Sometimes, when inspiration seems a little sparse, I venture out to a movie in search of a thought, or a theme, that seems, somehow, relevant. Relevant to what, I’m never sure, but, inevitably, and, at times, in spite of myself, the dots always connect.
Yesterday was no exception. The feature was “Midnight in Paris,” a wonderful film, directed by Woody Allen, about a man, (Owen Wilson), who is convinced that living in an earlier, simpler, time would have been better for him. It’s a very entertaining 94 minutes, especially if you enjoy Parisian scenery, and/or the eternal wisdom of some of the greatest artists, poets, and writers of all time. Plus, most of the other flicks out right now stem from the horror genre, and I’ve just never understood why people pay to be terrified. Aren’t the trials and tribulations of every day life scary enough? But I digress.
The point that I’m really trying to make here is that “Midnight in Paris” showcases a motif that many of us can relate to, and, as usual, it’s an idea that is not lost on Dave Matthews. Much of his work demonstrates a longing for a less complex existence. In “Proudest Monkey,” a song often considered to reference the band’s rise to stardom from humble beginnings, Dave talks about a “monkey” who leaves the safety of his forest for the excitement of the city, only to wonder whether he would have been happier in the woods after all. Then, later, in “Big Eyed Fish,” Dave decidedly swears, (pun intended), that the monkey should have stayed up in his tree. So, what does all this really mean?
As Ani DiFranco says, in her mind-blowing poem, “Self-Evident,” we are 90% metaphor, which, to me, means that everything that happens occurs on many different levels. (In other words, a cigar is not always just a cigar.) And, as luck would have it, this particular masterpiece, which according to Ms. DiFranco, is her attempt to wrap her head around the horrifying events of September 11th, also speaks of the innocence of a time before our reliance on fossil fuels became so pronounced. If you haven’t yet heard this piece, be warned, it is intense.
But what if there really is no golden age? What if, as Dave says, the future, (nor the past), is no place to place our better days? Is it possible for us to learn from our mistakes and look forward to tomorrow while still living in the present?
I believe that it is human nature to want to climb out of our safe limbs and explore. Yes, progress brings problems, but if we can keep our heads up, walking tall and singing, we just might see that what we have right now really is the best of what’s around. There may always be an imagined time, place, or space that seems better on the other side, and sometimes, understandably, we may want to run while we can, but in the end, only love will open our eyes. From the dark side we can see a glow of something bright.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self