I’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky / and the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill
U2 ~ One Tree Hill (1987)
Photograph ~ Jason Natzke (2007)
I’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky / and the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill
U2 ~ One Tree Hill (1987)
Photograph ~ Jason Natzke (2007)
So this piece might need some prefacing. Everyday at work, I make a goal to write over 1,000 words to keep my brain stimulated and my creative soul active. Sometimes what comes out sticks, other times it doesn’t. With that being said, I’m beginning to find that creative expression is our greatest weapon for survival. The bottom line is that whether the creation is quality or not, at least we had the courage to create something while using our own distinctive and artistic voice. Below is an example of what can come out of my “Daily Open Threads” at work. I hope you enjoy it. And if you don’t that’s more than ok too. At least you took the time to read it. And I thank you for that. :)
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Close your eyes and picture yourself in an international airport terminal. The smell is a lethal concoction of recycled air conditioning, imported fast food and pollution from the runway that seeps through the revolving gate doors. The loudspeaker is constantly blaring announcements in languages you don’t even understand. First, it’s English, then Spanish, followed by French; the rest is a blur, a slew of Asian languages that just sound the same, like one long and confusing speech. Soon, it all becomes white noise as the loudspeaker plays second fiddle to the chatter coming from the people surrounding you. They are hustling, they are bustling; the terminal is constantly in motion. You see a wide array of cultures: large Middle Eastern families, young European couples and people just like you, the solitary traveler. You’re the one searching for answers, hoping that solace lies in a foreign land, far across the ocean. You long for connection, to talk to someone, but you are the one who decided to travel alone. You brought this upon yourself.
You feel the rush of warm air on your face as people race past you, hurrying to catch their flight. You see a small child playing on a luggage cart while his mother talks frantically to a ticket agent. You look up and see that a tiny sparrow has made it into the building, surveying the vast vortex of people. You wonder what the bird’s point of view is like, high above you. Do people look like tiny ants? Wait, they can’t look like ants because ants always travel in a well-defined line, as a team. They have an order, a system to their movement. This is a cluster-fuck of ants. Everyone is sprawled out in different directions, yet they are all so close together. They think they have a sense of direction; only they really don’t have a sense at all. A man walks by and you catch his eye for a bit. The moment lasts for merely a second. He is are gazing into your soul, so you look away. You just shared something, but therein lies the irony. You will never see this person again in your life. You experience a strong feeling of disconnect. Is the little boy still playing on the luggage cart? You watch his youthful exuberance, his unprecedented excitement and curiosity for his surroundings. What will the rest of his life be like? Will he remember being in this airport terminal? What will happen to him? You look up and the sparrow is gone. It decided that this terminal was too much to handle. Good for the bird…that was a smart choice.
Your eyes fall to the massive electronic flight-list board and watch as everything is moved up a line after a plane recently departs. Just like the person you exchanged a glance with: it’s gone, and another flight is added, replacing the one before it. It’s constant movement and constant motion that never stops. You feel the desire to eat. Are you hungry, or just bored? Perhaps you are just looking for some reason to connect with something or someone. In order to get the food, you have to talk to someone. See, the thing is that even though there are hundreds, no thousands of people here in this terminal, hardly any of them are actually communicating. Yes, you see conversations between airport personnel and weary travelers, but that’s about it…no deep connections being forged, just precautionary, polite exchanges, nothing more. In all actuality, everyone is keeping to himself or herself. What an interesting idea. We are all heading in different directions, why not take the time to meet some new people and create some new relationships? You have the answer…because it takes a leap of faith to talk to a total stranger, to make a connection. You have to step outside your comfort zone to do it. It’s too big of a challenge. It’s a hell of a lot easier to stay inside your hole than to climb out of it and connect with someone. But hey, isn’t connection what we are all chasing in this life? To actually feel something with someone else?
Just as this thought passes through your brain, you see her standing there, looking up at the flight board and then back down at a piece of paper in her hand. Holy shit. Calling her beautiful would be a terrible understatement; the word isn’t even in the same league as her. Transcendent is more like it. She looks like she could be French, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Her light brown hair is in a tight bun, with a few bangs hanging down across her flawless face. She wears a tan button-up coat and leans on a compact, wheelie suitcase. She’s traveling light, just as you are. There is something about her. She looks just as lost as you feel. And so you feel the burning desire to make that leap. You should go talk to her. You have to. It’s as if someone put “Pop Rocks” in your intestines. You are about to summon the courage to make the jump.
