What opened your eyes?

What art or entertainment opened your eyes or your mind? Made you see things differently and really changed the way you look at or maybe even live your life?

Keep in mind that it is insulting to any person of intelligence if you mention the Left Behind book series. You can mention it if you like, of course, but it will be insulting to some people. Also keep in mind that I am not being serious. Believe what you must.

Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut is my answer to my own question. The book is enlightening and realistic at the same time. It is actually enlightening because it is realistic. Stopped me from being overly optimistic about things and I feel better because of it. Thank you Kurt.

Pulp Fiction is another answer. It ended a depression that lasted 2 months. It seemed that my life could not get any duller. Life, it seemed, was to continue to move in mind dulling repetition. Pulp Fiction proved to me that there was a way out of this repetition.

That is enough. What do you guys have?

When I was heartbroken and depressed, drinking too much and doing a lot of things I shouldn’t, I read All the Pretty Horses. It made me think about my actions and inspired me to try to be a better man.

There have been other movies that have had the same effect, but most recently for me (that I recall easily) has been American Beauty and Ghost World, both coincidentally starring Thora Birch.

Music-wise, every time I listen to Grace by Jeff Buckley I am reminded of what beauty the human race is capable of producing.

Douglas Coupland’s “life after God”


Clouddead’s self-titled album

Let’s see…

There was some short story by Isaac Asimov that I forget the name to… Plot is basically that scientists build an AI to run solar energy collecting machines that give power to Earth, and that AI decides that it’s God. The scientists are all trying to figure out ways to kill it when someone says… uh, why not let it think it’s God? And everyone is all like, what, that’s insane, it’s not God. And the moral was: So what if someone is clearly wrong in their religious beliefs, as long as it’s not causing any harm, and trying to stop it causes even more harm, who cares, let them be wrong… That one was an eye opener. Made me go from miltant atheist to practical atheist, and influenced my attitude toward other things as well.

I also think the Star Trek TNG episode (one of the later seasons) where Picard gets to redo his past and ends up being a nobody on his own ship because he was too scared to take risks was pretty good too. I like to reply that one for some life-affirming energy lifts now and then. (Although it was pretty hilarious that even with Picard gone, Ryker was still only first officer… talk about someone who just never had the balls to go for the big chair.)

If we’re going for serious books, I think someone named Frankl had a book about living through the Holocaust that was, yeah, life sucks sometimes, but it’s how you react to it that counts.

You’d think the Holocaust one would stick with me the most, but Asimov’s story is the one that was the biggest bolt out of the blue. Smart man, that Isaac. Too bad more people didn’t read that.

In late 1973, when I was 17, I watched an episode of Midnight Special.

One of the musical guests was the band Genesis, fronted by Peter Gabriel. I became a huge fan.

In 1980 I was pen-pals with another Genesis/Peter Gabriel fan who introduced me to the music of Kate Bush.

In 1982, I read a letter in a freebie paper from a Kate Bush fan looking for other Kate Bush fans. I didn’t know any other KB fans and was anxious to meet one, so I answered him.

We met.

We fell in love.

We moved to Chicago.

We’re still together and are still wildly in love and very very happy. A hint of how mushy we still are after 22 years: we hold hands and kiss in public. Freaks young people out.

All because I watched TV one night. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good. For one, I’d probably be in a small town in Kansas, using AOL dialup. I give thanks every day for big cities and DSL.

Beyond all that, seeing Genesis opened my ears to progressive music. Becoming a Kate Bush fan opened my ears to female vocals, which led to radio shows and interviews with musicians I loved, and my 16-year infatuation with the music of Happy Rhodes.

That’s a beautiful sentiment, but for me it’s the opposite. I can barely listen to Grace without crying and temporarily hating the world, hating fate for taking such an incomparable talent. I feel that way when I listen to Kirsty MacColl too. It’s still hard.

I had a bunch of records when I was a kid. I played them non-stop, took care of them using my Ronco Discleaner, kept them in nifty little rows, but I never really gave much thought to how the music got on those things.

One day I got a 45 from my uncle (a record not a gun) of a track he recorded the summer before (he was in the music business). This opened my eyes that regular people write songs and record them. For some reason I had it in my mind the only people who wrote songs lived in Hollywood, London or Nashville. Or that songwriters were a special thing and you had to attend school for years and years like a doctor. I don’t remember how old I was, perhaps 5-6 years old, but I do remember the realization fully.

I had always tinkered on the piano and plucked out a few little melodys of my own, but after I realized someone in my family had written entire songs that opened my mind that perhaps I could do the same thing.

So,. I did just that. :slight_smile:

Before long I had a mini recording studio in my basement. I hijacked my parents old tape deck (this funky little portable reel-to-reel) and figured out a way to notate music so I could remember the melody.

And so far, I haven’t stopped playing (my studio has gotten a bit more high-tech over the years though)

Well, the bible did that several times for me, particularly Ecclesiastes…

Edgar Allen Poe was instrumental in getting me into writing. I think it was The Raven that made me realize how incredible poetry can be.

