Something’s Happening Here

My best intentions have led me to two wonderful places this weekend: the Bloor theatre and the Canzine convention.

After an unsuccessful Saturday cab ride to the Varsity movie dome, where 12 Years a Slave was completely sold out, my friends and I decided to finally give Hot Docs a try. I had seen the beautiful marquee of the venue floating high above the pounding spree of Bloor on many a trek through the city. During TIFF, there was a steady stream of beautifully dressed cinephiles lining up outside the movie house. After last night, I know why: a concession that sells Steamwhistle beer; a schedule that highlights enlightened thinking about art, urban planning, and politics; and a balcony to die for. The film we watched, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das, left me wanting more; it seems to me that documentary about a revered musician, be they New Agey or no, should deal directly with the form and specific expressive content of the music said subject performs. Oh well, I can’t wait to see more of what Hot Docs has to offer.

Today being Sunday, I went to church. Well, what Alain de Botton refers to as the modern church — the temple of culture. My temple took on the form of the Canzine convention, a collection of rag tag writers, illustrators, and comic enthusiasts that hole up in a large hall and showcase their wares and ideas. It was a phenomenal experience, especially the “One-Two Punch,” a chance for independents to pitch ideas for projects and receive feedback from established individuals from the indie publishing scene (including the founder of Broken Pencil, Hal Niedzviecki.) I can’t wait till next year’s Canzine. I agree with Botton that these comingling moments, times when weirdos and quiet types that adore culture come out of the woodwork to show off their strange, creative passions, are empowering and life-affirming. Seeing the originality and fluent creativity of fellow human beings does a lot to ease the weary mind.

As does this

Senecal

I’ve been reading Alain de Botton’s fantastic book The Consolation of Philosophy, a tome that makes that most abstract subject seem a little more practical for day-to-day use.

Image

I’m growing particularly fond of Seneca the more I read about him. Born during a tyrannical period of Roman history, he saw royal infighting lead to murder, and suffered through several years as Nero’s tutor. That same student would demand Seneca take his own life just a few years later, following a false charge of treason directed at the philosopher. Like Socrates, Seneca’s place in history was secured by his determination and strength of will in the face of his own death — he spoke of the fateful event as a single moment of pity within the much greater sorrow of the whole human life, and therefore, it was of little consequence.

While this might appear overly cynical to some, I find great strength in the scepticism that Seneca would have us endorse, and I believe a great many others feel the same way. Comedians like Louie CK use standup to broadcast ideas about mortality and the things we suffer through on a daily basis. Revered journalists pull away the trappings of falsehood created by governments or corporations so that we can gain a perspective of scepticism as we address these entities in our society.

If we come to grips with the shortcomings of life through entertainment, why is it so hard to face up to it on a daily basis, as a kind of activity?

Seneca believed it was healthy to open your mind to the downturns and disasters that can overtake us. He advocated the use of meditations on the subject. I’ll just provide a small portion of the text found in de Botton’s book:

We live in the middle of things which have all been destined to die.

Mortal have you been born, to mortals have you given birth.

Reckon on everything, expect everything.

So, give it a try: the next time you’re looking down at your corn flakes in the morning, remember old Seneca, and keep things in perspective.