But you don’t. You sit there frozen solid, buried up to your throat in your filth, your fear, and your hurt. The “Pop-Rocks” have now transformed into cinderblocks. You can’t move. You’ve slithered back within. And so you watch her turn away from the flight board and disappear into the sea of people. Her brown hair and tan coat are now a part of the blurred mass. She’s gone. And you hate yourself for not doing anything. You can’t escape the shame.
An hour passes as you stare off into the distance, thinking about what you should have done. You’re such a waste. A loser. An embarrassment. So you board your flight in humiliation, wondering about the missed opportunity. You barely have the courage to smile at the stewardess. But wait. You start to think logically. If you did go up and talk to her, what would have happened beyond that? You are just two fish, passing by in the open sea, headed to different, distant reefs. You probably had nothing in common anyway. Or she was flying to meet her boyfriend. Or husband. Whatever. Oh well. You don’t need her. It wouldn’t have been worth the leap anyway.
You sit down in your seat, trying to get comfortable and prepared for the protracted, arduous, transatlantic flight. You put a melancholy song on your iPod, the moody kind you used to play on repeat during your walks home from school. You take off your shoes and wrap a blanket around your feet to contain the smell. It’s a long flight; comfort is of the utmost importance. You’re hoping the empty seat next to you stays that way, so you can stretch out. In all honesty, that’s not why you hope it’s empty. You want to be alone; you want to stay in the comfort zone of your filthy hole. It may be cold, dark, damp and lonely there, but at least its familiar. You can hear the annoying boarding announcements over your sappy song, just like the ones in the terminal: English, Spanish, French, then you’re lost. You turn your iPod up louder.
Just as you are beginning to drift off into a pre-flight sleep, you are greeted by a confident and polite “Excuse me.” Shit. It’s the flight attendant asking you to turn off your music. C’mon lady, what difference does it make anyway? A tiny little device can’t matter that much to the trajectory or the plane. Oh fuck…it’s probably not the music. Someone needs to sit in the seat next to you. You have nowhere to hide. Your iPod surely won’t last the 16-hour flight. Damnit…you’ll have to connect with someone. You kick the blanket beneath your seat, unbuckle the finicky belt and stand. You look, and it’s her. It’s all standing right in front of you: the brown hair in the tight bun, the tan, button-up coat, the wheelie suitcase and the deep, piercing amber eyes. She smiles and it lights you up. The “Pop-Rocks” are back with a vengeance. A ladder has just been thrown down into your hole; maybe you’ve found a way out. The choice is yours. What do you do?
(Copyright 2012 ~ Jason Natzke)
I have some fantastic news! My 2011 short film Fixative was just accepted to the “National Film Festival For Talented Youth”! The festival will take place in Seattle, Washington from April 27th to the 29th.
I wanted to take the time and thank everyone who was involved in the making of the film, from the talented cast and crew who helped bring the script to life, my professors who gave me honest feedback that made me work harder, to my family and friends who provided encouragement and support when I needed it most. A big THANK YOU to everyone, as its acceptance to this festival would not have been possible without you. I owe it all to you!
For those of you who haven’t seen the film, I am waiting to post it online until after it premieres in Seattle, to stay within the compliance of the NFFTY rules. I will of course be blogging about the experience in Seattle, so hope on board for the journey if you want. This is just the beginning.
In my opinion, the best stories are the ones that ask some of the deepest, most challenging questions, but give the audience permission to discover their own idiosyncratic answers.
