Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Evidently it was one of the most viewed videos of 2008, and I missed it entirely. And evidently I cruise the Internet byways, instead of the highways, and I end up clueless as to what people are really looking at -like traveling around the world and skipping the Seven Wonders. (No, seriously. I got rickroll'd so many times I just thought everyone found that music video as funny as I did.)

But it's brilliant. The hi-res version is here, and is much easier on the eyes. I've been to a paltry few of those places, enough to know what international travel is like, but this guy nails the enthusiasm to the wall and points at it -which is what the Internet is for. He filmed the whole thing on his little Canon Powershot, according to the FAQ, and he seems a pretty unassuming guy. What's amazing is how he captured perfectly such a sublime truth about life, by way of the virtue of mere enthusiasm.

What is that truth? Look, if it's not immediately obvious to you then get thee to a nunnery. It cannot be explained, but it's that thing you're looking for in your twenties -when you slip on your boots, grab a backpack, and announce to the room that you're going to go "find yourself". It sounds brilliant and ballsy to other people who haven't found themselves, but to everyone else who already has, well, it's like the angry man at the party who mistakenly exits into the closet.

Kurt Vonnegut said that. He also said, "We are all experiments in enthusiasms, narrow and preordained." That quote had a profound effect on me as I pondered it in my travels. I can't abide Vonnegut anymore, but he was right about people and enthusiasms. I'll add that it's an attractive quality, regardless the object of the enthusiasm, and anyone without it is a miserable, insufferable bore most of the time. (Of course, some people are enthusiastic about pain and suffering and self-mutilation. These folks should be avoided at all costs.)

I traveled alone, mostly, and found loneliness everywhere I went. But when I needed a friend, I found it easy and free to get one; in the train station, the youth hostel, the pub. Follow the signs to any tourist viewpoint and standing there at the end of the path you'll find someone with whom you have something in common and something worthy to share, even if all it is is that you both went there to see that. I went to a lot of magnificent places, and when I got there I was always greeted with the same question: "Where are you from?" So eventually I went home. It seemed like everyone in the world wanted to go there.

And that's what Matt nailed to the wall: everywhere in the world, it's the same. People are trying to live, work, raise their families, make their homes, and they all want to dance -even if in some small enthusiastic way. And what is dancing but that pointless and daring enthusiasm that separates man from the animals? Oh and, by the way, the world is a beautiful place. (And take it from me, you don't even have to leave your back patio to see it.)

I appreciate that Matt goes (literally) all over the world and is able to limit his exploration to a single political statement. It happens at about halfway through the video, and it's him doing that silly jig in the demilitarized zone of North Korea, a member of the People's Army eyeing him suspiciously. I assume they didn't let him in to the country, and I imagine that if one DPRK citizen handed a camera to another and said, "Film me dancing in the square," he'd be arrested and interrogated on the spot. (Let alone ever actually see any of the places in Matt's video.) It hurts to see the shot, all three flawless seconds of it, and it's all the bitterness you need to convey a heady truth about life.

I'm happy to leave politics behind in 2008, and find some other things to be enthusiastic about this year. I'm sick of hearing everyone complain about things they have little or no control over, like polution in the sky over Antarctica, when they don't even pick up the trash on the street where they live. We are not gods, and nor are our leaders. And every path to every truth starts and ends at home. And no one is going to define "home" for you in such a way that you will believe it. It's on you.

Thanks, Matt. It's perfect.