Posted on July 23, 2014 by Blake Leath
[ Soundtrack for today's musing: Jose Gonzalez's Step Out, followed by M83's Wait or Jungle's Busy Earnin'. It won't take that long to read my brain toot, of course, but these are great songs to launch an evening. ]
Finally saw the documentary Tim's Vermeer last night on that most antiquated of devices, our actual television set.
It's a tiny tale about one man's towering commitment and creativity. Clocking in at just 80 minutes, the film is one of the fastest routes I can imagine to get from "I've lost faith in people" to "human beings are amazing critters, right?"
I couldn't help but think of people in my own life who already have or whom I believe could do something as breathtaking: my dad who, at 78, shoots par on a regular basis, plays competitive ping pong and pickleball, has taught himself to draw, paint, whittle, play guitar and who, just last week (having never made anything remotely like it before) delivered the most spectacular "billiard-style conference table light" to our studio that he crafted from reclaimed GA and NC barn wood, riveted tin scraps, Edison light bulbs and cotton cording, all while using ordinary implements. His fancy toolbox was a red Folger's can. My cousins, Gale Odom and Howard Johnson, the Centenary opera singer/Dean/professor and voice mail/chip speed guru/Oxford lecturer, respectively. John Odom, former JAG lawyer, public servant, amateur photographer, historian, sailor, and public speaker extraordinaire. My incomparable wife, Dawn, whose spiritual gifts and leadership abilities seemingly know no bounds. Folks on our team: Dave, Scott, Amanda, Cesar, Stan, Charity, JR, Clay, Matt, Anne, Patty, Dick, Joe, Lou, Peter, Sharon (among so many others). These people's patience, attention to detail, ingenuity, commitment to excellence and creativity is, at times, absolutely staggering. Polymaths, in many cases, who are not ensnared by or entangled in what Bruce Lee called "the classical mess" (but here, the unnecessary and limiting and ultimately stultifying boundaries between liberal arts/technical professions and all points in between, most of which were the Middle Ages' rudimentarily handy way of splitting and lumping disciplines).
Think of all the people in your own life (or yourself, for that matter), their displays of commitment and creativity, and smile. As Morpheus might say, "They choose the red pill."
The little girl who loves to build wood forts with a saw, hammer, and bucket of nails, or who sews, or writes, or looms until her fingers practically fall off, then goes to bed journaling, reading The Hobbit or pre-thinking the launch of her new etsy store. The boy who loves Tonka truck robotics, origami, judo, scouting, cartooning, soccer, poetry, mathematics, or video editing. Whatever. Whomever. Wherever.
We, the people, are an amazing lot, despite the debauched mess you'll sometimes see on TV, be it contrived and often vitriolic reality junk (which might as well be "Hyperbole TV"), the pablum that passes for journalistic news nowadays, or the political posturing and grandstanding that we see among our elected nitwits. (Gosh, what I wouldn't give for an Abraham Lincoln right now.)
There is much good in the world, and much genius, especially when considering multiple intelligences. Though generations have been brainwashed and misled to believe standardized tests are any worthwhile indication whatsoever of true intellect and/or potential, Tim Jenison's Vermeer is a reverberative slap in convention's face. A glorious reminder that what we know, or think we know, or are, or think we are...is only the beginning of a tale that, much like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of old, can go any which way for tens of pages before it occurs to you to throw the thing in the nearest wastebasket, grab your own notepad and pen, and write your own dang story.
"It's just a mirror on a stick," Tim summarizes to a stone-cold-shocked scholar.
That's right, Tim, in the same way that a wheel is just a wide circle, water is just a liquid, or Kwai Chang Caine was just a grubby little grasshopper.