What Have I Left Behind?

I watched a movie last night called Carrie Pilby (2016). In essence it’s about a startlingly intelligent girl who is trying to figure out her place in a world of people with half her brains and twice her wisdom. It was a cute movie, with just enough humor and drama to satisfy, without leaving you emotionally exhausted by the end. A little predicatble, perhaps, but entertaining.

And I related to it in more than a few ways, which I found surprising, because I don’t usually relate to onscreen characters. Like me, Carrie skipped grades in school. Like I once did, Carrie thought of her intelligence as something that set her above her peers (I now know that intelligence is a poor measure of a person). Like me, Carrie is sometimes depressed. She can’t relate to people, and finds social interactions exceptionally difficult.

The funny thing was that, as much as I related to the titular character, I also related to one of the side characters, too: Cy. Cy is a talented musician who hides his gifts behind humility, and despite his scruff and snark plays clarinet for one of the leading orchestras in the world. And the thought of Cy playing in an orchestra made me think back to my own youth, and what I’ve left behind.

You see, I was once a talented musician. For many years as a child music was everything, was my life and my reason for existence. I dreamed of playing Rachmaninov before crowds of thousands, and as much as I struggled to play my best, I equally enjoyed playing at my best. I gave concerts; I sang in choirs. It led me to a degree in music composition.

And then, slowly, life got in the way. The last time I put note to paper was over a decade ago. The last time I played a real piano was years ago. And whilst you don’t forget things like that, it makes me start to wonder: what was it all for?

There’s something about the creative process that innately calls to me, something that, without which, leaves me feeling hollow, and empty. There have been great periods of my life when I haven’t created anything at all, and these are unsurpisingly linked to the times of my life when my depression has been at its worst.

In recent years my creativity has come in the form of writing, either novels or blogging, and whilst writing words is arguably a lengthier, more arduous process than writing music, it bears the promise of a more immediate reward: it’s easier to get people to read your writing than to listen to your music.

That being said, I miss writing music. I miss the process of orchestration, of wondering which instruments would sound best where, and creating sounds that, until then, had never existed before. Some of my favorite compositions were for a full orchestra, whilst others were smaller, chamber arrangements; yet others were death metal in symphonic form.

I saw some time ago a post about Anthony Hopkins, and how he once wrote a waltz. for decades it went unheard, until it was finally pulled from the dusty shelves and performed for the very first time. I would love to hear my own music performed live. I would love to know what it sounds like in real life, and not in my head, or through poor computer imitations. And watching this movie returned all these thoughts to me. It made me want to experience live music again, to compose, and to create. And hopefully, I will.

It takes time, and it takes effort. It takes years of laboring in the dark before one sees the light. Sometimes the light never shines. And this thought saddens me more than any other; that what I write, what I create—it will die with me, unheard and unread by any, one of millions of stories the world over that will never see the light of day. That will ever remain on the dusty shelves.

I wonder, sometimes: what have I left behind? What life might I have had as a musician and composer? Would it have been any more fulfilling than that of an unknown writer? Or would I have languished, withered and despaired … much as I still to to this day?

I suppose there is no telling; there is no knowing ‘what if’. Nonetheless, it reminds me of how fleeting we all are, and how important it is to do the best we can each day—even if that best isn’t much. Because one day we’ll all be gone, and what we leave behind is all that will remain to remember us by.

To fight the gloom and dark, and persevere in the face of utter despair. Such is life.

Movie Night: The Mask of Zorro

Year: 1998

Director: Martin Campbell

Production Company: TriStar Pictures

Leads: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins

The-Mask-of-ZorroThe Mask of Zorro is one of those delightful film that really doesn’t require any effort at all on the part of the audience. It’s the epitome of a blockbuster: tragedy, comedy, famous actors, plenty of action, mandatory explosions, and a plot that is simply silky smooth.

What happens? In a nutshell, Don Rafael Montero is the cruel dictator, forced out of California as it tries to assert its independence. Zorro of course intervenes, and Don Rafael tracks him back to the home of Don Diego de la Vega, puts two and two together, and tries to kill him. Instead, Diego’s wife is killed, he’s captured, and Don Rafael takes his infant daughter as his own.

Fast-forward twenty years, and Don Rafael returns from Spain as the savior of California as it falls under attack from the Mexican army. Old Zorro escapes, finds Alejandro, trains him to be young Zorro, and the stage is set for a plethora of escapades and adventures, culminating in the double battle of Diego against Rafael, and Alejandro against Captain Harrison Love, who killed his brother.

The honest truth is that, like so many blockbusters, the plot really doesn’t matter. What matters are the laughs, the gasps, the awws and the cheers; the sword fighting, the explosions, the love interest and sexual tension that’s never quite relieved. Anyone remember this scene?

There are a million and one things wrong with it (never mind continuity; how exactly does one cut a dress from a person with a few swipes of a sword and not at the very least nick them?), but it just simply doesn’t matter. It’s fun.

And therein lies the genius of the movie. It’s a feel-good film. You come away with the sense that you’ve spent the past two hours of your life well, because you enjoyed yourself. Never mind that you could have been watching something with substance, like…like…well I can’t think of any Westerns with substance, but you get the point. It’s the ultimate switch-off movie, a wild west version of a Die Hard movie (and infinitely better than Wild Wild West, as it happens).

Little Satis, of course, loved every moment of it, bar the smooching, and spent the following two days flying around the house with a cape and a stick, brandishing it at us every chance he got. He enjoyed it; I enjoyed it; time well spent.

What are your favorite thought-free blockbusters?

★ ★ ★ ★ ★