Thrill of the Chase

My grandfather's old army outfit. You can see him on the bottom row, second from the right. This hangs over a bookshelf in my room.

I hate writing research papers.  It’s tedious, there’s an unstated expectation for the verbiage to be high and lofty, I can’t use the phrase “high and lofty,” and my proclivity to use the Oxford comma is looked upon with suspicion and disdain.

However, I love research.  My inner journalist loves the thrill of finding new information and putting it to constructive use.  I love it when Google Books turns up an obscure gem from an hundred years ago.  I love it when reading source material which spawned plays and films yields a rich and diverse crop of expanded thoughts and ideas.  I love how the preliminary process of compiling a codex of bibliography is always a good excuse to turn on a few episodes of Frasier while I browse databases and mark down the resources to which I will return.

I have also become enamored with oral history projects.  Interviews.  Storytelling.  There is a certain magic that happens when someone lets down their guard and freely shares memories and stories with people who, wonder of wonders, actually give a damn about things they went through years ago.  A moment is shared and, for a brief moment, a group of individuals can experience the oral tradition of pure storytelling.  The raw power of the spoken word should make us tingle in the marrow; the ability to form and use words to pass on stories and experiences is hardwired into our DNA.  The cave paintings in Lascaux don’t exist in a vacuum.  The absence of written words should not be equated with the absence of narrative and experience.

When one takes into account the innumerable events which every individual in the world experiences on a daily basis, then considers just how few of them are written down in their entirety, it is almost startling just how little will be remembered from individuals’ lives if people don’t talk to each other and share their recollections.  This is one reason I am striving to find my way to a career in documentary filmmaking.  I regret so much that I didn’t spend more time with my grandparents before they passed.  There were always moments; like sudden flashes of lightening, when conversations following a family meal would finally veer away from the present, and stories (often hilarious vignettes from my family’s Deep South heritage), would be shared.  I miss those people, and now that I am older and have enough perspective to fully appreciate what they were sharing, I miss those times more every year.

I often get the feeling that the rest of my life is going to be one long mea culpa for not spending more time listening to the departed.

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