Thursday, August 04, 2011

we got wheels

I've had only a vague memory of something I saw on TV as a kid that made a deep impression and stuck with me. Typing a few words into google: "tv show airplane bomber tire draw 80s landing" brought it right up. Amazing Stories, episode "The Mission". 1985. 26 years ago. And in 2 seconds it's on my screen on youtube. This is a miracle. Really. We take this for granted now, but this instantly accessible collective memory we've grown in such a short time is mind blowing.

A WWII bomber crew has lost their landing gear in battle. They are running out of fuel, and the gunner is stuck in the basket underneath the plane, sure to be scraped to a pulp upon landing. He's an artist, and he begins furiously drawing. They are about to shoot him him to spare him a hideous death, but he begs the captain (Kevin Costner!) to try engaging the landing gear once more and out comes 2 giant yellow cartoon wheels, big, patched and puffy. They land, Kevin Costner touches one of the wheels which blubs and sparkles. The gunner is in a trance in the basket. Understanding the tender magic at work, the captain commands silence as they gently pull out the gunner still in a trance. Safely away, they slap him awake and the wheels disappear, the plane crashes to the ground. Of course I love this. It's high 80s fantasy, when outright joy and optimism were displayed without apology. And because an artist is able to manifest his imagination through drawing (not unlike my other favorite 80s masterpiece, Xanadu.)

But, I also love it because it's not so much fantasy. Things like that happen every day. We're surrounded by the impossible happening, we just don't notice because it's so commonplace. The impossible happens when someone has such immense fortitude in their desire and belief for it. It doesn't happen when we think it can't, or when we have too many small desires dividing our attention. The gunner had only one big thought in his mind: wheels. Impending death made no room for anything but that. His imagination was completely filled by wheels.

My natural tendency to look at everything everywhere all the time (like, oh, say googling 1980s tv shows) can have its benefits, but it's a drawback when it goes unchecked. This year I'm actively working on focus, and finding a balance between being a rain storm and being a fountain at the right times, and deciding which thing I want to be a fountain for. This is an art that will take a lifetime to never perfect. But I'm keeping this clip handy to remind me.

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