How To See the Extraordinary In the Ordinary – May 2016
When I was 17 years old I read a book called, The Film Director. It described all the tasks of a film director, from the composition of shots, to working with actors, dealing with eye-lines and the “180 degree rule.”
I knew instantly that’s what I wanted to be. I had bought my first 8mm film camera with my own money when I was 9 years old and had been making Super 8 films ever since. After reading that book, I understood why. To become a film director.
The problem was, no film schools existed in Seattle at that time. I searched for something, anything related to filmmaking to satisfy my artistic passion. Finally I found a single night course at the University of Washington on film editing. That seemingly inconsequential editing course turned out to be one of the most impactful of my life.
It was because of one remarkable instructor: Richard Gentner.
Gentner was a short, wiry, hippie guy. Intense as hell. To be in his presence felt like standing next to a round of exploding firecrackers. He was edgy and very smart and he knew it.
The first evening of Gentner’s class is something I’ll never forget.
“Take a glance around the room,” he instructed. We all did, wondering where this was heading. Then he handed out to each of us a 4×5-inch, black cardboard rectangle with the middle cut out.
“Now put your ‘camera frame’ in front of you, and slowly look around the room again.”
It was magic. Suddenly this dull, gray university classroom with 12 students of all ages transformed into a fascinating study of human variety, of the desire to learn, of nervousness, of confusion, of wonderment, of Mystery. I could see a million stories that could be told – depending on where I placed my focus.
My ‘camera frame’ ended up on Gentner, standing erect and intense, watching us with a peculiar gleam in his half smile. He could see some of us were “getting it.”
What I was “getting” was that the ordinary… is absolutely extraordinary.
Years later I would have a similar experience after my near-death-experience. Every moment, every image, every sound, taste, touch and connection between myself and another creature (human or otherwise) became indescribably special. The reason was because my attention was focused on being alive, on being present.
What we put our attention on becomes our experience at that moment.
Think that’s not a very big deal? Here’s how best-selling author Dr. Alejandro Junger so beautifully put it, “The total experience of your life is the sum total of every one of those moments.”
So what are you putting your attention on? Are you focusing on fear, regret, worry, your cough, your belligerent relative? Are you ruminating over an off-hand comment someone said that hurt your pride?
These are Mind Loops. When we’re looping, we’re far from present. And those loops are adding up, one by one, to equal the sum total of our life experience. Is that what we want?
We all lead busy lives, we rush around, we eat while we work, we text while we walk. That’s modern life. But try just stopping for a moment. Take a breath. Look at what’s going on around you – as if you’re watching a movie. You’ll see that the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Try it any time you’re stressed, anxious, depressed. Focus on the details. Fill in the other senses for an even more “sense-surround” experience. It’ll help you shift out of a Mind Loop. You will feel better.
Wishing you an EXTRAORDINARY week!
To your happiness,