Posts tagged ‘herzog’...
Jul 8, 2011 @ 7:30 PM
Yesterday I took a break from thinking about the debt limit and dropped by the majestic Castro Theatre, which happened to be screening Werner Herzog’s acclaimed documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do. This remarkable and oddly touching visual odyssey through the 32,000-year-old Chauvet Cave in southern France was one of the more memorable experiences I’ve had in awhile (I don’t get out much these days). Over the course of 90 minutes, Herzog and his crew traverse roughly 1,300 feet of subterranean wonderland and, in the process, reveal some of the earliest human paintings ever discovered. Their findings are punctuated by conversations with experts who have made it their life’s work to try and figure out where this art came from and what its purpose could have been. If you dig animals, as I do, the paintings are pretty great. But even if you’re more of a Rothko fan you can still step back and marvel at the fact that people have been around forever and have made lots of cool shit during that time. That’s what got to me most about this film — the way in which it manages to take the whole human narrative, mold it into a gigantic hand and then slap you clear across the face with a cold dose of historical perspective. I damn near cried, and I haven’t really done that since Lauryn Hill’s final solo in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.
Anyway, what does this have to do with generational issues? Well, I started this blog because I needed a place to rabble-rouse, but my other objective was to try and spark a conversation about our particular place in history. I often like to believe, as I think we all do at one point or another, that my own story is remarkable in some way, but yesterday Herzog helped me to refine my stance. As I exited the theatre and stepped out into the lambent afternoon sunlight, I felt inspired and amazed, but I was surprised — pleasantly, I might add — to also feel a strong pang of humility. In our modern culture, which has been so highly specialized by thousands of years of human ingenuity, we can’t help but convince ourselves that our independent realities are the beginning and end of all existence. “Surely this has never happened to anybody before!” Well, obvious examples aside, it probably has, and it will again, unless of course Michele Bachmann is allowed anywhere near the White House.
As my last post discussed in some measure, this tendency toward “me-ness” is rather strong among people in our group. As most of us were being thrown into the murky waters of puberty, something else was changing, too — the world! Yes, the tech age was really starting to gain forward momentum, and by the time we were in our teens many of us had a computer in our rooms and a cell phone pressed against our acne-ridden faces. And thus began a very interesting social metamorphosis: As we were presented with more and more ways to relate to one another, rifts began to form between us until every young man and woman became an island. The other ingredient in this recipe was the self-actualizing rhetoric often showered upon us by parents, teachers and the occasional dirty old man/cougar, which I also alluded to in Wednesday’s rant (the rhetoric, that is). The ubiquity of email and the advent of social media have exacerbated this phenomenon even further, to the point where I’m almost afraid to leave the house. Mostly I just blame Zuckerberg.
Obviously these things are both good and bad, and the degree to which either is true is a matter of personal preference. For my part, I mostly champion human progress (where would we be without it?). But lately I’ve started to wonder if we’re too isolated from one another. A close friend and I had a series of discussions not long ago in which we both called for a “return to basics,” but what would that mean in a world of nearly limitless options, and is such a movement even possible now that our society is so highly nuanced? With the exception of some wardrobe choices and access to laser hair removal, the humans who adorned the walls of Chauvet Cave more than 30,000 years ago were essentially the same as we are, and they left an indelible mark on the landscape just as we are doing right now. Even though they beautified their environment while we persist in destroying ours, the fact remains that in the vast ocean of human experience we are all but raindrops … or … whatever.
And yet in spite of this, we all manage to press on in our own individual ways, which I think is kind of incredible. The advantages that our generation has enjoyed, technological and otherwise, have predisposed us to a high level of understanding about our world and the opportunities we have to shape and improve it. I just hope that the pendulum hasn’t swung too far in one direction, and that we don’t reach a point where we completely abandon our sense of community. As this planet continues to change — like it always has and always will — can we succeed in asserting our collective identity as effectively as our own? Only time will tell, but in another 30,000 years none of this will matter anyway.