Thursday, May 12, 2011

One who seeks beauty shall find it

Never Done: I saw Bill Cunningham New York

One of the most common "compliments" I receive on this blog is that I am not rigid about doing something new every day -- like, sometimes I just write about having seen a new movie, or play.

This makes me just a teeny bit defensive. It makes me want to say things like, "Have you tried doing something new every day for a year? And writing about it? It's actually hard!" And while it's true that I love movies and plays, and it's true that it's easier to see one in New York than it is to go hot air ballooning (for which I bought a Groupon, and which I will be doing sometime, probably in the late summer/early Fall) it's still a choice. In fact, it took quite a negotiation to get the time free to see Bill Cunningham New York -- I even had to cancel another plan that Josh and I had already made. So I want to say all those things, but I usually just keep those thoughts to myself, because -- really? I'm going to complain about my own ambitious life project? That doesn't make any sense. And if I feel like I'm not getting enough credit for my own ambitious life project that is based in a reflective process about how to be a good person, then it seems like I might should go reflect upon why I need credit.

So it was with all this chatter going on in my head that I went to see Bill Cunningham New York, and let me tell you, the chatter had completely subsided by the time I emerged, wiping the tears from my eyes. The man is a genius with a highly evolved personal ethics. (For those of you who don't know, Bill Cunningham is the photographer who takes photographs of street fashion for the New York Times.) Born in 1929 in Boston (the same year and place my mother was born) he still talks with a delicious Boston accent, which somehow fits his beaming boyish smile. Bill rides his bike around New York City looking for trends in beauty. His relentless pursuit of beauty is -- I'm sorry if this sounds trite -- inspirational. I left the film committed to wearing something other than my jeans, committed to actually wearing the hats in my great hat collection, committed to finding shirts to go with my fun skirts, and to adding color to the world instead of blending.

Bill himself wears the same thing every day. A simple blue smock that French sanitation workers wear. He's frugal in every way -- rides a bike, eats simply, dresses simply, lives simply. He made a decision very early in his career that he would not accept even a glass of water from the society events he attends, because he has never wanted anyone to own him. And it would appear that nobody does, because he appears to be genuinely happy with his life and his pursuit, which seem to be fairly interchangeable.

There are things I could tell you about what is revealed about him in the film, but I think I'd be doing a disservice. I think you should actually go see this film if you get the chance, and if you want to be inspired to look, to really look, at what's around you, including how deeply you are engaging with your own life, pursuit of happiness, and appreciation of beauty.

And, if you're like me, and you need to examine your own motives for creating art, you could receive no better guidance than from Bill Cunningham.

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