A Small Pond.

One of the unintended results of seeing Tim Burton’s new film, Big Fish, earlier this week was a delayed voyage into Contemplative Purgatory. In the many layers of morals and symbolism that are common in Burton’s pieces, I very much found some really relevant and touching associations this time that his previous films have lacked for me. I’ve been thinking about those associations for the past few days, but only now have a couple of salient points been established as vital notions reminiscent of how I want to live…and die.

Aside from the obvious narrated moral of the picture–that stories that are told enough times germinate truth, and the storyteller becomes part of the story in its telling, and thereby gains a measure of immortality–I feel like I came away from it richer by two thoughts:

1) Do not forget to live your life well and to its fullest. People don’t seem to have ambition anymore. In yet another terrible, sweeping generalization, I must say that I feel that the sickly-sweetness of popular culture has totally eroded important lifestyle characteristics like initiative and the joy of interpersonal relations simply for the *reciprocity* that they afford. Life is not all about what you can suck off someone else, not about the easiest way to a quick million dollars, and certainly not about getting the most output for the least amount of input. Yet that’s exactly what the media, pop music, and MTV promotes, and it’s one of the reasons that I bury my head in the study of history–so I don’t have to own that this is the frustrating time in which I live. But honest ambition erases the specter of uselessness and sloth, of greed and selfishness, and a little application with that ambition turns into Greatness and Self-respect. What else do we have, if indeed, we’re just small, organic flashes in the pan? We have what we’ve done, and who we’ve been; and then we have how we’re remembered and whom we’ve touched. And that’s all.

Why waste it?

2) Of course I was leaking at the end along with everyone else, but isn’t that just the most spectacularly perfect way to go out? Before you lies the summation of every experience and relationship you’ve ever had, and all are celebratory and they’re arrayed around you like jubilant party goers, and you’re the guest of honor. There are no regrets, no discomfort, and no concern about the journey’s end or the mistakes that you’ve made. The thought of leading a full and well-lived life (with initiative, and goodwill, and integrity) makes me less scared of dying, for it reinforces that I was the best person I could be and that I sampled many wonderful things during my time.

Maybe I’m too caught up in rhetoric–too dependent on separatism so I can make myself feel better about an inherent fear of idleness and absolute abhorrence of selfishness. But these are my morals, and I appreciated this film very much for what it represented. I suppose we see what we want to see in any particular art-form, but what I watched very attentively was not least of all a reminder of the joys of a wonder-filled, experience-rich, satisfying existence, and I can only hope and push for such a thing in every new day.

These thoughts are what drive me.

Now I just need a license.

23 Responses to “A Small Pond.”

  1. agntprovocateur Says:
    February 13th, 2004 at 7:09 pm

    you've just about nailed every important point with this post. :>
    to your point 1. i have a whole college full of kids who have grown up with the a different set of values. or rather, lack of. this past week, we, the younger faculty found that we were in agreement with the older faculty members in that we beleive this new student body feels a sense of entitlement (which should never be confused with honest ambition). so the question is, how do you teach them the difference in a world where everything is about the bling? now don't get me wrong, i dont mind the bling… heh but, bling its the icing….
    anyway, the older faculty likes to bitch a lot about instilling values by nitpicking on everything. i disagree and i have some ideas…. i think i'm going to do a little experimenting.. heh heh heh

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 3:48 pm

    Awesome. I'm so glad you are feeling the same way I am regarding these issues. I'm sure you get to see it firsthand being in an educational position of authority, and you no doubt must find it frustrating as hell as it is part of your everyday environment.
    The dichotomous joy of this whole thing is that you're in the perfect position to raise the wee bird with a particular set of values, and get to see how societal and cultural influences affect what you've established. So that's the question then, as you stated: How DO you teach them the difference?
    You should have a very interesting answer to this, I think…

  3. agntprovocateur Says:
    February 17th, 2004 at 12:33 am

    Re: its late i hope it makes sense…
    there's been much discussing of the subject of intention/motivations/deeds with the lil one. partly because she's been asking and it touches on situations with her dad and our circumstances this past year. the main point is being true to yourself while making the best of it under difficult circumstances; as in the concept of the hero or hero's journey as joseph campbell defines it. i have so much respect for his work. how do i teach her? i use examples from books/cartoons/movies that she is interested in now. as it turns out, her interest in the LOTR movies have helped a lot in instilling the idea of friednship, harship and goals. also her own involvement in after school activities. hopefully this won't be a fleeting thing as the teen years approach…
    how do i teach the students the difference? i am working on that. the clue goes back to campbell again in incorporating the oral tradition. i decided that what i do is some form of guerrilla or gonzo teaching. i like that. heh
    bth

  4. lekvar Says:
    February 13th, 2004 at 10:51 pm

    Before you lies the summation of every experience and relationship you’ve ever had
    Do you know calculus? That's rather a clever analogy to the mathematical concept of summation if so.