One But Not The Same
Just for a moment, place yourself in a difficult position. You have just been informed that you only have ten minutes left before you go deaf. That means you have literally nine minutes and fifty-five seconds, wait; now nine minutes and fifty-four; before it’s all gone. What do you do with your time left? Do you frantically search for your most beloved sound? Do you clamor for the voice of your dearest loved one? Do you put on your favorite song? Whatever you choose to do with your remaining nine minutes and now thirty-eight seconds of hearing, choose wisely, because there is no going back. Music has always been an integral part of my life, a constant safety net to fall back into. There always seems to be a song that best encapsulates the specific mood that I am in or the emotion that I desire to feel at a particular moment. If was to go deaf in what would be now just a little over nine minutes, I would turn on the song that would make the loss of hearing at least a tolerable transition: U2’s One.
I’m sure a lot has been written about this classic song, particularly about how it saved the band itself from breaking up. However, I would like to state that I am not here to break down every lyric of the song and analyze them from beginning to end. In fact, that is the last thing that I would want to do. To me, One is a beautiful mystery that I feel deserves to stay that way. I doubt if I will ever be able to truly articulate what the song means to me. Maybe one day I’ll be able to explain it clearer than what is written below. Then again, maybe it’s something that is better off staying unexplained. Either way, here is my attempt.
It cannot be ignored that the song carries a heavy emotional weight. I have had the gift of hearing One in concert three times now, and each time it has moved me beyond words. At its heart, some claim it’s a bitter love song. I believe that the lyrics can be interpreted that way. Bono sings as if he just reached the acrid end of a relationship: Did I ask too much? / More than a lot? / You gave me nothing now it’s all I got. Let’s face it, we can all relate to that difficult moment when we realize that the person we thought lit us up inside turns out to be the very opposite; a killer of that flame. But I think the lyric is much deeper than that: You say, love is a temple / love the higher law. Bono is yearning for something that may be undefinable. Maybe he is chasing love itself. He is putting it up on a high pedestal, referring to it as a temple. However, it is love that put him in this bitter place to begin with, as seen in the lines that follow: you ask me to enter / then you make me crawl / but I can’t keep holding on / to what you’ve got / when all you got is hurt. Therein lies the difficulty of love. It is a smoldering bonfire, often uncontainable and dangerous, but a certain beautiful wonder to behold. If someone out there has the answer to containing this raging fire, I’m sure there are millions of people that would love to know, including yours truly.
The true beauty of the song is that it can have so many different meanings to different people. It is a song that can transform itself into something that you need to hear at that particular moment in your life. People hear what they want to hear in the song, and that perhaps is its true power. I’ve heard Bono say that it could be about a gay man coming out to his father. It could be about the bitter end of relationship, as stated above. I have also heard it be referred to as a song that preaches world unity. But I see it as a song that simply is an expression of emotion in is purest form; a singer yearning for something greater than himself. I hear my own soul in Bono’s voice, searching for surrender, chasing catharsis. That’s what the song means to me: it gives me permission to feel something.
I hear the sound of four men transcending what ails them, rising above the fear and hurt that stands in their way of self-actualization. If you need proof that music can make a difference in someone’s life, just watch the video above. It’s as if Bono is singing for all of us. His vulnerability gives us permission to feel the same. The emotional crescendo towards the end of the song provides the gift of hope and renewal. The singer releases all of his guilt, shame and venomous anger and encourages us to follow him along the path to a heavenly paradise: Hear us coming lord, hear us call / hear us knocking / we’re knocking at your door. It’s as if he is announcing his arrival to a place where fear and pain do not exist and we are right there with him. He is surrendering to it all, giving himself away to emotion in its purest form. In the video, as the band marches on towards release, Bono turns to his band mates and encourages them to reach that special place. It’s almost if they are nodding in agreement.
In the end, I see Bono move into a space of forgiveness, even if the subject of forgiveness is shrouded in ambiguity. One love / One blood / One life you got to do what you should / One life, with each other / my sisters, my brothers / One life, but we’re not the same / we get to carry each other / carry each other / One. This is true power of the lyrics: the seemingly personal has now become universal. What started off a bitter farewell to a fallen relationship has now morphed into something much more; the singer is rising above what has hurt him to see the world on a greater level, from a better perspective. We get to carry each other, rather than need to. Carrying each other is a privilege and one that should be cherished. What an incredible concept.
