Contagion
CHANNEL SURFING - Althea Lauren Ricardo () - September 27, 2011 - 12:00am

This won't be a movie review as much as it is a reflection.

After hurdling some issues recently, I decided to join a leadership seminar. It's a leadership seminar I keep returning to when I want to feel grounded again. As always, I connected with something I knew that I had forgotten, and this started chasing the gray clouds away: Everything I do, every decision I make, affects my world.

Before the seminar, I was in combative mode. I wanted to make some changes in my life, and I wanted to make them fast. Maybe I was encroaching into other people's territories, maybe I wasn't considering other people's perspectives. I was on controller mode again, wanting other people to fix their stuff so my life would be okay.

But, again, I was reminded that life doesn't work that way. Time and again, I've learned that if I want to fix my life, the worst way to go about it is to start fixing others. To fix my life, I need only to fix myself.

Thinking about this reminded me of Steven Soderbergh's Contagion, which left me both awed at the massive destruction being depicted and wondering if I had lost any capability of feeling. In Contagion, a deadly virus spreads fast from Hong Kong to the United States and other countries—amidst something even deadlier: a world that's increasingly distant, even when it's the most connected it has ever been.

Contagion shows a world that's overwhelmingly complicated even for the most selfless of heroes. Kate Winslet's Dr. Erin Mears, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, who traces Patient 0, does what she can to help the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stop the virus. She does trace Patient 0, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), but with the ultimate sacrifice, doomed to a death far gracious than she deserved.

While watching Contagion, I felt lost in the glaring absence of feeling, and yet somehow my mind was telling me that whatever feeling or good intentions I had wasn't big enough to solve the problem. I thought Dr. Mears stood for that.

But now, with more reflection, I see that those who had gone through the epidemic in a way I would have liked to go through it were those who chose to live with themselves. Dr. Erin Mears was selfless until the end. Dr. Elis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) put the people he loved first. Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) set his own pain aside for his daughter. Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) did what she felt was right. Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) broke protocol to save her father.

To put things bluntly: Love was in those characters, and I was too disconnected to see it myself.

I'm going to say that, yes, that was because of Steven Soderbergh's cold treatment. But my point is, it was also because of the way I looked at the film as a non-empathic observer, someone who was not connected, even as I was being served the idea that the world is more connected than I imagined it to be on a silver, star-studded platter.

This is why if I want to fix my life, I don't go about fixing others. I go about fixing myself. Because fixing myself is fixing others.

There is no place for control here outside of myself. I'm glad to be feeling better now. I hope I never catch that virus again.

Email your comments to alricardo@yahoo.com. You can also visit my personal blog at http://althearicardo .blogspot.com. You can text your comments again to (63)917-9164421.

BETH EMHOFF DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION DR. ALLY HEXTALL DR. ELIS CHEEVER DR. ERIN MEARS DR. LEONORA ORANTES DR. MEARS EPIDEMIC INTELLIGENCE SERVICE EVERYTHING I GWYNETH PALTROW STEVEN SODERBERGH
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