Tuesday, September 25, 2007

54; Greatness

Part of me wishes I'd not read the Don Quixote. The fantastic book by Cervantes, which is now one of my favorites, is thought by many list making types to be the best novel in the world. And that's a lot of pressure for a book to have, but I think it's not far from the mark. Many authors have admired it, as well as artists and other folk, you know, real people, have found inspiration in it. I'm not sure if it's the best novel ever, but it may be.

That's why I had to read it. There are conflicting notions on what we should do about the good things in life. One says you should pile it up for the end, save it, savor it. This is the voice in my head that makes me neurotically eat yogurt with fruit on the bottom without mixing it up, waiting and patiently eating my way down to the syrupy strawberries. The whole notion of retirement and retirement funds are based on this sort of reasoning.

The other kind of reasoning, and the kind that won out in my Quixote decision-making process, is that life's too short and who knows when it's going to end. Perhaps I'd not have been lucky enough to make it to this time and date, and if so I'd have died without reading what might have been the best novel on Earth. How sad would that be? If we get to choose our experiences then I, for one, want a plethora of great ones. And so we need to grasp and expose ourselves to greatness whenever we can.

Cut to last night. I've decided, based on criticisms and the pointing out of gaping holes in my personal '100 best movies' list, to get a movie education. Of course it's self taught, just like my quest to read the great books of the world. The time it takes to watch a great movie is, notably, far less than to read a great book. When I feel the need for some great culture quick there is now a new way for me to get it.

And so I finally watched Citizen Kane. Right off the bat: it's no Don Quixote. But it is a very very good film. Orson Welles' acting is superb, possibly the best I've seen yet. Some of the conematography is magnificent, some is, well, a bit dated. All in all I have to reccomend it as a solid, well-done movie that reels you in, and, of course, is all the more fun for having practically invented the noir.

From this point on, however, the quest is going to be fundamentally different. Once you've seen or read or heard the best the new challenge is to see if it can be topped. Is there something better? Is this, as Jack Nicholson said, as good as it gets? And with that query comes a fear, a tangible dread: Is it all downhill from here? Will I never watch a movie greater than that, read a book better than that, have a lover who was better than that? Dearly we hope not, we hope that life gets continually better. Automatically our minds switch from the drive to do things because of the lack of time we have to do them, to the realization that there may be more time than we think. Maybe we won't get hit by a truck, and, boy oh boy, what are we going to do now with the next 60 years?

What we do now is up to us. Some will raise a family, others will travel the world. Still others may do both. I'm 21 and holding, and though I've not made my mind up yet what to do next there's nothing to do but look forward to it.

1 comment:

Ross said...

Just because film critics have decided it's the greatest doesn't mean you will feel the same way. And it also doesn't mean it will end up being one of your favorites. I think people keep looking forward to seeing films (you know, in addition to wanting to see something fun, beautiful, or thought-provoking) is because there is always the chance you'll unexpectedly fall in love with one of them.