The book “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn (and the movie with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) is a character study of a girl, Amy, who had been spoiled to such an extent that she developed a very specific psychopathology. Amy was the only child of a couple that derived a dangerously large proportion of their meaning from her. When I get the psychopathology right, it is the fact that Amy grew up in an environment that constantly told her she is perfect (she was the inspiration for “Amazing Amy” book series), that impaired her ability to self-impose limits on her behaviour. This of course shows in all her relationships with men. She perceives of her intimate relationships as absolute, because her parents’ commitment to her had always been absolute. She derives all meaning from her partner, which is of course dangerous, because it means that the end of the relationship is the end of her. She needs to turn her partner into an absolute source of meaning, and the only way to do that is to bask in the delusion that her relationship is a condition sine qua non for her own existence.
It is easy to see that there are no moral limits in this constellation. There is no moral authority that could refrain her from doing whatever it takes to preserve the absoluteness of her relationship. Lying, framing, automutilation, murder, suicide – everything is allowed when God (the de facto authority of the collective we belong to) is dead.
It reminds us how immensely powerful the business of meaning-giving is, and how it the cause of the kind of violence that is uniquely human. And it reminds me as a parent of the immense responsibility I have for Miru, not to turn her into a vehicle of my meaning-giving, not to resist the temptation to do so, as it might be the easiest, laziest way to plaster my own road ahead with meaning. We need meaning like oxygen, so my proper responsibility becomes to venture out and find meaning in other things, like art, love, or even some kind of religion. However amazing I think my daughter is, I will not turn her into “Miraculous Miru”.
My apologies for the vague formulations in the paragraphs above, I have lacked sleep recently, and I have difficulties crafting proper sentence. When I saw the film and thought about the link between children who grow up never hearing anything else than that the world revolved around them, and the total absence of moral self-restriction, I wanted to share some thoughts about it. As it goes, I like the idea that we have an aesthetic justification here rather than a moral one (which would ultimately rely on an authority, albeit the authority of a perceived prohibition of inconsistency). A constellation of meaning where we have multiple centres, multiple points of gravity so we can witness their intricate interplay, multiple narratives and side-stories, passages, motives, points of focus, rather than a single boring paradigm that overwhelms all the rest. I’ll stop there.