Tuesday, August 5, 2003

[Ivy-covered Brick Store]

Warning: Long, rambling post today, responding to several online discussions and finishing with my enthusiasm for a film.

Brennen‘s right; I didn’t read all of Orwell’s Lion and the Unicorn article before I wrote my response. But I did skim it to ensure that the paragraph I responded to was pretty much in tone with the rest of the article.

And, sure, I can see why Orwell would believe that military might is the ultimate sign of political worth. It’s a reasonable argument. That doesn’t make it right, though.

Brennen also writes about the difference between “useful private writing” and “good public writing,” and that those two may be polar opposites. I think he has a good point. A lot of private writing needs to be like going in to a confessional, sitting down in a secluded spot, shutting the door, and pouring your heart out to a sympathetic ear.

On the other hand, a lot of good public writing is private writing, just re-packaged for the world. We as a society benefit greatly from private thoughts made public. What is Op/Ed, what is commentary, but private thoughts made public?

I think part of it comes down to the purpose of the writing. If we want to scribble out some private thoughts, a weblog is not the best place to do it. But if we want to blather, even if it’s personal thoughts, there’s nothing wrong with giving that to the world. Fortunately, we live in a society where we’re free to do that. (Seriously. I’m not making a political point, I’m celebrating a freedom that many honestly do not have.)

I think Stephen and I have been arguing across-purposes. I’m not suggesting that we totally lose abandon any dreams and focus totally on daily life. Certainly not. Hey, I’m the one who wants to start an animation studio.

I’m arguing against a focus on dreams that excludes experience of daily life. I spent a lot of years focusing on dreams so much that I didn’t enjoy my life. And that’s bad.

I do want to respond to a few statements he makes, though:

When you are caught up in the routines of day-to-day life, how much do you see?

You see day-to-day life. Is day-to-day life that terrible? I believe that day-to-day life contains great joys.

Moreover, if all you experience is a fraction of the immediate world around you, how much do you even consider the world as a whole?

I seriously doubt that we can consider the world as a whole. The best we can do is experience as large a fraction of it as we can.

Which is all well and good. We should strive to do that. But not at the expense of our humility.

There are people that focus so much on themselves (their own jobs, problems, et cetera) that they don’t consider anything else.

Granted. And this is a very important point.

However – and perhaps this is a result of my living in the Washington, D.C. area – there are a lot of people who focus so much on everything else that they don’t consider themselves. I know a lot of people that want desperately to change the world, and do not focus on themselves, on their motivations and personality. You aren’t going to change the world very far if you’re a pushy, nervous, adrenaline-fueled wreck. And I see a lot of those sorts of people.

…without the drive for self-development and the expansion of our awareness in a least some way, what’s the point?

…Ummm…enjoying life?

I’m not being a slacker here. Let me put it this way: I know a lot of people who go on vacations and rush through all their activities, so they can check off, Yes I’ve been to Yellowstone, Yes I’ve seen Old Faithful, Yes I’ve camped out…and they didn’t actually experience any of it. They were so concerned with getting through it that they never soaked up the experience.

Death-bed regrets are usually along the lines of wishing the dying had experienced more. Had lived more. Had focused on their children. Had really enjoyed their ice cream.

I’m arguing against over-focus on dreams, at the expense of enjoying the present. Or, to quote Star Wars:

Obi-Wan: “But Master Yoda said I was to be mindful of the future!”
Qui-Gon: “But not at the expense of the present.”

Wise words.

In other news, I watched Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo Sunday night. It’s a remarkably fun Japanese samurai…well, actually, it’s a western. Really. A wanderer blows into town, observes the two warring factions that control the town, play them off each other, and forces a confrontation which leads to a High Noon-style standoff.

Which is not a complaint. Yojimbo is fabulous. It’s entertaining, surprisingly light-hearted, and fascinating. The characters are all interesting. The cinematography is perfect; atmospheric, with wide shots where there needs to be wide shots and close-ups where we need them. Fun, fun film.

I’m still not a raving Kurosawa fan, though this is my second Kurosawa film. Right now, I think he’s great, but he hasn’t quite achieved godhood for me yet.

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