I have only one New Year’s resolution, and if I’m up to the challenge, I suspect that many other goals, priorities, and areas requiring greater self-discipline will mysteriously fall into line! The personality trait against which I intend to wage war is decidedly more difficult to measure for improvement than one’s spending habits, or surrendering of addictions, but its improvement has far-reaching implications. Once again, a work of art has impressed upon me a truth of which I was already aware–has brought it to the forefront of my mind, so to speak–and incited me to action as only the best films/songs/books can do.
Two weeks ago, I saw a preview screening of “The Artist” with my sister-in-law, and my initial response was luke-warm. My expectations for the film were admittedly quite high (as an avid film fan, I had perhaps read too much praise prior to going into the theatre!) I immediately admired the acting, the cinematography, and the wonderful score, but the story/characters themselves felt hopelessly dated. I enjoyed it purely as an homage to the earlier days of cinema–but wrote it off as somewhat irrelevant to my personal experience.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Michel Hazanavicius has employed the medium of silent film to portray an industry undergoing revolutionary changes and a man who stands in denial of progress because ‘he is an Artist’! He need not TALK to be understood, and feels that no further generosity should be required of him in ‘making way for the young’. In his mind, the era of ‘talkies’ is but a passing phase, and his talent and fame will sustain him beyond a fad that threatens to annihilate the true artistry of cinema. As he brazenly produces films for which there is no longer an audience, and comes to grips with the truth that his appeal has been relegated to older generations of moviegoers, his conclusion mirrors my own: our pride lurks beneath the excuses we offer for our failure to adapt, and ultimately, impedes our growth.
In 2011, we witnessed the fall and/or death of many proud dictators. We continued to weather the after-effects of a financial crisis that analysts now agree could have been avoided if, as a society, we weren’t so intent upon buying with credit and living lavish lifestyles beyond our means. Whether or not you agree with its methods, the ‘Occupy Movement‘ took aim at inequality and corruption–two pervasive social problems that stem from the pursuit of power and the sordid lengths to which many are willing to go in order to preserve the power they possess. It is not my place to pass judgment on anyone involved in such things, or to be so naively idealistic as to suggest that we eradicate pride altogether, and thus, solve all of the world’s problems. I can only examine my own life.
As I do so at the dawn of another new year, I can’t help but identify the missed opportunities, the relationships forfeited, and the stubbornness that has occasionally characterized my decision-making over the past year. Without a doubt, I consider myself to be open-minded, highly motivated to advance my career and serve my family, and sincere in my encounters with others. I’m succeeding in many ways, but am I generous with my time? Do I always follow through with the promises I make? Am I willing to stomach the discomfort and embrace the changes happening around me and in spite of me? In 2012, I am committed to do all that I can to receive the grace and summon the will to act differently when pride comes knocking.
It’s simultaneously humiliating and liberating to publish on a public website such thoughts and admissions concerning my own pride. I guess I feel no shame in revealing to a supportive community that I have weaknesses and I am committed to self-improvement. Is this not really the function of all our annual sharing of ‘resolutions’? We secretly crave accountability and relish the opportunity to step boldly into a new year, declaring our intention to pursue collective and individual growth!
Naturally, we need not surrender who we are in the quest to be better. Be it the ever-evolving medium of film, our habits in our workplaces, our parenting styles, or the ways in which we relate to those we care about most, the old and the new will inevitably co-exist. Hazanavicius’ artist may be correct to assert that it’s not always what we say that counts, but we submit ourselves to folly if, by extension, we choose not to speak at all!