Every so often, a movie comes along that gets under my skin and changes my world. Titanic is one of those movies. A wild, passionate affair, never to be forgotten. You know, where you still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and scream it’s name. Sigh. Well the memory of that time is not as bright as it once was. The scar has healed into the natural folds of the skin, and so isn’t quite as visible as it used to be. But I’ll never forget those crazy nights of lifeboats and signal rockets.

I saw Titanic for the first time in the theater on a Friday, right before it became a phenomenon. A co-worker had gotten all worked up over it, and recommended I see it. I figured what the heck, there wasn’t anything else in the theaters, and even though it looked like a crummy romance movie, it might be fun to watch the ship sink. I’ve always had a soft spot for movies with an “escape the sinking ship” motif.

All I remember from that first viewing was walking out at the end in shock, and knowing I would see the movie again, the next day. The last time I felt that devastated was when I walked out of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum with some student friends, where we proceeded to walk the streets in a daze until we ended up in a bar. Not that I’m comparing the two in terms of historical significance, but in terms of personal relevance they both socked it to me (but for different reasons).

So I went and saw it on Saturday. Then I went and saw it again on Sunday. After that it became a ritual every week to see it. I started smuggling in six packs of draft cider, and would watch the three-hour spectacle bombed out of my skull and weeping my eyes out. All in all, I saw the movie in the theater eleven times. I bought both of the CDs, the poster, the calendar, and the White Star Lines tee shirt. I played the Titanic: Adventure Out of Time video adventure game and pretended I was on the ship solving the game mystery while Jack and Rose were having their adventure. I even bought the book Futility to get into the whole spooky premonition aspect of it. It became my favorite movie of all time, knocking Star Wars off the top slot like a Ronco Record.

I think the simplest explanation for my obsession with the movie is that I saw it as an allegory for my own life. Certainly, from a detached and rational point of view that could seem ridiculous. But that’s how I saw it. In real life, I felt that my life as I knew it was sinking into the depths as I scrambled to stay afloat and reach some kind of rescue. And I saw it as a real world allegory, for the state of the world itself, headed for disaster and ruin, where only a lucky privileged few make it out alive. Where higher consciousness concepts like love only make it through bitter sacrifice.

I didn’t latch onto any one character. I sympathized with Cal, the “villain” as much as I did with Jack or Rose. They were all representing qualities, or states of mind in the story as influenced by what the real star of the story is – the great ship itself. In the spiritual journeys of some vision quests, the boat or ship often represents your voyage towards the islands of higher consciousness, and is made of your innocence. I’d lost mine, and I’d failed at whatever great task I had been supposed to do in life. I’d never reached my destination, whatever that had been.

When I watched Titanic, I re-enacted the experience of my own life’s failure as a mythological story. By obsessing over it and getting into every nook and cranny I made the wound my own. No one can tell me Titanic is a horrible movie, because I know it is. I lived it, people.