Sunday, March 31, 2013

Every 7 Years

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called 49 Up. It's part of a series of films that was made beginning in 1964 when several British schoolchildren were interviewed. At the time, the children were 7 years old. The filmmaker followed the children every 7 years and continues to do so now. The films are 7 Up, 14 Up, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up, and this year 56 Up came out. 

I have only seen 49 Up where the people were, of course, 49 years old. It is interesting to note a few different things:

One, how easy it is to think you know people when you see only snippets of their lives. Many of the film subjects discussed that aspect of the previous films. The way they are portrayed makes others believe they know them, know what they are thinking. But of course, the audience cannot know someone only from interviews on TV. We can know things ABOUT someone, such as views they express on political issues and so forth, but to know the person takes so much more than one film or even several films. 

Second, I was struck by the vitriol one particular man's wife seemed to spew continuously even from the early days of the relationship. Old interviews with the subjects were shown and this woman was continually hateful toward the man. Later, it was revealed that she had caught him cheating on her, but she chose to stay with him. I have to wonder if she stayed because she felt the cheating had given her some kind of moral power over him. Whatever the case, it was sad to watch this man sit by smiling while this woman talked about him like he was a horrible individual, even from the early days of the relationship. 

Third, and perhaps most interesting to me, was how many of the film's subjects expressed how painful the films are to make. I thought about this and realized that it would indeed be painful if any of us, every 7 years, had to revisit the past 7 years plus the previous years of our lives, sift through our decisions, our mistakes, our pain and joy, and share it on camera. I think it's a brave thing to do for this group of people. At 56 years old now, they've been doing it since they were 7. Imagine the changes in your own life since you were 7. 

For some, they had indeed fulfilled their dreams and wishes. Others had fallen hard, picked themselves up, and carried on. What was really wonderful about the film is how the interview subjects had connected with one another by virtue of being in the film. They were from vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds and yet, they helped each other because being in the films together served as a sort of common ground. 

In one case, one of the participants, Bruce, had allowed another of the participants, Neil, to live in his London apartment when Neil fell on hard times. Bruce helped him get back on his feet by providing shelter and emotional support. This was true in other ways for others in the films too. 

It's a fascinating look at how our lives change and how they don't. How our dreams change and how they don't and the trajectories of our lives. It's worth watching and thinking about your own path in life. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

We Were Here

I watched a documentary tonight on Netflix called We Were Here, the story of gay men in San Francisco at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. The documentary tells the very moving, personal stories of men in the community who were affected and infected by this horrible disease. 

Although it is commonly thought that AIDS started out as a “gay problem,” the truth is that it was never a gay problem, it was and is a human problem. Anytime a disease wipes out our fellow human beings, no matter what their sexual orientation, we must all come together and be there for those affected. Thank God for the men and women who stepped up, fought their fear of an unknown, terrifying illness, and entered the trenches to help their fellow human beings. They are the unsung heroes of a horrible epidemic that is still with us today and they are a reminder to be there when you are needed. 

Be the person who steps in and makes life easier for those in peril. None of us are immune and all of us need the compassion and love of those around us. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Longer Runway

I really wish I still lived within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. Growing up on the coast of Oregon was great for many reasons, but being near the ocean was definitely in the top 5. 

There is something very calming and soothing about the water, about knowing that we are part of a vast universe. There's life everywhere being lived around us and under us. The Earth shifts and changes, ocean life moves under the waves, the sun comes up and goes down, everything moves, sometimes imperceptibly but it goes forward.

It's something important to remember - life does move forward. Even when it seems like you're stuck, even when it feels like you're actually going backward, you are moving and growing. Going backward is quite often the process by which you get a longer runway to take the leap forward. Be patient.