Toad the Wet Sprocket is my favorite band. When I was 16*, I was going through my especially angsty years, and especially their first two albums really helped me through. Some of the songs on those albums were written when the singer was 16 himself, and he seemed to sing about a lot of stuff I was going through.
The line in one of their songs that goes “You should know by now/ We’re all liars” for some reason also really opened my eyes.
BTW, in case it’s relevant, right now I’m just a few days shy of 18.

It was called Reason and it was included in the I, Robot collection.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan–first the PBS series, then the book. Started me on a path of questioning my existence which led to years of agnosticism and eventually atheism.

Much thanks. And what an appropriate title. I originally saw it some other collection but who knows where.

The Demon Haunted World, Dragons of Eden and, as previously mentioned, Cosmos, all by Carl Sagan

*Jesus Christ Superstar- when the movie version of this came out I was in fourth grade at a very very conservative Christian high-school. The film was demonized as blasphemous and deliberately offensive and mocking of all Christianity, blah blah blah, and we were encouraged to sign petitions (even elementary students) to block its being played in Alabama and to pray for the souls of its makers. I was a junior in high school before I happened to overhear the song Gethsemane on afternoon TV showing of the majorly cut-up movie and I loved it, which encouraged me to get a used copy of the album at a local thrift-store and listen to it in total. Not only was it not incredibly offensive but in many ways I found it far more moving and coherent than many of the Christian songs I’d heard. It was a major revelation about judging things for yourself.

In one of his books of essays Vonnegut mentions that he was a middle aged man before it occurred to him that you didn’t have to write like a cultured aristocratic 19th century Englishman in order to prove you have writing talent or to have a point, wit or eloquence- also an epiphany.

The film Torch Song Trilogy was the first “by gays/for gays” movie I’d ever seen in which the ethics of the main character’s homosexuality simply aren’t up for debate- Arnold’s queer, no big whoop- now here’s his story. I was 21 when I saw it with my first boyfriend and that was an incredible experience- gay bars and letters from Jerry Falwell were about my only assurance that other gays existed and that they weren’t just creatures of the underworld but could actually have the same domestic joys and problems of other people in a completely normal setting. (I know that sounds naive, but younger Dopers who have come of age since the Queer Explosion may not be able to understand how invisible gays were in 1980s pop-culture.)

James Morrow’s Blameless in Abaddon destroyed my faith in God.

In fairness, my faith had been condemned for years and was infested with termites and dry-rot, and had never been built to code in the first place, but a wrecking ball hits just as hard no matter how shoddy the construction.

Have I tortured that metaphor enough, or should I break out the red-hot pokers?

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius or “AHWOSG” by Dave Eggers.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. (Can you tell I’m in high school?)
1984 by George Orwell.

I suppose that’s a good list, for now.

Okay sorry. I’ll add:

“For Now” from Avenue Q. Now I’m really done.

As you can see, I’m new here so you may have discussed this book before but Ponster* lent me a copy of Jared Diamond’s ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ which didn’t exactly open my eyes but just made me realize that there are some logical explanations for the way the world turned out and gave me the ammo to argue against the Eurocentric “we’re obvioulsy a cut above” view of the world.

On the whole tho’ I’d like to think that there’s no single work which has made me view the world the way I do but more a combination of different ideas from different sources. More often it’s just a phrase or image makes me stop and think - “oh yeah, that’s good”. I can’t remember what I was reading recently but there was a phrase along the lines of “at the autumn end of September” which I thought was nice. Anything which reminds you to appreciate the natural things or the fact that most people are essentially good (there’s a Steinbeck book where someone says that everyone has the right to commit suicide but that freinds can make it unnecessary).

Other books ? Was it Ice Nine by Kurt Vonnigut where people don’t die - they’re just in bad shape for that point in time ?

*He rarely comes to the café, he’s more your “Generl Questions” “Great debates” kind of guy but he’s lovely just the same :slight_smile:

Rebecca West’s Black Lamb, Grey Falcon made me weep, and I picked it up shortly before the former Yugoslavia disintergrated. It’s not unbiased, but it is an excellent introduction to the reality of the mess that is the Balkans.

I would like to ask a question of Skully: I picked up Hocus Pocus in 1993 or so, and read it, in a large part becuase of the cover blurbs saying it was a hilarious book. Did you find it so? I hated the book. I kept reading to the end in the hopes it would get better, since there had to be some humor somewhere, and found none. I’m not trying to criticize the book, or your reaction to it. I just want to find out if there’s anyone more than that one reviewer who found the book amusing.

Just the way things turned out were funny. When the main character realized he killed more people than anyone in the prison… Then how he pointed out how, if anyone, it would be germs that would take over the universe. Then when meeting Jason Wilder for the first time Eugene tells him his mother in law watches his show and then tells the reader that she dances with her arms in the air during the show and freezes when Wilder starts talking.

It starts off slow but picks up really nicely. If you believe that the world is supposed to work a certain way, in accordance with your expectations, I can see how you might not understand this book.

I’ll ditto TJdude825 on Avenue Q’s “For Now”.

Bookwise: “Borrowed Time” by Paul Monette. One of the first books written about AIDS,

When I was 10 or 11 I read the Chronicles of Narnia and moved from there to LotR. Ever since there has never been a time when I have not been actively reading a book or two. I read some books before that but from then on I was hooked.