Thursday, July 23, 2009

Discovering Life Through Music

In these modern times where technology rules the globe and money makes the world go round, it is easy to lose sight of the real purpose of life: to live it.  People’s brains spill over with insignificant worries and wants that do nothing but delay the potential to gain true happiness.  For instance, many women tell themselves that if they could just lose that last ten pounds, they would be happy.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Happiness is a phenomenon that must be rooted internally by experiencing the simplicity of life.  Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman find happiness through music inside their documentary What About Me?.  These two wise men travel the world to a variety of cultures, illustrating the vast diversity of humankind on this planet.  Significantly, however, they utilize music to illustrate that regardless of this diversity, there is a common thread that unites us: being human. 

A noteworthy aspect of the movie is that Bridgeman and Catto are using music to illustrate connections that cultural groups have, despite differences in ideals having to do with marriage or religion.  With all of the wars and confrontations that have occurred throughout history, it is easy to see that many cultural groups do not desire to be associated with one another.  This film unites melodies of typically opposing cultural clusters and creates beautiful music that sounds better together than apart.  “The emphasis on music as a tool for mutual understanding and expression gave the whole 1 Giant Leap project a greater dimension, one far removed from the commercial concerns of just about everyone else caught up in the music industry” (Megahey).  As this quote hints, the directors are trying to emphasize something bigger than just the music itself.  They are using music as the mechanism by which to achieve their main goal: presenting the joyous simplicities of life regardless of race, class, sexuality, etc.  There are people of every culture smiling, singing, dancing, and doing other of the simplest human acts, no cell phones or plasma screens required.  The way that the directors interweave music with various themes of humanity (e.g. love, death, God) is a stunning way of demonstrating what it means to be human.

Although the obvious reason for making the documentary is to create brilliant music that reflects the various musical styles across the world, the deeper meaning has to do with many philosophies of life.  Thus, many philosophers, authors, and even celebrities were interviewed to offer their insights.  One such individual was world-renowned philosopher and author Eckhart Tolle whose work focuses on an inner transformation of the human consciousness by removing the ego (Tolle Biography).  His words hit home for many people who live in modernized communities.  In the film, he states: “Part of the madness is to live as if the future were more important than the present moment, which is how most people live.  It’s completely insane, so you miss the aliveness of life for some projected future aliveness of fulfillment” (What About Me?).  Countless youths in this world are constantly pressured into preparing for their futures.  Many students are so stressed about getting into a good university that their social lives suffer.  Businessmen and women work countless hours away from their families striving for a promotion that may never come.  People are constantly climbing and climbing for the more affluent lifestyle and all the while that precious thing called life is passing them by. 

Although many of the interviews in the documentary are incredibly deep, there are also many parts of the film that are filled with laughter when it comes to lighter matters.  Laughter is an important prerequisite for happiness and so it is not surprising that humor would be utilized in this film.  Particularly entertaining was the portion of the film that focused on the differences between men and women.  Many women from different cultures, famous or not, were interviewed on this subject and had similar teasing answers regarding men and their habits.  The same is true when men were asked about women.  It is remarkable to see members of different cultures all agreeing and laughing about these matters and, as a viewer, it is hard to keep a smile off your face.  This film consistently reinforces the harmony that human beings share when it comes to fundamental matters.

This documentary is one of a kind and truly has a way of touching your soul.  When the SDSU program went to Bricklane to see this production, the host for the night, a shaggy-haired cowboy hat-wearing gentleman, gave some insight about the power of the project.  He informed us that he knew Duncan Bridgeman personally and said that before the project Bridgeman discovered he had cancer.  After the filming ceased, and without any medical treatment, the cancer was gone and he was cured.  Perhaps this is just coincidence, but at the same time there is some magic in knowing that Bridgeman was living his life in such a spiritual and joyous manner.  No stressful deadlines in sight, the only stops for Bridgeman on the road ahead were music and true happiness.

What About Me? is a musical masterpiece that celebrates the real life joys that most people forget about in their rushed and scheduled daily lives.  Music and philosophy are used to unite the diverse cultures of the world and reveal, quite beautifully, that human beings in different cultures are not that different from one another.  Seeing women in poverty-stricken villages relate to prosperous women in business suits is perhaps a future glimpse into a world that could be based more on peace than on war.  It also highlights that life is for living and that people need to remember to appreciate significant moments.  Molly Zapp puts it perfectly in her article The Art of Persuasion: “embrace the silly painful madness of simply living joyfully” (Zapp).  The engaging words spoken by the interviewees combined with the utterly blissful music that was created simultaneously make this documentary a celebration of life that should not be missed. 


"Biography." Official Website of Eckhart Tolle, Author of A New Earth. Web. 23 July 2009. .

Megahey, Noel. "1 Giant Leap What About Me'" N. pag. DVD Times. 06 Dec. 2008. Web. 23 July 2009.  .

Zapp, Molly. "The Art Of Persuasion." N. pag. Metrosantacruz. 13 May 09. Web. 23 July 2009. .

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