Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Charge of the Light Brigade

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

- Tennyson

I learned this poem in high school in World Lit. and have remembered it ever since. Rather than recite it for its modern interpretation about the folly of war, I've often taken the lines "not to reason why, ... but to do and die:" as a rallying cry for quitting the debate team in my mind and getting on with it. I've always lived in my head. While I'm grateful for my intellect, I can become distracted and even paralyzed by thought and reason. Sometimes I just need to show up and put one foot in front of the other.
Due to my schedule becoming intensely busy with moving and remodeling, active filmmaking, especially in terms of woodshedding, is taking a back seat to everything else. Last week I made time to try to get But A Dream to picture lock and to work on getting some of the new shots/scenes into Made Crooked. So it would be misleading to claim filmmaking is not a priority. The time I was spending writing, planning, shooting and editing woodshed projects had been recommitted elsewhere. That is certain. As I change direction, my mind begins to rationalize.
It isn't easy for me to change direction, however temporary it may be, without trying to etch things into stone. I get so involved that I take it to be the thing I'm going to do forever. For instance, most of the work I need to do on my building is pretty simple and straightforward. A lot of painting and prepping. No special tools or training required. Just lots of showing up. And showing up means only 6 - 8 hours per day. It doesn't have to take over my life - neither emotionally nor intellectually.
It absolutely doesn't require that I rethink my commitment to filmmaking. It just means that I'm going to be doing some other stuff for a couple of months. Friday I was pretty exhausted from a physically and mentally demanding week. There was still a lot on my week's agenda, but I didn't have it in me. I was in physical pain from a pulled hamstring and I couldn't shake a mental fog. I got called into work at DTC to answer phones. Don has been extremely helpful to me and I try to help him when he asks, especially since he only asks me when he's in a jam. It turned out to be a good thing. I did a little work for him, which was far less demanding than what I had planned for myself. I wasn't in bed feeling guilty for not getting anything accomplished and yet I was getting some rest and some perspective on my expectations. After that I met with Jordan to do some editing. I was not looking over his shoulder, but laying on the sofa in my office. I just let my mind wander for awhile about the ending of Made Crooked. Then I got up and did a paper edit with some index cards. As I did that I wished that life could always be like this.
It was a funny thought. It is like this. It's my life. Yet I sometimes feel as if I'm on the outside looking in, particularly when I have things like moving or painting to contend with. I'm not so clear on this. Which is why I'm writing about it. It's interesting to me that I think the filmmaking won't last but the painting and moving will. Like I can't enjoy having a lazy day around the office - shit I have to call it a lazy day! Off on another tangent here - I wonder if this difficulty I have in accepting the life of the mind has to do with my family's socio-economic history. Everybody has been farmers or laborers for the most part. My Greek grandfather owned a diner, where he was often the cook. My other grandfather was a crackpot itinerant preacher. I never knew him. Anyway I can't help but think it must be difficult for someone to do something for which he has had no model. There are others that face the same challenge of course, which affirms that is it is indeed a challenge. I have this habit to automatically deny that something is difficult if other people are faced with it. It all points to an unhealthy degree of self-reliance and isolation.
I started this post thinking I would debate the law of diminishing returns regarding woodshed projects. But I exposed that idea to be based in fear and an attempt to destabilize my ambitions. I was going to argue not to question it but to go ahead with it and see where it leads me, hence the Tennyson. In mounting that argument I discovered some other things about myself. Like how we all face challenges and that we're in this together. We are the Light Brigade.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Signore Direttore

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