Home Remedy


HWAET:

(Though perhaps it won't be such a long one, feels like it wants to be longish at the start.)

First off, thanks to all who have contributed to my last post (see 3/4/09). I meant the questions, and I hope others (even ones I don't know all that personally) will keep posting in the comments. Stories rule, and everyone's a storyteller to one degree or another. Tell me a story.

Memories often make for interesting stories. Sometimes I think stories are motivated in part by a desire for a common experience, for each person to hold his or her life up against others' and ask, "So, does this make sense? Am I alone in this, or is this normal?" I visited my hometown this weekend to compare some stories with old friends and new family. It was a very short visit, arriving late Friday night and returning to the city Sunday afternoon, and I didn't do all that much talking or telling. Wife Megan's family dynamic is still new to me, particularly when extended family are about, and the reason we were home was to celebrate my nephew-in-law's second birthday, so they were. The other major social event was visiting Friends Mark & Lori's house, where along with Friend Davey were assembled various other people I knew or didn't know. So I listened a lot, with which I'm comfortable.

I also did a lot of thinking. These visits to Northern Virginia are usually a bit difficult for me. They're a little natural melancholy, being where I lived for my entire childhood and where I and my family no longer exist. What is more difficult, however, is how circumstantially vulnerable I feel there. I have no space of my own, though of course the Heflins keep their house completely open to me. I have no car, which is how one gets anything done there. (I presently have no laptop, which could mitigate some of that frustration.) My friends always make time for me and Megan's family always seeks to provide, yet there is also always a personal, mounting sense of angst whilst I'm there. It's reminiscent of being a teenager, which is the quick-and-dirty explanation I've leaned on for a while now. I was a teenager when last I lived there, so I have a tendency to revert, so I try to resist it whenever I visit.

This time, however, I realized that the sense of angst was much more immediate than some throw-back to my youth -- and it always had been. I recognized what I needed. This was practically a follow-up to another realization I had the last time I visited, in that both occurred under unusual circumstances: I was watching a movie. (Apparently, these movies combined stories with mediums of expression that agreed with me.) Movies generally get a bad rap for accomplishing anything other than entertainment, and it's a pity, because for someone who's open to it a film can open our eyes in some of the same ways (and some unique ones) that theatre or visual art does. Along with my vows to see more live music and theatre, I'm always telling myself I should take advantage of all the indie film here in New York, too.

Over my Christmas holiday, while waiting to be picked up from the Heflins' by my dad and driven up to my parents' place in Maryland, I was watching Casino Royale (2006). It seemed like a good, entertaining film to be watching. I'd seen it a couple of times before, but many things about it still held a lot of interest for me -- amazingly nuanced performances by Daniel Craig and Eva Green, amazing fight choreography, and rich cinematography. It's a James Bond film; what insight could I possibly expect? Through a series of circumstances best left to memory, while watching this movie it ended up that I got stranded in Burke, in an empty house. It was upsetting, not just frustrating, as my usual angst was. As I found a ride to the DC Metro and traveled up to Maryland on my own, I listened to the theme from the movie. I've always liked it, but it was particularly gratifying to the emotions I was going through. I realized in that moment that what I wanted, what I was so frustrated by every time I visited, was independence. Not just incidental independence, but in my life in general. Here I have this relatively footloose lifestyle, yet it limits me in some ways.

So I've been pursuing that in one way or another since then, and on this particular visit to NoVa, kept in mind the source of my angst. It helped, but I was frustrated (again) to find that it wasn't sufficient. I was missing something. I chalked the feeling up to frustration over having insight with no means to change the situation, and to some extent it was. Then, Sunday morning (whilst exercising some independence by abstaining from a visit elsewhere), I sat down in front of the Heflins' "Fios" (ooooooooooo...) and looked for a movie to order up. I saw that Redbelt, a Mamet-written and -directed movie I had some interest in was available, and fired it up. There's a lot to appeal to me here, some of it rather similar to what's appealing about Casino Royale, and I was probably similarly relaxed about watching it, though certainly my intellect was more engaged with prepping for typical Mamet-ian intricacies. I only got through half the film before having to move on to something else, but in that half was a moment in Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance (and, it must be acknowledged, David Mamet's script) that struck a deep emotional response in me. His character is talking for the first time with a woman who rather violently disrupted his school and situation -- she's struggling to express something to him -- and he says, "Is there some way that I can help you?" There's no attitude to it. He says it very simply; an offer. It's like it's what he's there to do.

It stuck with me. The scene cuts to he and the woman in his dojo, where he teaches her a small lesson in self-defense, then offers her a sign-up form in case she wants to learn any more. The moment I just kept returning to, though, was that single line of dialogue. I spent most of the rest of that day in one way or another trying to understand what I felt about it. On the one hand, it summed up pretty nicely for me what it is about good teachers that I like and aspire to. Good teachers are there to help the students in whatever way the students may need. On the other hand, I saw in this moment something I have been wanting very badly for some time now, without realizing it. Recognizing that, alongside this newly inspired need to be independent, gave me a surprising sense of purpose. The trick now will be to follow through on it.

I need a teacher. So much of my life has been spent looking for one, in one way or another, consciously and subconsciously. Most of my interests to date have been centered around this dynamic, whether I cast myself as the teacher or the student. I want to teach, I want to lead, but I also want to keep learning and keep improving and not just in acting, or circus, or some other skill, but in life. So -- and I'm addressing you directly here, Universe -- I'm looking for my next teacher.
 
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