Just like the lyric at the core of the song, the interpretations are one but not the same. But therein lies the song’s power as a work of art. What one person hears could be the complete opposite of that of another, but the connecting force between the two is that they actually felt something. Maybe someone else out there feels what I feel when I hear the triumphant guitar solo towards the conclusion of the song: transcendence. What a gift. I think I chose the right band…or maybe the right band chose me. Either way, I am incredibly thankful.
(Copyright 2012 ~ Jason Natzke)
So the following is something that has been rolling around in my brain for a while now and I finally felt the need to put it all into words. Earlier in the week, I read an article about US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who murdered 17 Afghan civilians, including women and nine children while they slept at night. I guess something snapped inside of him, and he left his base early in morning and committed massacre. Upon reading this, I felt nothing but burning hate and sordid anger towards the individual responsible. And the story doesn’t even relate to me at all! Members of my family weren’t killed; in all actuality the story shouldn’t affect me at all, but it certainly did. I told myself “I don’t want to feel this way anymore.” But I was at a loss on how to achieve separation from the story and its subsequent emotions.
A day or so passed and the story was still with me. I thought about what the families of the murdered were going through and how much hurt and seething rage they must be feeling. How could they ever forgive Staff Sgt. Bales for the terrible crimes he committed? I was out and about when that thought hit me, and I stopped dead in my tracks. There was the key word: forgive. We can get ultimately buried up to our neck in resentment and hate towards other people, judging themselves for what they do and how it makes us feel. The anger inside of us will only fester and cultivate. That energy feeds off of us spending time surrounded by it. But the only way to escape the hurtful filth that threatens to dominate the very core our being is to forgive.
I have always associated the concept of forgiveness with one individual, and no, this is not about to turn into a religious piece about some popular Jewish carpenter. In my lifetime, the human embodiment of forgiveness has been Nelson Mandela. His story is both a fascinating and beautiful one and if you are unaware of what this man has done for his people in the name of equality, I encourage you to look it up. But for now, I will attempt to briefly describe what this amazing man has achieved.
Mandela served as President of South Africa form 1994 to 1999 and was the first leader of the country to be voted into office from a fully representative democratic election. To be more direct, he was the first President of South Africa to be elected that did not support and/or facilitate the apartheid and unjust treatment towards the native people of his country. First of all, it is disturbing that it took until 1994 for apartheid to end. Secondly, Mandela was arrested in August of 1962 for being a leader of an apartheid resistance and spent the next 27 years in prison. Let me repeat: Mandela spent 27 years in jail for refusing to settle for inequality; for believing that his people deserved better than oppression. Just for a moment, thing about if you had to spend 27 years in jail for something that you not only believed in, but for something that should be provided outright. What kind of emotions would you feel? I know that unequivocal hate and resentment would begin to define me. Nelson Mandela could have chosen to be consumed by his anger towards the people who kept him in prison for 27 years but instead moved into forgiveness. It became his liberation, so to speak. Maybe he was on to something.
There are often days where I feel like there is a massive weight on my shoulders; a heavy cloud of negative energy that I don’t even know how to properly describe. In fact, I don’t even know where it really comes from, as I’ve been blessed to have lived a life devoid of hurtful moments and situations. But I sometimes feel a burden of some sort. The only way I feel I can move through that elongated darkness is to forgive. I often feel that I cannot overcome it; the only way to feel better is move through it. What if the concept of forgiveness was the underlying theme of how we lived our lives, rather than fear? Think of how beautiful the world would be; and simply how good we would feel? I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount of violence and destruction we see across the globe today would substantially decrease with choosing to live a life of forgiveness.
Ok, so if you’ve made it this far through my rambling, so you comprehend what I am trying to say, at least on some level. I find that the most difficult part about forgiveness is actually doing it. Sure it can be easy to say that you are going to forgive someone or something, but how do you go about making it really happen? I don’t think I have the answer to that…I am still searching for the easiest way to reach that point of forgiveness. But think back to when you were a child. Remember that time when you were running around in the backyard with your friend and suddenly something drastic happened? You are fighting with your plastic lightsabers and your friend swings too hard and the plastic tube smacks you square in the face. It stings like a motherfucker; your eyes begin to water and soon the water morphs into salty tears. You wail in distress as your mother comes out from inside the house to see what all the fuss is about. You come running into your mother’s arms as she inspects the damage, which is minimal. Your nose isn’t broken, your eye isn’t poked out, you aren’t paralyzed. To be honest, it’s really not that bad. What made you wail like a dying cat? Was it the physical pain? Or the fact that you had just been running around in complete joy with someone and all of a sudden, the person you were sharing the joy with becomes the deliverer of pain and hurt?
