Two years ago, I came home from work and saw my neighbor, James, running around in his front yard across the street. James was five at the time. He wore a Superman cape, ski goggles, rocket ship boots, and a hockey helmet. He would hop around then scream then run then trip over himself then scream some more then climb some trees then jump then fall then run and jump some more. He told me he was flying. His mom cringed but let him do his thing.
I saw Jumpin’ James and was brought back to my days as a reckless, wide-eyed, little guy. James and I were/are kindred spirits. We both struggle(d) to sit still. We both got squirmy when our big sisters heckled us about our young romance. We’re both really bad at keeping secrets. We both were so scared at the start of elementary school that our moms packed brave rocks (for me) and a brave turtle (for him) to rub in our pockets when shit got too scary. I’d been there. I asked James if I could practice flying with him and maybe even make a video to teach other people how to fly.
“Only if you put the video on all the YouTubes and internets and iPads in the world.” It seemed like a reasonable request. We made the flying video and another one “with more mud and more bikes and less flying.”
I’ve always been a kid at heart who’s enjoyed bathroom humor and bright, mismatched socks. But when we made the flying video I was at my most creatively stagnant and in desperate need of a youthful jolt. I had just graduated college and was living at home in a soccer mom suburb, feeling aimless and tentative. I can deal with “aimless.” You just need to commit in some direction–any direction– then back you’re on track. It’s an issue of will rather than ability. “tentative” is a whole other beast. It’s full of questioning and doubt. It asks why we’re doing what we’re doing. It cripples our impulsiveness. It undermines our intuition. It sees that you’re down in the dumps, but it doesn’t see the inherently recuperating qualities of our art–good art, bad art, any art. It hesitates. It lacks gusto and play.
Maybe the “tentative” came from doing profoundly un-fun freelance video work and feeling numb to what I actually wanted to create. Maybe it’s ’cause I was having hard drives crash and felt perennially on edge. I’d lost sight of why I started making videos in the first place: to provide an outlet–a liberating, honest, goofy outlet–to celebrate the mundane, bring lightheartedness to the somber, and play when work felt like work.
So I started flying and being a goober with James. Most days, I’d come home and fly, and after a few days of flying I promised myself that I’d only take on video projects that I wanted to. That’s all I can remember. And I’ve stuck with that.
We play when when we don’t think and aren’t sensical and just go. We play when the Here trumps the Then, when our inner 5 year old takes the wheel and mindfully and sensorially steers us.
“Creativity is based on the close observation of the ordinary, and the art cannot be learned except by the heart.”–Corita Kent
“I’ve been paralyzed from the waist down since I was born. Every day, I race the 16th Street Mall buses. I almost always win.”