  5. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    I don't, but I'm sure that you'll be willing to teach me in six easy lessons…
    Er..I mean, OF COURSE I know calculus. I am well-schooled in the mathematical arts. I had planned this perfect analogy for some time, and am ever-so-pleased that you've seen the clear connection I've made between the two.
    2+2=5
    🙂

  6. madame_mage Says:
    February 14th, 2004 at 12:41 am

    Greetings! you don't know me, and please forgive the intrusion!
    .I wasn't able to sleep so I padded down the stairs for a cup of coffee and thought I'd browse the journal to check out overseas journals..I LIKE YOU..you have a brain and intelligent opinions..damn rare as far as I'm concerned..
    do you mind if I add you?
    *by the way? avoiding the haggis is a gooood thing..I wasn't aware they were wild*

  7. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    Well, hello there!
    No intrusion, but it's your doom if you wish to continue reading in this forum…your assessment of my brain is a pleasant but specious one, which you'll soon find out after perusing a few more of my boring postings.
    But thank you kindly for the nice words, and I look forward to your feedback in the near future.
    *dodges yet another haggis*

  8. lilitufire Says:
    February 14th, 2004 at 9:20 am

    I very much agree with point 1.
    So I should see the movie then?

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 3:55 pm

    Only Point 1?
    Then No.
    Just kidding. YES. Absolutely. Yes.

  10. missstephanie Says:
    February 14th, 2004 at 5:37 pm

    I'm glad you leaked at the end and found it as touching as I.

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    *sniffling still*
    I absolutely love that icon of yours.

  12. missstephanie Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    http://www.explodingdog.com !!!

  13. scotis_man Says:
    February 14th, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    Here Here
    I have always thought that pop culture has replaced religion as the opiate of the masses. We now live in a world of luxury, not necessity. The most heroic deed to be done in this day and age is simply to live to be the truest person that you can.
    Oh, and it is nice to know that the storyteller becomes immortalized as an integral part of the story. Maybe I will become immortal yet. 😉

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    Re: Here Here
    Well said, seriously.
    As for you becoming immortal, you might need to change your stories a bit and get away from the recurring theme of strange bearded men accosting others in port-o-lets around the world and through time…
    Then we'll talk about deification. 🙂

  15. seide Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    "We have what we’ve done, and who we’ve been; and then we have how we’re remembered and whom we’ve touched. And that’s all."
    Beautiful. One of many insightful points you made.
    I think that a lot of people do have an innate ambition to live their life well and to the fullest. They've just replaced more holistic, disciplined, and self-initiated ways of doing it with a shortcut– material consumption. They've internalized "bling as self." It's never enough and contains the seeds of its own planned obsolescence, which explains the obsessive need for novelty. At the same time, even if they vaguely yearn to replace it with something more satisfying, often they have no clue how to go about it, because they have have never done the work necessary to develop a capacity for sustained effort or true introspection. Also, of course, many people are just shallow, mindless assholes.
    We're both driven by these same thoughts, and I promise you that a learner's permit is all we need.

  16. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Especially in a capitalistic and very materialistic society, it's a cycle that seems impossible to break. I think though we may start out with a certain sense of ambition, there are millions who are just as happy being perpetually inactive and having their experiences be virtual ones through actuated influence–having IT come to THEM. And that's my gripe, really. "American Idol" and "Big Brother" are the antidotes for having to live your own life. Why bother being introspective and ambitious when you can fantasize and live the drama and glory through our pop icons? And all the while, in the comfort of your own home, with all the Coke and pizza you could want–right at arm's length.
    I love that term, "Bling as Self". May I borrow it?
    Thank you, as always, for your thoughts and your kind words. You're one of my favorite specters in this forum.
    We're both driven by these same thoughts, and I promise you that a learner's permit is all we need.
    Um, I think I just crunched your bumper.
    Sorry. 🙂

  17. seide Says:
    February 15th, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    Borrow away!

  18. scotis_man Says:
    February 16th, 2004 at 12:55 am

    Why does FIGHT CLUB come to mind?

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 19th, 2004 at 9:21 pm

    I was extremely bored by Fight Club. Everybody regarded it as this amazing, edgy, freeing new methodology, and really the movie was just a mainstream forum for it to reach the public. Nothing new, but I do love his other stuff. If you care to hear a reading of his new piece for Playboy magazine…pretty sick–I'll warn you right now.

  20. scotis_man Says:
    February 20th, 2004 at 3:56 am

    Oh, I never said Fight Club was original …
    The part that I liked was the blunt statement of "You are not the contents of your bank account. You are not your possessions."
    The part that I don't like about it is that all it did was give the cattle a new direction to be herded.
    Life is about walking your own path. And the best parts of life (and the worst) are about finding that path.

  21. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 20th, 2004 at 5:02 am

    Once again, well said.
    Man, if I were the contents of my bank account, I'd be in deep doo-doo. 🙂

  22. dr_beep Says:
    February 18th, 2004 at 10:16 am

    At the end of this movie a single tear let loose and wound it's lonely way down my face, the first since 'She who shall not be named' and I parted ways.
    I attribute this to 1) a hell of a good movie, and 2) to a long awaited softening of the emotional armor I am so very good at building.
    I want to see it again!

  23. FunkyPlaid Says:
    February 19th, 2004 at 9:23 pm

    I sincerely hope you saved that little, salty bud so that we may perform unspeakable emotional experiments on it in the future…ever make a tear cry?
    Heh-he…

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