And so your mother does what a parent should do: she gives you the love and tenderness that you need at that particular moment. She wipes your tears away and embraces you. She tells you it’s all going to be ok. She creates a safe emotional space for you and when your friend apologizes for smacking you square in the face with his Darth Maul, dual-red lightsaber, you forgive him. You accept his apology and as quickly as the pain had arrived, it is gone. You hop out of your mother’s arms, grab your lightsaber and the games begin again. The raw and untouchable joy is back and the adventure continues.
So this brings me to the important question: Why is it so easy for a child to forgive, but so difficult for an adult to? What made it so possible for the child to forgive his buddy so quickly for the lightsaber incident? If an adult is wronged, if the equivalent of that situation happens to us when we are older, why is it so difficult to move into that space of forgiveness? Maybe it now becomes our responsibility, no longer our mother’s, to move ourselves into that correct emotional space that is required to forgive. However, it just might take a little more work for us than it did for our mother. It’s a process…it is no longer easy to just rise above the hurt in the span of a few minutes, but rather it takes us time. It is idea of moving through the pain via the vessel of forgiveness. It is the ship in which we climb aboard to cross the deep, perilous ocean of hurt and pain. So, the next time you feel yourself being buried alive by the weight of your own hurt, the visceral resentment you direct towards something, or someone, just think back to when you felt wrong as a child. Think back to getting smacked right between the eyes by a plastic lightsaber. In the grand scheme of your life, the lightsaber didn’t really matter, nor did it mean anything besides what had happened. You got hit in the face…that’s all that happened. You were far too young to put any meaning behind the incident; you didn’t think “oh he hit me in the face because he thinks I’m ugly. If my friend thinks I’m ugly, it must be true! I am ugly!” Now that may be an exaggerated expression, but the bottom line is that no meaning was attached to the lightsaber incident. And if the situation carried no intense meaning, that was the first step towards forgiveness. Above all else, the most important stepping-stone towards forgiveness was the beautiful energetic space of love that your mother created for you. It is now up to us to move into that space.
With that being said, I do not believe that anyone has the direct and explicit answer on how to snap into “forgiveness mode”, not even someone as special as Nelson Mandela. It’s not that he was more talented at forgiving than us, but rather spent more time creating that emotional space of love for himself, which thus made the forgiveness process more fluid, in addition to more rewarding.
Not only is forgiveness a mountain that is seemingly difficult to summit, it takes an incredible amount of courage to push through the negative space. The weight of the pain can certainly be overwhelming and by no means is it easy to cast aside the burden. But the first step of moving through it is recognizing the amount of courage it takes to make such a mature decision, and simply fill your soul up with love; admire and recognize your own courage. Difficult situations like the one surrounding those affected by the actions of Sgt. Bales may be terrible to deal with, but perhaps they simply provide us with the opportunity to move through the pain by means of forgiveness.
As I sit here right now, I am committing to myself to spend more time in the energy of forgiveness. I don’t want to feel the burden anymore. I don’t want to feel the slime of the hurt, the burning embers of the pain inside. I want to move through it, just as I wish that the same for those who have real reasons to be filled with hurt. And just as we can learn from the great Mandela, maybe we can take a few pointers from that six-year-old boy, the one who got smacked right between the eyes with a plastic lightsaber. Let us just forgive, for the sake of forgiving. Maybe that is how the healing can begin.
(Copyright 2012 ~ Jason Natzke)
One of my short films that I made at Santa Fe University of Art and Design (formally the College of Santa Fe). A special thanks to everyone that was involved. The film was selected for Santa Fe University’s “End of Year Jury Show”, highlighting the best student work from the 2008-2009 Academic Year.
One of my short films made at Santa Fe University of Art and Design (formally the College of Santa Fe). Roughin’ It was selected for the Moving Image Department’s “End of Year Jury Show”, highlighting the best student work from the 2008-2009 academic year.
