I woke up today wondering how much individual free will I have, or have ever had. Whether I’m nothing but a slave to an assemblage of brain chemicals reacting and synapses firing, or if there’s another part of me, separate from biology, with the power to trounce impulse. If there is no separate self, free of biological imprisonment, it means that all of life is completely predetermined. The script has been written, the ending unavoidable. The self, thus, can do nothing but watch with eyes pried open, and react with both horror and amazement.
I had just written a blog about accepting my flaws. Acutely aware of them, they’re easy to accept on good days. Then a bad day hits and you dig out the old metal music catalog to power through your inner bs. I couldn’t swim at world champion caliber speeds every day of the week either. Everything seems perfect on good days. I think Deion Sanders said something along the lines of, “Your reflection looks a lot prettier when you’re winning.” On bad days, avoiding the mirror can seem wise.
Yesterday morning I contacted an old filmmaking colleague. About six years ago, I helped him on a short film that he directed. He had shot some significant commercials in his career. He has a keen eye for visual framing, which isn’t my strongest point. He also lent me some of the best storytelling advice I’ve received.
The shoot I met him on has garnered 28 million views on YouTube. I was just a production assistant who mostly helped the cinematographer, but it’s cool that the project found an audience. Here’s a link:
He showed me the trailer for his latest documentary, which coincidentally is about NCAA athletics.
“It looks great,” I said (sincerely). He’s an excellent filmmaker.
“Actually, it bankrupted Zoochosis (his company) and ruined my career,” he said matter-of-factly.
I meditated on that for a moment. He was one of the rare “pure artists” I met in LA, the kind of guy who never gave a fuck about publicity or image, and never gave a second glance at a bad review.
“Whatever happens, you made something that’s completely your creation,” I said. “That’s what living’s all about.”
We talked for awhile about swimming.
“I fucking hate sports,” he said eventually, knowing full well that I was an athlete.
“Me too,” I said. In truth, I often do hate sports, especially swimming (but NFL is a different story). I hate talking about swimming. I hate that it was my greatest talent, and I hate that it’s how many people define me. I swam for other people, and for money.
“Be good to people, Matt,” he said before hanging up.
He told me about his plans to continue filming with his phone. Broke or not, he said, he’d continue telling stories. It’s a cliche to state, but filmmaking is a tough business. It’s the toughest business. That doesn’t deter many at first, but everyone out there is a self-proclaimed “starving artist” until they get a little hungry.
I’m putting the pedal to the metal now on my writing. It’s time to finish some projects.
Here’s a link to my friend’s upcoming documentary, Animals.