Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hope You Brought A Machete; Verbal Jungle Ahead

I'm gonna be all over the place tonight, and likely overly verbose -- you have been forewarned! Don't feel bad if you don't have the stomach or the patience to wade through it all. I realize you likely have better things to do with your time than to follow me through the underbrush of my mind...

Time to get my ramble on... first, a theological ramble. If theology annoys you, skip down to the video.

So I was walking the hill by my house tonight at sunset, just to get out of the house and get my head together, both for tonight's post and also just for life in general. I had my ipod plugged into my head, and I was listening to Alexander Scourby read through the Psalms in good ol' King James. Took about 15 minutes to walk the top, and then another 15 to walk back down. I love it when I turn around at the top - the view is spectacular, especially at sunset. I wish I'd had my camera.

Anyway, as the walk + psalms + solitude was working it's magic, I listened intently as Psalm 18 was being read. It really is a stirring chapter, full of imagery and strength. But a common refrain got me to thinking. At one point, King David waxes eloquent about his enemies. Up to this point, I was riding along vicariously, trying to tack myself emotionally onto King David as the Lord rent the heavens, came down and saved him, was his rock and fortress, rewarded him for his righteousness, strengthened his hands and taught him to war, etc. But the idea of enemies puzzles me a bit.

I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet... You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes.

And on he goes, about his enemies conspiring against him, and how God thwarted their plans, etc. I wondered if having enemies was part of being a Christian in good standing with God. I tried to think if I had any enemies. I can't think of a single person, in all of my realms of experience, that could be legitimately classified as an enemy. Is that normal? Without naming names, I know people that have grudges and strong antipathies for people - even other people in our church. Is that normal? Do all of you have people that you could actually consider enemies?

Sure, you could spiritualize it and claim the devil is the enemy, and demons, etc. That doesn't seem to be what King David is talking about. You could also spiritualize it by saying the enemies represent things in our personality that need overcoming, but that kind of smacks of narcissism to me. Sure, you could minimize it by saying it applied only to King David, since he was a King and definitely had enemies conspiring for his destruction. But then does the rest of the Psalm only apply to him as well? Sure, you could modernize it by saying "muslim extremists are our enemies, since they want to destroy America/Israel." But is that in any way an apt explanation? If I'm supposed to personalize Psalm 18 and learn about God and His characteristics through the details contained therein, do I skip over the "enemies" parts? I have friends, acquaintances and people who are neutral.

Who are your enemies? If you have a person that you consider your enemy, aren't you supposed to forgive/love them, eh? Is it healthy to have enemies? Should I find some, lol? How am I supposed to love my enemies if I don't have any? Maybe I have some and just don't recognize them as such...

For best results, high-def, full screen. Was driving with wifey the other day, and we watched a pair of hawks gliding on the breeze. She wondered aloud what it would be like to fly like that. I thought of this video. I don't think I could do that "in real life." I'm petrified of heights. Which is probably why I should do it.

So I have some pretty cool news. I didn't want to lead with it, because I'm hesitant to get too excited about it, in case it doesn't end up happening. But I can't keep it to myself anymore...

So, I'm sure most of you recall last year, when I went to a Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Qualifier here at the mall by my house in Escondido -- not to participate, silly! Just to watch it and report on it for this blog. Anyway, you may recall the controversy that arose surrounding my blog post of the results, and the accompanying video footage I posted. If you don't recall, here's the link to the post. Anyway, I really kicked the hornet's nest in the competitive eating world, without realizing it. They still talk about it on the sites, etc., to this day. I'd always wondered if anything would ever come of it. The guy who cheated wasn't disqualified, but his reputation has taken a hit, for better or worse. It's not like I wish ill on the guy or anything. He cheated, got caught, suffered minimal repercussions, life went on.

Or so I thought.

Got an email this past Friday night... from the director of a feature documentary about the world of competitive eating. He was pointed to the blog post I created, and was intrigued enough to contact me. Bottom line is, for whatever reason, he wants to interview me on film regarding the circumstances surrounding that particular event/blog post, for inclusion in the film, no doubt also making use of the video/photos I shot.

