Don Park made a Barack Obama postage stamp.
I met an old friend for coffee in San Francisco yesterday afternoon, and had a few hours to kill before stopping in at the Wired reunion party. I didn’t want to drive back to Berkeley because the weather was so crummy, and I was just across the street from a movie theater and was just in time for the start of a movie that lots of people had been telling me to see. So I went.
The movie — The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I had no idea what it was about until the movie started, then I remembered hearing a Fresh Air show about it and finding it too painful to listen to. Now here I was in the theater, not just being asked to listen to it, but being asked to live it. Through some very wonderful film-making, you feel as if what is happening to the main character is happening to you. Or more accurately, probably, you get the slightest hint of what it’s like to be this person. My immediate impulse, one which I gave serious consideration to, was to pack up my things and leave. Anything would be better than spending three hours living this guy’s life.
Two things happen over time: 1. You get over it. 2. They change perspective, and instead of being inside his body, you move outside it.
I think those two things are the story we all live as we mature and learn to live inside our own bodies, with their limits. You learn to step outside and see the humor in your predicament. The main character says he lives in a diving bell because it’s as hard for him to communicate with other people as it would be at the bottom of the ocean inside a diving bell. The movie teaches that it’s not much easier for the rest of us, even though we can manipulate symbols better. On the other hand, of course it is.
The film develops a relationship between the hero and his father, between the hero and his own children, his ex-wife, his lover. Each of them reflects off some part of his struggle, and each of them has to learn a new language to communicate not only with the man in the diving bell, but to communicate through their own diving bells. All the acting is great, esp Max von Sydow who plays the hero’s 92-year-old father.
We strive for deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. But it may be ridiculously easy to find the only meaning that exists, without language, without intellect, by just being.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly should probably be the picture of the year for 2007, it’s that good. But like all great art it shows you something truthful about yourself, and you may or may not want to see it.
Update: Jim Forbes on life after a stroke.
Now after a few days at Davos our correspondents, Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington, are starting to get into the groove. I’m sure much has changed there since I went, in 2000, but I can tell that some important things haven’t.
For a first time Davoser, the most important thing is to build your network. Until you have a way to share the experience, you’re not really there yet.
At first it’s all about being star-struck. Look there’s Henry Kissinger (in my year it was Madeline Allbright). And there’s Yassir Arafat (he’s dead now). Shimon Peres was there in 2000, but now he’s back in power. As was the king of Jordan, but he was very young, now like me, he has more gray hair.
My year was the year of “How Do You Make Money on the Internet.” So that’s what I wrote about. And it was also the valedictory year for Bill Clinton. His struggles were behind him, he could now look forward to one more year in office and then a lifetime as a former President. John McCain had won New Hampshire while Davos was on, and the nastiness in South Carolina was about to start.
You could tell that Clinton had the weight off his shoulders. He still had Air Force One for a year, he could become a statesman, and he was doing a great job of it. Jet-lagged and with no American TV cameras recording the speech he said “Find a shared vision,” his formula for finding peace in the Middle East. I was inspired. He can be a great speaker, almost as great as Barack Obama. I tried to take his message to Bill Gates and Steve Case, both whom are off the tech stage now, replaced by Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg. FASV is still the challenge. Seems BillC could use a dose of his own advice. Amazing that the Democrats can’t find a shared vision. I always thought Clinton was a phony, I gave him the benefit of the doubt in Davos in 2000. He didn’t deserve it, he’s proving in 2008.
When Scoble and Arrington come home let’s hope they can help us find a shared vision. The great thing about Davos, imho, is the elevation and the clean mountain air can improve your vision, and inspire you to great heights. The trick is to bring that home with you, hold it and nurture it, and build something from it. I think the great leaders on stage don’t get that feeling as much as the newbies do. You only go to your first Davos once, Mike and Robert, let it work its magic on you.