Search

J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

Tag

culture

So, back in February, before the whole quarantine happened…….

……I went to the movies, hoping a little cinematic entertainment would be just the ticket to stop over-thinking (it usually does the trick).

While standing in line, I engaged in conversation with the two couples standing in line ahead of me. The four of them were going to see The Invisible Man, starring Elizabeth Moss of A Handmaid’s Tale (the film is a great twist on the HG Wells classic novel).  I was planning to indulge my inner nerd and see Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (it was a fun romp – Margot Robbie kicks ass, as do her fantabulous cast-mates).

As we talked, I noted on the marquee that Parasite (2019) was also playing, but at a much later time than was convenient for me.  An older couple behind me went into a tirade about how awful it was, that it should have just gotten best Foreign Film, that they didn’t get understand any of it and that – get this – it had SUBTITLES.

“It’s from South Korea,” I said, thinking I had just stepped into some kind of Twilight Zone alter-verse.  I mean, what were they expecting from a foreign film?  Badly dubbed English?  They waved aside the nationality of the film and continued to snark.

And all I could think was, “Wow, what a missed opportunity.  They had gone to see a film set in a culture and country that operates on a completely different system of beliefs, ideas and views than ours.  And all they got out of it was that they had to READ.  It offended them on some level that they were expected to engage their minds, instead of being fed mindless entertainment that is pre-designed to push specific emotional buttons.”

I turned away mid-snark, unwilling to even point out that foreign films are a way to experience that which is unfamiliar to us, much like fiction allows us to inhabit the lives of those who are different from us.

The arts are supposed to push our minds out of the comfort zone and see the bigger picture that lies before us, either by speculating about how technology (medicine, mechanical) may come to pass or by reflecting what is, as Parasite (2019) did – class conflict, social inequality and wealth disparity.

Mary Shelley (essentially the mother of modern science fiction), HG Welles and Jules Verne took what they saw before them and speculated on what might be.  Director Bong Joon-ho (who co-wrote the script with Han Jin-wan) took what he saw before him and reflected it back to his country specifically and to the world at large.

English is not the only spoken language in America (the oldest languages spoken here belong to the First Nations, if they survive at all, thanks to white colonialism), nor is it the only language spoken in the world.  In other countries, one is expected to not only be fluent in their native tongue, but to also have at least a solid grasp of more than one non-native language (English being one of them).

It would behoove the American people to get their collective heads out of the bubble they seem to believe we live in and realize we are not an isolated nation (though that seems to fast becoming a reality).   Learning another language is not only good for the brain, but it shows interest in something utterly foreign to us – the language is not separate from the country it originates from.  By learning another language, we open the door to a world we would not normally see – from music and literature, to art and cinema, adding a language that is new to you will only enrich your life as it is.

Unfortunately, few see it as what it really is  – a ticket to parts unknown and a gift.

So, one of the things I like to do is travel……

…….and it’s something I try to do as often as possible, just to recharge my creative spirit. I have a few favorite haunts that I travel to, such as Morro Bay or Long Beach (both in California), and they have that vibe that resonates and makes me feel refreshed. But I often think about places that are further away, like Romania or Egypt or Greece. These places fire my imagination with their histories, their cultures, their mythologies.

Early morning in Morro Bay
Early morning in Morro Bay

I’m not suggesting that in order to write, you must travel and experience different lives and customs, but it helps. If traveling is not in your budget, then reading about your favorite countries and their people is a definite alternative, as is reading their literature and viewing their films and television shows. It’s not the same, sure, but it’s better than nothing. Who knows, you may end up being inspired to set a goal and put a budget aside for something as exciting and as different as travelling to another country.

In addition to the countries I named above, I’ve always wanted to travel to the countries my ancestors emigrated from (there are eleven, mostly north-western European/Scandinavian, but also from the British Isles). I want to breathe in the air that they grew up in, loved and lived in, to walk the streets they did. It’s a secret fantasy that I’ll find and connect with cousins several times removed. If it happens, no one will be more thrilled than I, but it’s not something I expect to occur.

In any case, the point of travel is to experience life in a place that is not familiar, to interact and learn what it is that is the same, as well as what is different. As an artist of any type, whether of the written word or of canvas or music, travel will enrich your soul and mind, which will then translate itself into whatever creative work you’re planning. Get a passport, even if it takes nine years for you to use it. Buy travel guides and maps and foreign language dictionaries of the countries that fascinate you the most.

Travelling is, when you do it, you leave pieces of yourself behind, but you also take pieces of what you encounter with you.

20150926_152814-1_resized

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