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Movies go better with popcorn for some folks. Apparently. Why else do they sell the stuff at every movie theater? But he found movies unpredictable and therefore eating to be a dangerous activity while watching one. Especially those movies that pull at the heartstrings. He knew better than to get anything to eat or drink when he went to see the Passion of the Christ when it was shown in his local theater. Something very incongruous about satisfying the urge to nibble and be entertained while watching a reenactment of the redemptive suffering of our Savior. But other movies caught him off guard. He came in one morning to his daughter watching We Bought a Zoo. He poured himself a bowl of cereal and casually stopped to watch a few minutes while he ate. Mistake. Or something.

The main character in the story who had purchased the zoo was still grieving the death of his wife, and there were lots of associated interpersonal tensions with his teenage son that desperately needed address. He walked in on the movie at the part where the relationships were moving heartward toward something of a resolution. He got blindsided by a churning of emotions within his own heart and found himself on the brink of uncontrollable tears and sobbing at quite a few points. But he kept trying to down his bowl of cereal—which almost caused an asphyxiation problem. Seriously. He was literally choking down his cereal in between spasms of emotion that he couldn’t control. Maybe it wasn’t the movies that were unpredictable. Maybe it was his own heart.

He wondered what it was that he stuffed down into the cellar of his soul and didn’t deal with. Why was it that certain movies or certain songs could throw open the doors of that cellar and let out the nearly-forgotten refugees of emotion, giving him a glimpse of the issues and baggage and such that he apparently was always dragging around within himself? He understood that watching a movie or listening to music was generally a rather passive activity, and therefore his defenses were not up as they might be in a face-to-face conversation or a more active form of engagement like reading. Some movies and some music were like shovels in the hand of a graverobber who knew where to dig. Once they began clawing at the surface, all the hidden mess below the surface was exposed. Dam break.

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