The burden of dreams (So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years – part 4)

3. The burden of dreams


Sisyphus by Titian (1549)

Having come from a completely non-creative, working class background, understandably, my folks were not equipped to recognise, encourage or direct my creativity – I even wonder in their defence – if it even manifested itself during my adolescent years. They, were simply the products of all their influences and experiences, and just like the masses they understood schooling as a means to secure ‘respectable’ and ‘successful’ (financially rewarding) employment, that would perhaps also be a source of pride for them.

I remain grateful for the schooling and resulting economic opportunities that were created for me, as a result of my family’s endeavours, without which I would not have had the life experiences that shaped me and certainly would not be able to live a self-sufficient independent life.
But the burden of failing to fulfill their ambitions and the dreams that I sold them during my naive youth filled me with immense guilt.

Sadly, many of us pass through life carrying the idea that we owe people – particularly those who have brought us into this world – an incredible debt that must be paid, even if means killing our own dreams and going against our own nature. And, burdened by the potential guilt of ingratitude and selfishness, we never grow to form and embrace our own ideas, and never become independent and assertive enough to live according to them.

In short, we end up simply existing as a means to fulfill the possibly unfulfilled ambitions of our forefathers. We become imitations who have inherited and replicated their identities.

Why are we not able to live a uniqe, independent and positively selfish life?

Well, I feel there are a variety of reasons. Firstly, most of us lack the innate sensitivity and insight to form our own ideals. It is impossible to live a purposeful life of action, if one does not know their personal philosophy. Deriving ideas from higher sources of authority and simply accepting them, even if they do conflict with our being, simply does not work for everyone. And, it is this insight that separates the few rebellious souls who are able to actually try and live a fulfilled life according to their own terms, from the many knowingly/unknowingly conformist and deeply frustrated ones who can’t.

Related to this, is also the narcissism, and the lack of self-critical honesty and courage to acknowledge and address the source of our feelings of weakness and incompleteness, or as I call it – the cries of our souls. It’s too frightening to lay ourselves bare. It’s much easier, to believe that we are the brave, noble and sacrificial heroes of our life stories, who are supposed to, and will, accept any void in our lives as being inevitable and unchangeable, rather than confronting it and communicating with it.

Finally, most of us are content to sacrifice personal ambitions and to conform to the expectations of our forefathers – willingly. Why? Because, not only will it avoid conflict, it is less frightening than delving into the uknown, but it is also a much more materially rewarding route, especially if daddy dearest has a lucrative inheritance, empire and career-path set up for his favourite, i.e. obedient offspring. It may gift wealth, status and empire but can be deeply dissatsifying for those offspring who are naturally inclined to other more creative callings in life.

Learning to carry the burden of my own dreams

Burden of Dreams

Werner Herzog directing the pulling of a 320 tonne steamship over a mountain in the Amazon for his film. (Fitzcarraldo: 1982)

For myself, it eventually became clear that I had to shed any burden of having to fulfill the ambitions of others, or any burden of guilt at failing to do so.

I simply could not live this one life that had been granted to me, as some kind of obligation to another human being, to the extent that it would become a destruction of the human potential created within me. On the contrary, for me to survive and to grow in aliveness  – and not simply exist as a secondary product of someone else – it was essential to aspire to live a fulfilled life, one which I defined as being lived according to my own philosophies, carrying the burden of my own dreams, and in an unashamed pursuit of them. Those that loved me unconditionally would support this journey (even if they did not understand it), and those that did not – well I guess they never did.

I was not simply here to exist. I was not granted this life to consciously replicate the existences of the countless bodies that had come and gone before me. Even if I produce nothing of value, I was not going to spend my time consciously aspiring to do so, or to be safe, or spend my years trying to reach imagined places of security and stability – these are all the hallmarks of mediocrity.

No, there must be a reason that I have been granted this extraordinarily sensitive soul and a life painted with such unique experiences. And, I was going to do everything in my power to strive to be in states of awareness, activity and aliveness.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” 

(Helen Keller – The Open Door: 1957)

So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years (part 5)