There is an eerie silence that surrounds an icy-blue lake, a place blanketed by a thick, steely fog. You squint your eyes in attempt to see through the heavy mist but begin to wonder if your eyes are even open at all. Are you blind? You frantically search for something to see in front of you and thankfully, you finally see the outline a large stepping-stone directly in front you. It’s time to move across. You extend your leg and lean forward, your trembling foot landing perfectly on the rock. You then engage in a dangerous balancing act, as you move your other foot from the previous rock onto the new one, but not without nearly falling into the icy water. It was too close of a call. You take a moment to regain your composure and exhale. You are ready for the next rock. You look around for it, but can’t see it through the fog; you’re blind again. You look in the direction you came from, only to realize that your previous little island has disappeared. You begin to panic. What should you do? Perhaps the better question is “what can you do?” There is nothing to see other than the steely gray fog in all directions. You are completely surrounded and have no feasible means to get to shore. But wait, does the shore even exist? It has to, right?
The panic moves from your stomach to your chest. Your breathing becomes frantic and contracted. It suddenly feels a lot colder than it really is. You close your eyes and pray for a way out. You desperately need to get back on course. You had a specific plan to get across the lake; you cannot fathom the thought of deviating from it. If you can’t cross the lake the way you are supposed to, you are a failure. You will have missed your great chance; your big break. If you didn’t reach the other side of the shore, it would all be over. Done.
You open your eyes, hoping the fog had blown over. It is still as thick as before. You have no sense of direction. This is the beginning of the end; you’re preparing for the end of your road. There is no use continuing if you can’t see where you are going. You solemnly start to prepare yourself to jump into the icy lake, knowing full well that it will mean the end. The cold will be too much; it will suck all of the oxygen from your body, leaving you as a lifeless, porcelain corpse. It has to be done…there is no use continuing the journey. You tell yourself that you are going to end it, here and now, leave this world as a failure and a coward. You try to think of something beautiful to stick in your mind as your final memory, but nothing is coming up. You bend your knees in preparation for the jump. It’s time.
Just as you are about end your journey, you see the outline of something through the fog. What is it? It looks as if it is moving, gliding and circling above the water, but you cannot define its shape. Suddenly, it starts to move towards you; it gets closer and closer as the seconds tick by. And then, just before it reaches your tiny island of sorrow, the shape becomes as clear as the panic you had inside of you, just moments before. A majestic eagle floats through the fog in front of you; the brown spots on its white wings are tiny freckles of power. The eagle glides up, down and around you, circling through the air as if there was a heavy amount of wind, but you feel nothing on your bare skin. The eagle floats directly in front of you now and for the first time you catch its piercing eyes. You look deep inside of them and feel a distinctive sense of comfort and relief, something you haven’t felt in long time. You see an entire galaxy of solace and serenity. Time seems to stop as hope has returned.
Suddenly, the eagle leans backwards, points its beak towards the sky and moves up and away from you. It surrenders to the wind; you see the eagle let it all go. It is making the choice to give it all up to the wind. As you watch it float farther and farther away, you realize what you have to do. You have to surrender. It is now your turn to release it all. You spread your arms and you finally feel what you have been ignoring. There it is: the beautiful, mighty and elegant wind. It is there to guide you to the next stepping-stone in the middle of the massive lake, through the once-impenetrable fog. You close your eyes and smile as you release all your fear, your doubt, your weight, your burden. All of the weight slides off your soul and down into the lake below you. You are now as light as the eagle that came and showed you the way. You spread your arms and float through the fog, on the heels of the wind, towards your destination. The air is no longer frigid, but rather a comfortable warmth. You open your eyes to see yourself standing on a new stone in the middle of the lake. This one is larger and has more of a solid foundation. Knowledge and serenity have replaced fear and judgment as companions on your journey. You know what you have to do. You close your eyes once more and give it all up to the wind. You know you will reach the other side of the lake someday, but you are beginning to think that you are enjoying the voyage more than you would enjoy the other side. The eagle floats by you once more. The journey begins again and so do you.
(Copyright 2012 ~ Jason Natzke)