Sunday, September 30, 2012

"The Red Violin"

Last night, at the suggestion of a friend, I watched "The Red Violin," a 1998 Canadian movie that critic Roger Ebert described as "heedlessly ambitious," a phrase I like even if I'm not sure exactly what it means. The movie (sort of) tells the tale of a 17th century violin -- its travels, its owners, and (again, sort of) its power. It's an imperfect tale with some wonderful costumes and cinematography.

I do admire those who tell a simple story -- just a story without excuses or 'symbolism' -- and offer an opening to exaltation or exultation... reaching for an 'it' that, were it reached, would turn to dust ... an 'it' in which only a fool would exult or try to exalt. I am a sucker for exultation ... ashamed and yet swept up without a blush: Take me, I'm yours! I don't care what 'it' is: Like anyone else, I just know something and 'it' is a good (or bad) a word as any.

Willa Cather, Isak Dinesen, Leo Tolstoy, Ursula LeGuin, Thornton Wilder, a now and then, Charles Williams ... "heedlessly ambitious" ... with the courage attributed to the testicles of a brass monkey ... complete assholes, just like me. And it has nothing to do with being a 'great artist.' The easy merriment of 'it' is no man's prerogative, no woman's exultation... in victory or defeat, still, this morning, a squirrel loped across the dampened street bearing a "heedlessly ambitious" pulp-encrusted nut in its mouth.

Also this morning, a woman is coming to the zendo ... or anyway that's what the email said. She gave no clue as to motivation or intent, but I have been around the block often enough to make some uninsistent guesses. Death, disease, drugs, divorce and delight ... some alliterative shorthand for possibilities that never fit the individuals precisely, but for all that are probably pretty close to the mark.

I remember my Zen teacher's crabbiness once and sympathize with its lash: It cranked him out that students did not clean the zendo and that he was left to do it. This morning, I will go out and vacuum and dust the zendo and I am getting to old for this shit. I ache in various ways and get tired out by exercises that once were of no physical importance. Nevertheless, I will do these chores and put on my robe (bleah!) as a false indicator of a false 'it' ... but nevertheless a bit of advertising that may inspire some heedless ambition.

I grump and cuss within, but who knows, maybe this woman will bring her red violin ... and will play ... and we will dance.

I love the heedless ambition of music.

And 'it' doesn't mind.

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