Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Cinephile Takes Off

As I mentioned last week, I haven't been seeing a lot of films lately. I'm more content to do other things, like spending a little more time each day reading. I've been on an art history kick; plus Sorel's fascinating Reflections on Violence (much of which I strongly disagree with); still one leisurely chapter after another of The Pickwick Papers--I can't remember when it took me this long to finish a novel, even a lengthy one. This has meant that I've also been lazy about things, i.e., I've missed a few screenings which I probably would not have missed--even on my viewing vacation--had I been a little more alert.

We've all got to recharge our batteries in our own ways. Cinephilic burnout is not a good thing, I imagine--I don't know that I've ever quite had it. And thankfully I've never been sick of seeing a lot of films because I think I know, viscerally, when to just ease up. And so every so often there comes a period that lasts a few weeks or so when my inclination to fill free moments with the scheduling of rep screening attendances, or putting in a video at home, just dwindles for a while, and everything else I'm interested in personally just expands to fill what would presumably be empty time and missing space.

Of course this answers to how I order my life for myself and how I pursue my interests--things which every person should have a right to do on their own. Fine enough. The problem is that I also consider myself a person with aspirations toward some kind of political action and duty (to be not just a consumer and a semi-solipsistically contemplative individual), and this is something I'm not very good at. I like to ask questions and learn about things; and I like to discuss things that interest me with people who interest me--and that includes a lot of very real, political issues, with a wide variety of people, of course. But when it comes to all these things I'm not much of an agitator, I'm not much of a popularizer, I'm not a go-getter. I don't think I should strive to be anything I'm patently not, but I believe experience and the getting of wisdom necessitate a small bit of self-improvement. I think I could stand to be a little more of all of these things.

The thorn in my side, what I've slowly come to diagnose, is that somehow in spite of my best reasoning and dedication to the contrary, I've become--precisely--solipsistic. (Just look at how many times the word "I" appears in this blog entry! Can't get over myself.) I think my writing has suffered as a result, on this blog, and by the fact that I haven't really published elsewhere in quite a while. The recent bout with writer's block has been part of this. Looking back on the last several months, I want to conclude that somehow I have been focused on my feelings, my opinions, my place, my growth, my whatever--thus anything, any objects I've been thinking about have been refracted through the prism of myself and what my consideration of such object "means." Surely some good has come of this period of reflection. But ... ugh ... eventually, how boring--for you, for me; how totally unjust--for the objects of this contemplation.

My hope is that writing all this will act as something of a closing chapter on this; an exorcism if need be. I have not felt much "flow" in my intellectual life, or my activity within the blogosphere, or much of any political motivation lately. But I think I have identified the problem and can regain a sense of personal stride, and of giving myself to activities intellectual or otherwise, instead of worrying ultimately about the significance of what they give me.

So tonight I'm going to not watch a film again. I'm might read some more. I'm going to relax. Tomorrow, after the Milan-Liverpool festivities anyway, is a new day ...


Anonymous said...

Hey Z. I hear you, but promise me that you will go to the link below to "Some Claims about Poetry and Consciousness" by Coleman Barks, the translator of Rumi's poetry. Okay?! :)


David McDougall said...

Sorel is a great read, in spite of his sometimes problematic ideas. Not an easy read, but a potentially rewarding one. He's helped me reject certain attitudes toward the necessity of violence as a component of radical social change.


I've been in somewhat the same place vis-a-vis my cinema consumption and desire for doing. Engagement (with the broader world) is one thing I frequently find missing in the world of film blogging (mine, and the rest of the 'sphere).

One thing I think would be helpful to me as a creator would be to stop watching films and reading the internet altogether (or, drop the internet and cut back to 2 or 3 films a week). Not permanently, but as a measure meant to focus my energies on the prospect of doing.

ZC said...

Jen, thanks for that link--still reflecting on it, but I did want to say that I read it! Likewise, Dave, I've read your excellent Colossal Youth piece and have been pondering for a few days now what response I could/should give it (i.e., the sort of substantial response it deserves!).

'Contemplation in a world of action'--that's the title of a book by Thomas Merton, still one of my favorite Catholic or mystic writers (and one of my heroes back before I lapsed hard). I wonder if I have that one sitting around in a box in the closet ...