O_O  *stunned stare*

I reiterated (rather strongly) in a response to the director that I am a casual fan only, with no claim of knowledge beyond the bare minimum of the industry, but he said he'd like to interview me anyway. He's going to contact me again soon, and then (I assume) I'll drive up to LA. I checked him out, he's legit.

Aside from the fact that it's just flat-out wicked cool to think this might actually happen, most of you who read this blog regularly know it's always been a life goal of mine to appear in a movie, even a small part. I was talking to a friend about this very thing, not two days beforehand, and concluded that the effort required to network and pursue any sort of chance at being in a movie would be so time-consuming, and my attention span so short, that it will likely never happen... unless an opportunity just fell out of the sky.


I'll keep you posted. Again, I hesitate to get too stoked about it, since the opportunity could fall through for any number of reasons. And who knows if it will actually play in theaters, or just go straight to disc, or whatever. I may even just end up decorating the cutting-room floor. Still, it's ridiculously cool to me, even if I'm only on screen for a minute or two.

On a more somber (though still wordy) note, the idea of actually getting to be a quick "talking head" in a relatively-obscure documentary on competitive eating made me think of my old 'method acting' teacher from back in the day. About a decade ago, I took a couple year's of method acting classes here in San Diego, which was a rewarding (though surreal) experience. Today, I decided to look up my former teacher online (Allen Bridgwater), to see what he's up to... and found out he passed away this past February.

Perhaps my greatest acting-related memory stored away in my mental archive has to do with a class of his I took one time.

Allen had taken a few months off from teaching, and was starting the class back up again, with a large group of prospective new student in attendance to audit the class, to see if they wanted to start attending. So there were maybe a dozen people there, maybe more. That was big for his class, which was usually only about 3 or 4 students. Anyway, part of the class was working on monologues for audition purposes (when you audition for a role in a play, you have to have several different monologues polished and ready to perform, so the director/casting folks, etc can see your stuff). The monologues we worked on in class were usually between 2 and 3 minutes long. Being the first class back after a several month break, I didn't have a monologue in progress, so literally the day before, when Allen asked me if I'd perform a monologue before the class as a demonstration of what we do in class, I went out and bought a book of monologues, found one, memorized and tried to perform it for the class.

It was pretty miserable, as you could expect from less than a day's practice.

But I had recently written an Easter play, and had, for my own amusement, pulled a ten minute monologue out of one scene, and had it filed away in my brain. This was well beyond the three minute monologue that was requested, so initially, I didn't even consider it. But after performing the first one (rather poorly), in a fit of enthusiasm, I asked Allen (in front of the whole group) if I could perform a monologue I'd written. He said of course, so I sat and began my ten minute Peter monologue.

And, buddy, I nailed it. I was so in the zone, it wasn't even funny...

When I finished it, Allen asked me "Where... did THAT come from?" Getting praise from Allen was rare and tricky business... and I'd never seen him so stunned before. The rest of the night, he beamed. I was his pupil, you see...

I talked to a lady afterwards that said, "I felt like you'd pinned me to the wall. I couldn't move. I could barely breathe. If you had performed that monologue first instead of the other one, I would have got up and left the room and never returned. If that's typical of this class, I will never belong here."

Talk about beaming, I felt like Marlon friggin Brando that night.

Anyway, there were other cool moments in my "career", but whenever I'm feeling like a particularly worthless lump of offal, I think back on that night and smile. For a moment, for one evening, I felt like a king.

RIP Allen.

That segues rather seamlessly into my last question for the evening. I had a rather vivid dream, the details of which I'll spare you from, for lack of a way of clearly summarizing them. The bottom line, however, was that I woke up from the dream asking myself which part of my life, looking back on it, would I consider to be "the best time of my life." I've always had a lot to be thankful for. I've never been at a shortage of great people in my life. However, every era of my life I can think of was also rife with difficulties and unpleasantness of various kinds, and honestly, I don't know that I would want to revisit any of them, or even look back fondly on them.

Yeah, that probably sounds spoiled, I know. Again, for the most part, I have been blessed beyond measure. But the "best days of my life"? I don't know that I could correctly identify such. Perhaps that means my best days are ahead of me...

