Evolving With Private Ryan

When I was younger, I tended to read a lot of books about comedy. I also read a lot of books by comedians. A particular favorite to read (for me) was Bill Cosby. In the 1980s, Cosby released a book called Time Flies. You never actually know what will affect you or stick with you for life. There is a section in that book where Cosby talks about watching a movie about a runner. The runner is a young man. Shortly before winning the big race at the end, the runner stops racing. The runner just lets the other runners pass him. Cosby talks in the book about how he was inspired by the runner as a young man. Cosby himself was a young man and could identify with the runners defiance. As Cosby grew older, his view of the runner changed with subsequent viewings. Finally, Cosby was a man with college aged kids and found himself screaming at the TV for the runner to get back in the race. The point? Everyone’s perception of something (even your own) changes with time and according to their own circumstance.

Years later, when I was a young man, I learned a lesson about how magic can come and fade depending on circumstance. If you have ever lived in Memphis, you know that you can get a horse drawn carriage ride downtown. My grandfather often rode in a horse drawn cart. I saw the picture of my grandfather and family riding in carriages when I was young. When I was in college, a friend of mine recommended taking the horse and carriage ride in Memphis. They described the experience as ‘magical.’ They even proposed to their future wife during such a ride. When I took a date on a ride in one, I was legitimately excited for the experience. The whole thing seemed to tap into my youth as well as be a really romantic idea. The conclusion afterwards (and I put a lot of effort into this) was that I thoroughly hated horse and carriage rides. This surprised me but also reminded me of Cosby’s sage advice about the runner movie.

I am a big believer in having essential cultural knowledge. I write for websites to spread knowledge. I have written a book on the subject of Essential Cultural Knowledge. Over the years, I have learned that knowledge is different for everyone. You can give someone knowledge but cannot control in any way how that knowledge will interact with someone. That interaction is completely based on the individual. That interaction can change. I have posted on this website previously about the evolution of my opinion watching The Lion King as a young man as well as watching the movie with my kids. Movies are wonderful like that. I do think that there is an importance in this day and age in seeing certain movies. There are certain films you should just know. The mythology of it all is akin to knowing folklore in older civilizations. I personally think that it would be irresponsible on some level in my responsibility to raise complete members of society not to show my children certain films.

Of course, age is a factor in these decisions. My oldest daughter turned 16 recently. It was Memorial Day. In my opinion, every American 16 or older should watch or have seen the movie Saving Private Ryan. Let me be completely frank about this one. I believe that Saving Private Ryan is one of the top five pieces of cinema ever put on film. Don’t even get me started on the discussion that is the greatest robbing of Best Picture of all time by Shakespeare in Love. That entire affair still gives me fits of revulsion. I believe every one should see the movie. I cannot control the reaction to the movie. I cannot even control my own.

I saw Saving Private Ryan in the theater as a young man. I was 23 at the time. I am now 37. In the business of internet writing, I have found that that age tends to make me a silver aged Methuselah. When I walked out of the theater, I was so emotionally drained that I knew it would be a long time before I watched the movie again. It was just too much. I think I went through every possible emotion watching the movie. Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece had wrung me emotionally dry in ways I had not thought of or believed possible before. It took fourteen years and a child coming of age to make the solemn decision to watch the movie again. She was 16 and it was Memorial Day. I take these types of things seriously. Watching Saving Private Ryan under those circumstances was not only something to do, I felt like I would be an irresponsible parent if I did not.

When I was younger, I latched onto the sniper character of Jackson. On the repeat viewing, I was able to identify more with Hanks character of Captain John Miller. I have now been in a foreign land away from home. I did not serve in the military but I spent several months in Asia as part of a job. Miller’s statement of “How can I go home and tell my wife about days like this?” really took on extra emotion for me. Having gone through a near death trauma now, the resonation of earning life every day also has special and different meaning for me now. I remember reading a Superman comic growing up where the man Superman saves says “You saved my life.” Superman responds “Now, make it mean something.” That sticks with you. Especially, since there are now two young men from my high school class that have passed on. Live every day with purpose not only for yourself and those around you but also for those who do not have those days to live. That is a piece of what Saving Private Ryan means to me now.

Again, I was not the only one in the room. My daughter met a friend as a freshman in high school. That young man went on to go into basic training. He is now in AIT. Not only being Memorial Day, but seeing the young men charge the beach and get butchered had a pretty powerful effect. This was not only because of the natural emotion of the movie but also because of the personalization of the friendship. Thus, it is the analogy of the runner all over again. Age, sex, date, and circumstance all went a long way into making a powerful movie a personal experience for her. I cannot state or even fully vocalize the experience mostly because the experience is not mine to have. It was only my responsibility to put the movie out there and allow it to interact. I only know what I feel to be the benchmarks, I know the lessons. What the lessons actually teach is up to the individual person as well as their interaction with that material.

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