Oh music. I just watched a French film entitled “The Chorus.” Obviously this isn’t its native title, it’s the bastardized American translation of the equally generic French title “Les Choristes.” In reading the box, I found the plot to be generic. Teacher goes to undisciplined students, they learn music, students are reformed. Very predictable. I actually rented this movie partially because that predictability is somewhat soothing. I was a great fan of Mr. Hollands Opus, To Sir With Love, Dead Poets Society and many others on that endless conceptual list. The lead male roles draw me in. They are fathers, mentors, creators, dreamers and shape and blossom community’s around them in such a way that strikes me with awe. For the purpose of simplicity, I will call these men Shepard’s. Christian analogy’s aside, this seems fitting.
I’ve grown quite fond of the Shepard. He is often takes the form of a clever teacher who finds unique ways to reach his students. Naturally he is firm but at the same time just and forgiving. He is charming, has a sharp wit, and a distaste for authority. He need not be handsome, he may in fact be bald! He is enamored with the success of his students, and perhaps a bit in the clouds, often breaking the rules and treading on others feet on their behalf. He is an ever vigilant father figure. In the movies he always has a weakness, usually the unattainable woman, and it is in this you see his humanity. This however is irrelevant. In the end. He does not get the girl. He rarely becomes renown. He simply grows old quietly. His only legacy… the students he’s touched. This movie did not disappoint. Beyond another incarnation of my favorite character, it reminded me of a time when I was in Symphonic band. Preforming in a group of fifty individuals, all watching our director Ken Carter, who was nearly one of those men himself. I realized at some point through the movie, that this was type of man I wished to be. I realized at some point that this is what I have always wished to be. A “Shepard”.
I’ve come up with a word for people who posses characteristics I admire, or seek. A person can become more then just a person, they can become a symbol incarnate for idea or a dream. The essence of these individuals aspires beyond there mortality. I have been referring to such individuals is “Avatars.” Avatar is most commonly associated with the Indian god Visnu. In Indian culture an avatāra is the earthly form assumed by a deity. Hindu analogy’s aside, this seems fitting.
I have always been a stark individualist. Striving to succeed independently, self taught. A part of me has a deep fear of becoming mealy an amalgamation of my surroundings, and I’ve tried in the past years foolishly to cloister myself in order to prevent my creations from being tainted. I believe I always knew this was impossible, but still I avoided mimicry of others work and words, even as a tool for learning. It has taken me many years to choose individuals to look up to again. I once called these individuals hero’s. I’m not looking for hero’s anymore. Hero’s die. They’re legendary for it. I’m looking for human embodiments of concepts, Avatars. These individuals existence is irrelevant, they are just collections of ideas and dreams. The process I have gone through has made me realize what I am doing is probably not unlike what our ancient ancestors did in there creation of Deity’s. Ancestor worship is the first recorded religion known, it only makes sense that after enough time, the story’s would begin to merge and individuals once renowned for one great dead would take on those of others of his time. Eventually the story’s would be forgotten all together
and become pure symbols, become myth. And so the first gods were born.
It has been odd watching my rational journey. Every day I look closer only to see myself shifting to what I might call “empirical spiritualism.” I don’t worship Avatars, but I do study them, spend great deals of time thinking of them, and modeling my actions as I see them. In a sense this is a sort of worship. I don’t believe in Divine energy traveling through the cosmos to fuel there deific (I think this word is a combination of Deity and Terrific!) powers over the universe. But in a way that energy is real. Through my study I become an Avatar myself, and in turn I influence those around me. I find myself foolish yet again, realizing the grand enlightenment I build for myself boils itself down to mere semantics ::Sighs:: At the same time I am proud. I’m proud to have come to these realizations on my own, and I’m proud to feel I know why I’m doing what I’m doing.
The Shepard is an Avatar I respect and wish to some day embody myself. It’s not about ego or self. It’s about ideas, and dreams. That which is immortal. Striving to become the embodiment of a concept is beautiful. In a sense it is about letting go of the individual, the self, and dedicating your existence towards something greater. It’s not about the desire to change those around you. Mahatma Gandhi, to me a is an Avatar of the Shepard, once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I would add… “It is through the strength of your embodiment, not your words that change will come.” One need not have heard, or even known a word Mahatma Gandhi said to feel the power of his ideas, or dreams.
This is a dream worth striving for.