I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares. – Saul Bass
There’s a kind of improv I do, and teach on occasion, a partnered, weight-sharing kind of thing, that at one point I was quite good at and, within a niche community, pretty well known for. I haven’t actually practiced it much lately – in fact, due to some injuries, I’ve not been able to do it anywhere nearly as skillfully as I used to, and besides, I travel so much it’s hard to find the time to work with a partner for the deeper, more beautiful stuff.
I’m still passionate about the form, though, and I spend a good deal of time encouraging others to do it safely and beautifully and authentically all over the world via the interwebs. And that’s why, recently, a producer from a cable network contacted me, interested in talking to me about my life and practice and, they hoped, filming me actually working on the form with a partner.
It was flattering – this is not small-time, this is a respected documentary series – and as the assistant producer did the pre-interview, it was quite flattering that she seemed interested in my journey, marine and father and dancer and teacher and writer. We made some tentative plans to meet with a crew in San Francisco, where I’ll be this weekend, to shoot. I was a little nervous – like I said, there have been injuries, so I’m not at the top of my form. Not even close. Still, I love the practice, and if I could help publicize it through the documentary that would have been great. I’ve got my own opinions about the practice and performance aspects of it, and there may have been a little ego involved as well, I won’t lie.
Side note: if you’re sitting there going “what the hell is he talking about? What practice?” that’s ok. This particular blog is specifically meant to exist separate from the rest of my work, because it is an exercise in writing. So I’m going to keep the details in the abstract and let the experience serve as a more generic example of a broader principle.
Then Again, Maybe It’s Not Meant to Be
It seemed to be pretty well set. Then…tragedy struck. My partner who I had hoped to perform with couldn’t make the shoot. There were other people who were possibly available (this is, after all, San Francisco) but no one who I knew terribly well…and the producers wisely decided not to shoot me after all, but instead to go with another more established pair, on their home turf.
I totally understood, and appreciated how apologetic the Assistant Producer was on the phone. Deep inside, I was fascinated by the combination of disappointment and relief. Sure, it would have been nice to make a little impact in the media coverage (tiny as it is) of my avocation, but then again, if it was going to happen, I wanted it to happen right. An established, well-practiced pair (they’re married, even) would be able to represent the art far more gracefully than a thrown-together shoot in a strange location with little to no rehearsal and me walking off injuries. That’s the thing; it was more important to me that it is done well than that I be the one who does it.
That’s because I love it. And that may be the best representation of love: when you want the best for something or someone even if you don’t get to be the one who causes it, sees it, or benefits from it. Heinlein said something like it, defining love as “that condition in which the happiness of another is essential to your own.”
I must be growing up; I’m actually going to disagree with the man. I think love is that condition in which the happiness of another is essential. Period. Your happiness, while a nice thought, is incidental, so might as well make the most of it.
But Wait, There’s More
That was going to be all of the post. It’s been percolating in my brain most of the afternoon, as I ride this train down the Oregon coast. A point about how if you can’t give that which you love your best, it’s best to leave it to those who can.
Then I got an email. The producer again. Seems that other couple had also fallen through in terms of shooting, and she was wondering if I might be able to shoot in about a week or so, when I’m in the Baltimore area?
Baltimore? As it happens, there’s a good friend of mine there who I thought might be able to…and a phone call and an email or two and suddenly it’s back on. A few details (like location) need to be ironed out, but best of all this is a place I’ve worked before, with people I’ve worked with, and suddenly it feels like I might be able to do it…well, justice isn’t the right word.
But there’s certainly an added understanding of just how important this all is to me. So, my suggestion to you, this weekend: that thing you love? Love the [expletive deleted] out of it. Because if you don’t, it’s possible no one else will, either.