiful lies – one meaning – is the definition of a metaphor. Is that not what fiction is? Today, especially since we are a week from Christmas, I thought I’d write on one of my favorite movies and some of the metaphors I’ve found for myself.

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Why? I’m an overgrown child, I love Tim Burton and Jack Skellington. I have probably watched this movie 300 times now. As a matter of fact, as I’m (barely) preparing for Christmas, it’s the only Christmas movie I’ve watched.

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Look at it as Jack trying to understand his role in life. Here he is the Halloween King, but he feels unfulfilled. He feels as though he does the same damn thing every day. Then, he finds this new, happy world. He feels a new feeling he has never felt before, and he feels “Just like his old boney self again” (I want everyone to know, full disclosure, any quotation will be from direct memory because I am that much of a dork) As he tries to understand Christmas more, he studies it, he “knows the stories, and he knows the rhymes…he knows the Christmas carols all by heart…his skull is so full it’s tearing him apart..!”

I don’t care that he’s a clay puppet, I have never resonated with a character more in my life. Jack and Sally have always felt like me talking to myself. Ultimately, Jack tries to be what he is not – Sandy Claws – and blows shit up. That’s been my life. Even studying as much as I have – I have read spiritual books, blogs, etc. yet nothing made sense. “What is this?” indeed. I have listened to probably every Alan Watts seminar, and from there I have ventured into philosophy as a whole. Reading psychology books to understand the alphabet soup of my diagnoses help me see, I suppose, I’m not alone, but I still felt as though I did not belong. I look around and I see a Halloween-town world, and me wishing I could just…get…it.

I’ve had so many moments where my world is metaphorically in flames, and I’m sitting there with my head in my hands wondering what I’ve done. Again. How in the hell is it so hard to be happy? You watch Jack trying to explain Christmas to the Halloweentown people, and they make Christmas into their Halloween version. They’re all happy just following his lead, but he knows he’s not even happy.

Jack Skellington helped me understand the great Tao.

How did Jack become happy? He stopped trying to be Santa Claus, he stopped studying Christmas, he stopped trying to Christmas, and he realized, he IS the Pumpkin King. He realized he wasn’t happy because he was too busy focusing on being miserable, saying he did not have this, did not have that, and seeing his life as a neverending chore. The harder he fought to understand “that special kind of feeling in Christmas-town” the less he understood. This is exactly how Taoism is explained. This is actually how almost any religion is explained. You cannot actually intellectually understand things like faith, belief, or God. I mean, honestly, how do you even understand Santa Claus?

“Just because I cannot see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!”

We use Santa as a metaphor to explain kindness, generosity, and really – magic. (Then we basically tell our children we lied, and let them lose faith in magic, but that’s another post…) These are words, though. Symbols. Representations. In truth, words are metaphors of knowledge and information. Much of our lives exist outside the realm of tangible concepts. I can show you 1+1 = 2 and I can explain it in words. Kindness and love, however, are best put in metaphors, stories, and even best: example. I can wrap my arms around you in a hug, and that’s all you need.

Jack realized after he ruined Christmas (experiential learning – not studying), he’s not Santa Claus, he had to be himself. He gained a new appreciation for who he was, and a new perspective on his life. The metaphor of the great Tao is water, as God, Tao, etc. none of these can be put in words. Jack realized he can’t study Christmas, he just has to be that feeling. Isn’t that what everything teaches you? You can’t study happiness, you have to choose happiness. You can study methods of happiness or practices that support happiness, much like you can smash a bat and turn it into a hat. You can create all the accoutrements of Christmas, but it will not be Christmas unless you are it.

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After all the studying I’ve done, re-watching my favorite movie as a kid made me figure it out. Irony! Yet that is how it all works. You cannot think your way out of a problem, we just think we can. The more you think, the harder it is, to be perfectly honest. This is why meditation, contemplation, and other practices are important. What is most important, however, is being true to yourself. Don’t act like Buddha, or act like Santa Claus. It’s far more important to find what sets you on fire and do that. If it’s overanalyzing children’s movies to understand the Tao, hey man, whatever works.

Inspiration alights in a child’s wondrous eyes.

Then, you have the iconic image of Jack and Sally falling in love on the hill in front of the moon. Once Jack gets his head out of his ass and sees the woman who loves him right in front of his eyes, that he has been surrounded by everything all along, life is pretty cool, right? Nothing actually changed, did it? Jack changed his attitude, everyone else stayed the same.

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The first two tattoos I got were Jack and Sally on my wrists.ย  I got my first tattoos about a month after I started writing as a Memento-esque tribute to myself. They were a mile marker of me realizing my bullshit, writing about my bullshit, and in many ways, killing off my own Oogie Boogie (my bugs! my bugs!) if you will. I chose the placements specifically because, on my left wrist, I used to cut myself. When I was feeling particularly crappy, I liked to stare at my scars and ruminate. Time has marched on, and those scars are all but invisible to anyone but me and my memory. Now, I have Jack’s smiling face and “Smile Now” looking at me on my wrist. On my right wrist, I have Sally looking sad, saying “Cry Later”.ย  That’s my harmony. There’s no time for ruminating on my old scars, but it’s okay to be sad. It was the first metaphor I created from my favorite movie.

This is why metaphors are important, to me. Every time I revisit a story I love, I find new inspiration. When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the story. As I’ve grown older, I use stories to help me become my own story. The greatest mistake anyone can make, in my mind, is handing the pen of your life to someone else.ย That includes spiritually too, for words are a copy of reality – a metaphor. They transfer knowledge, they are not the knowledge. Inspiration and interpretation are your gifts alone, as only you possess your mind. Mine, apparently, finds the Tao in Halloween town.

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…and I just can’t wait until next Halloween, cause I’ve got some new ideas that will really make them scream!

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts – any other metaphors? Any movies that have really inspired you throughout your whole life? I appreciate your likes, comments, and shares so much! This was an absolute blast to put together, although I was questioning my sanity pretty good. hahahaha ๐Ÿ™‚