Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Duality of Man

I've never met Lawrence Kasdan. Prior to yesterday, I'm not sure I could have placed his name right off. At the same time, I can rap with anyone who will throw something like this out there as fodder:

" Most movies are about this same issue -- Grand Canyon is about it. It's about how part of you wants to follow your desires, and the other part wants to do what's right and responsible. And one side is the dark side, and the other is the light side. Every one of us faces it every day. We live certain kinds of lives in the light of day, and at night all our fears come out. That's what most art is about."

Kasdan is a screenwriter. He's written a couple movies you might know: Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Big Chill, Return of the Jedi, The Bodyguard and Grand Canyon to name a handful. Funny, I remember watching Grand Canyon in a friend's room at N.C. State and immediately cruising back to my room with a permanent marker and scribbling a long quote from the movie on the ceiling. Kasdan writes tight, crisp, funny, insightful dialogue that makes his movies work.

But this morning I am more interested in the above quote, which he gave during an interview when asked about writing Empire Strikes Back. The question asked what Kasdan thought when George Lucas told him he wanted to make Darth Vader Luke's father. His answer was that it made perfect sense per the rest of the quote.

I know that struggle--following desires vs. doing what's right and responsible, living one way during the day and another at night--seems like almost daily. I like to get up early and write or run or do stuff that charges the ole soul, yet I also stay up til midnight or beyond far too often, doing nothing productive, watching Road House (not that there is anything wrong with Road House, mind you ;) or any other movie that I've seen before. I'll meditate or do yoga and be completely chill then suddenly feel the need to yell to get a point across or move the get-ready-for-school routine in the morning. I can feel a pull between what I want to do and know I should do for being the actualized self I know I want to be and saying fu-- it and rolling with the gluttonous gang to sate desires.

There have been major points during younger years where the Dark Side (if we're going to talk in semi-cliched Star Wars metaphors) has driven the train and the life trajectory hasn't gone anywhere good (please see St. James at the end, most of N.C. State for me). But rolling with the consequences of my actions then has also brought me to some of the brightest Light. If I hadn't had to roll out of Raleigh and wound up back on the Shore, I would have never been at the Blue Miracle show at the Avalon Theater where I met Robin.

And I am not one to drop high seriousness on any matter, fully subscribing to and living the notion that the fun, the zany, the childlike are prime movers as much as gravity. But when I read Kasdan's interview and come across a quote like that I recognize something of myself in it. It resonates and brings me back to a non-Kasdan written movie scene, from Full Metal Jacket, when Matthew Modine and company have cruised over to Vietnam and Modine, the Joker, the journalist, the Marine, the trained killer is sporting a peace symbol button while he has "Born to Kill written on his helmet. When pressed, it comes to this:

Colonel: "You write 'Born to Kill' on your helmet, and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?"
Joker: "No, sir."
Colonel: "Well what is it supposed to mean?"
Joker: "I don't know, sir."
Colonel: "You don't know very much do you?"
Joker: "No sir."
Colonel: "You better get your head and you ass wired together or I will take a giant shit on you."
Joker: "Yes sir."
Colonel: "Now answer my question, or you'll be standing tall before The Man."
Joker: "I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man sir."
Colonel: "The what?"
Joker: "The duality of man, the Jungian thing, sir."

That exchange has stuck with me after one watching and after multiple watching. "I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man." Yep, something like that.

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