Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Last Man Standing

Yacht Morning Light image copyrighted by Sharon Green

Yesterday I mentioned that—against my better judgment and firmly in the grip of sailboat lust—I went to the video store and came home with a newly-released movie about a prestigious sailboat race from Long Beach to Honolulu, the Transpac.

A slick Disney documentary called Morning Light.

Ordinarily I don't rent Hollywood movies, but I was ill, smitten by Southern California and sailing fever.

More excuses: our trip took us through Santa Barbara where our son, Ted, went to college and where many memories of him resound. I hurt with missing Ted who is in Africa (Peace Corps) and will be there for another year and a half. Morning Light features 15 young adults who happen to be about the same age as my son, Ted. A youth fix. It's like Reya missing Jake and wanting to walk someone else's dog.

And so—guilty pleasure—I watched this movie. And just loved it.

And then I hated it. God, I hated it because I loved it. I know better, really.

Morning Light takes its place among the lowest form of entertainment: last man standing. This movie is not as obvious as others like Survivor or Fear Factor, but still, LMS is near the heart of this movie. There's the nod to the need for teamwork among the boat's crew, and these sailors don't finish first.

But at bottom, the movie is about 30 young adults competing for 11 spots on the boat. There are scenes of triumph and defeat as the group is winnowed down to the "select few."

And then there's the whole dimension of wealth and privilege. This crew is comprised mostly of students or recent graduates from the world's best universities. This is a movie about privilege being bestowed upon the over-privileged at the hands of the egregiously über-privileged.

We're all vulnerable to some degree or another to the appeal of LMS. It's built out of fear. Fear of dying, I guess.

But Last Man Standing is wrong. It's false. It obscures the basic truth that all life is interconnected. We're all in this together. Even the richest and most privileged know this is true. After all, when they need help—Wall Street Bailouts—we're there for them, treading water, as we toss our life jackets into the life rafts lashed to the decks of their yachts.


steven said...

hi dan, another great post. the dominant culture of this time is very much one of disconnection and of privilege without paying the debt that goes with that privilege.
but there's good news.
people like yourself and many of the bloggers with whom i have had contact, people like those i associate with who choose to swim upstream and live their life in as healthy and wholesome a manner as is possible exist and are sharing their knowing with others. you know in your teaching that knowledge is co-created among the whole class, that it isn't "owned" by anyone regardless of intellectual or pecuniary privelege. so like any act of quality - sharing knowledge and understanding - becomes a world changing event.
keep writing dan!
have a lovely evening . . . . . steven

Reya Mellicker said...

Awww c'mon, Dan. As my mother used to say, even the beautiful rose needs manure to grow. As guilty pleasures go, this one is mild indeed.

Sail on in your dreams! Oh yeah!

Delwyn said...

Hi Dan

I was watching on the news last night of UK research that showed that more and more professionals are coming from the privileged classes and access is difficult for the rest of society to the universities.

And only this morning I was rankled when I remembered a friend commenting recently that she came from very good stock/breeding...

I agree with Steven when he says that by sharing knowledge and understanding we create a common denominator however it is also a given that UK and US and to a lesser degree the Au society depends on the class structure for many of its members to feel safe and special...

I think you can still indulge your sailing passion, the more you fight it the more resilient it will become...

Happy days

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Steven, thanks. Yes, knowledge is co-created in class. And in kindergarten, we try to co-create a whole bunch of kindness, love, and helpfulness as well. We've got wonderful work to do in schools.

Dan Gurney said...

Reya, right you are. I have guiltier pleasures, but a sense of shame keeps me from putting them on display by blogging about them. TNH talks movingly about the unity of the rose and the manure. It's helpful to keep in mind. Thanks.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Delwyn,

Ordinarily, I DO indulge in sailing. I've got a Laser and I love to race it, especially in the fall when the coast winds moderate and the weather warms. Most summers I get out a couple of times each month, but this summer, I'm babying my injured shoulder--still--so my sailing flu (S1L1 virus)* has become resilient, just as you say.

*Sail One Laser One

Margaret Pangert said...

This is beautifully written, Dan, and well thought out. I like that image at children's Bible School that each of has a gift or talent from God. So, if you're terrible in the choir, you're likely to be clever at drawing or riding a scooter. And then taking that one step further, if we each contribute our gift to living in a community, that community is stronger and richer.

Dan Gurney said...

Margaret, isn't it liberating to know that you can allow yourself to leave to others some of the things you're not good at...and focus on things you can do well? It took me too long as a teacher to recognize accept, investigate, and finally release the parts of being a teacher I'm really not very good at. Once I did, I got the help I needed and began to enjoy myself much more because I spent time doing things (like singing and playing music) that I'm pretty good at.