It brings to mind an online article I read recently, called 10 People's Lives in Famous Photographs, which tracked down information on the people in famous pictures. #3 on the list was the Afghani lady from that cover of National Geographic from back in 1984. I'm sure you know the picture...

In the article, there's a quote from her brother, when he was asked what his sister's life was like, he said, "[She] has never known a happy day, except perhaps the day of her marriage."

I know, it's all relative. I wasn't born into a country forever at war like this lady was. I could say, comparatively, all of my days have been happy days. Yet, I can't point to a time in my life and say, "Those were the best days of my life."

No best days, no enemies, no extremes, just middle-ground, don't shake the boat, slip through life on cruise control... perhaps, like Samson, I need to shake myself, wake up, and live.

Trying to redefine life at age 40, lol.

Wish me luck.

Dave the Rambler.


logankstewart said...

First, the documentary thing is awesome. I sincerely hope that comes through and you get to be in a movie. That'd be sweet.

Second, again, awesome. The monologue thing is cool, just because it's always nice to do something, be proud of it, and then have people compliment you (especially a mentor/teacher) for your good job. Plus, it's acting, which, let's face it, is an art that only few can do well. So, cool.

Third, your enemy is obviously the cheater from the hot dog competition last year...

Just kidding. On one hand, yes, David's enemies were literally people that were trying to kill him, and he had great reason to cry out to God in the psalms. While you may not have people literally trying to kill your mortal life, you certainly have an enemy in the world, being the devil (see Matthew 13 parable of the sowers) and his ilk (just love to use that word whenever I can). While our enemies in modern American don't threaten our lives (often), they threaten our freedom (in Christ), our joy, our witness and influence, etc. The tactic is now spiritual warfare, where Paul calls us to be armed (Ephesians 6) so we can stand against the devil. And this is our enemy, as well as those that actively seek to hinder the progression of the Kingdom of Heaven.

However, outside America's spoiled comforts, people are oppressed and killed for their trusting in Jesus. Their enemies are literally killing them. I imagine the psalms are even more comforting to them.

Sadly, I think oppression is useful for the gospel being spread. It forces people out of their comfort zones (which is one of the biggest problems I feel affecting the American church: complacency) and to understand how serious the gospel is. Do I pray for oppression? Absolutely not, but I do pray that people wake up and see the truth that's offered them. I pray that people get out of their lukewarm, complacent, comfy pews and see the stuff that needs to be done. I pray this for myself and for others. I read the words of Revelation 3:15-18 and see that God prefers hot or cold, not lukewarm, and it makes me sad and nervous.

(Sorry if I unloaded here, but I've been thinking a lot about this kind of stuff for a while now, and it breaks my heart.)

Fourth, thanks for the photo link! Cool.

Michelle said...

Awesome post. I hope I don't have any enemies. I try to live my life in such a way that people will at least tolerate me. I really don't want to hate anyone, and I particularly don't want anyone to hate me. Maybe not having an enemy is a good sign that you are doing something right.

Congrats on the competitive eating documentary. You're gonna be on film!!! YEA!

Now, you know what this means....the book comes next!

Anonymous said...

Wow - you said you were gonna work on that "famous" thing, but I didn't know you meant right away!


Beth A.

David Wagner said...

Logan: Yeah, maybe that hot dog eater is my enemy! How cool would that be! Nah, he's apparently a cool guy in day-to-day life. He's been in the industry a long time, and is sort of an icon. The idea seems to be he's looking for ways to stay competitive (IOW in the spotlight) with some of the younger power-eaters. His personal best results in hot dog eating seems to be (from a quick Googling) 25 dogs... the current world record is 66.

Anyway, it will be fun to see how it all plays out.

Michelle: The book IS next, actually!

Beth: Let my 15 minutes begin!

Thanks y'all, for your thoughts on having enemies... yet another thing for me to chew on in the wee hours...

Abbie Josephsen said...

Dave! that would be so awesome if that works out for you! sweetness! good post by the way... I like the memory you shared from your methods class :) very sweet :)