01 September 2017

Never a True Story . . . Always a True Story

Today was the first spin in September and the last spin of summer. Monday is Labor Day and the school year begins with classes on Wednesday. Instructor Jason declared this particular spin playlist a Riders Choice and I submitted my choices: Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life” and the Talking Heads “Wild, Wild Life.” The latter is part of the soundtrack for the movie True Stories, a film directed by
David Byrne and that features the music of the group.
     I saw the film when it was released in October, 1986.  I was 39 years old. I took my four-year-old nephew who was staying with me for reasons to complicated to explain here to see the film soon after. Well, in reality (an ironic term really) I am very confused about the exact dates and I know I am conflating and distorting time in this narration. I also can’t quite recall what motivated me to take him to this film as opposed to what must have been an at-the-time current Disney production, but my intention might have had something to do with the philosophical ironic stance the film assumed and which somehow, I had adopted for my life. But perhaps that is another true story. True Stories depicts true life stories that either call into question their truthfulness, or else suggest there is more to the story than can be told: as if there is more truth to be told. Irony means that there is not an objective reality behind my words, my words contain nothing, and certainly not my full meaning that I can’t know myself. Irony means that there is more meaning than my words intend. To take an ironic stance is to acknowledge this gap. Peggy Lee almost expresses the ironic stance when she asks, “Is that all there is?” But the ironist answers, “No. There is always more.” In this way irony offers hope and even transcendence: there is always more to come and therefore, hope for the future. Though irony also acknowledges that we must be less than complete and thus, subject to the ridiculous and the absurd. We often act ridiculous and absurd. And since we can never fully achieve any sense of control or knowledge, we are subject to a power beyond our control. We know very little; we make mistakes. We might learn from our mistakes today, but tomorrow we will without doubt make mistakes. I would like to speak the truth but the best I can do is speak truthfully.
     So, there I was with a four-year-old screening (again) this rather strange film. Roger Ebert writes, “There are more than 50 sets of twins in David Byrne's "True Stories," I learned by studying the press notes, and perhaps we should pause here for a moment to meditate upon that fact. A hundred twins are not going to make or break a movie, and the average audience is not going to notice more than a fraction of them . . . Consider the state of mind of the person who decided the film should have 50 sets of twins.” Consider the effect Byrne’s state of mind might have on a four-year-old! And I might have snuck in a toke or three before the film itself!
     But years later this no longer four-year-old declared that seeing that film that so bewildered him at the time, that at the time to him meant nothing, had come to figure significantly in his life! The ironist I am only could respond, “Go figure!”
     I say this because my musical choice for this morning’s spin of “Wild, Wild Life” reminded me how little idea we actually have of the effect of our actions, or as Isaiah Berlin writes that we cannot know the consequences of the consequences of our consequences. This before I go Wednesday into the classroom.


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