In 1968 my Aunt Dottie, quite uncharacteristically, took a thirteen-year-old me to see Stanley Kubrick’s nerve twisting science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, at the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Historic and home to many Hollywood premieres, the Uptown, which opened in 1936, is known to have had the largest screen (70 feet long and 40 feet high), in the metro area, and was curved. This was, of course, before IMax and at the time the theater had a capacity of 1,120 people!
Likely with popcorn or Snowcaps in hand, it was as if my head was a hand-grenade and this film reached up, pulled the pin from my ear, and blew my mind. Mind you, man in space had only been a reality since 1961 and they were basically guys wrapped in foil, strapped into a capsule, mounted on a rocket and sent along on a wild ride. This then was 1968, the year before man’s first step on the moon. I’m watching Arthur C. Clark’s creative futuristic vision of not only space travel and his chilling peek into human evolution, but a storyline that was quite frankly more than my young brain was capable of grasping. I walked from the theater dumbfounded and confused.
One must remember how advanced 2001: A Space Odyssey really was. Nothing, and I mean nothing like this had ever been seen and so realistically presented. George Lucas’ 1977 film Star Wars, was still over a decade away from its premiere and I was there for that too! But Stanley Kubrick, along with just a month later the TV series Star Trek, had already long since brought a reality to life in space and the possibility of somehow dragging war up there with us.
In 1968, my eyes witnessed the ultimate power of creativity in bringing the year 2001 to life. Fast forward that same brain to the year 2020 is, I must admit, just as mind-blowing an experience. 52 years and a 30 plus year art career have flown by. Thankfully, both Kubeck’s and Lucas’ perceptions of life today have not yet become our reality. Even though we do have one lonely space station up there and are still trying to kill each other down here.
I can recall year after year wrapping my head around a new year usually came in the way of writing the first check of the year. This is such a rare occurrence anymore that just saying 2020 will have to do and it most certainly does! I’ve been blessed with better than 20/20 vision all my life, though as you might expect, it’s fading with age. 2020 is one of those numbers which has been etched into our brains since we were very young thanks to Herman Snellen, the Dutch ophthalmologist who gave us the eye chart in the mid-1800s. Snellen’s eye chart brought the standardization for 20/20 being normal (not perfect) vision. But 2020 and the word vision have so been linked ever since. In fact, I suppose I have linked 2020 as a visionary number for decades. So it being here now makes me reflect on how far we’ve come, yet in many ways how stuck in the past, we still are. We have indeed creatively evolved. Technology has advanced our capabilities. Though it is harder and harder with age for me to understand why the human spirit is still so embroiled in human destruction.
If we were so amazingly creative in 1968 to visually and narratively try showing what life would be like just over three decades later in 2001, while frankly shooting way past that actual reality in terms of where we are today. Why is it we can’t creatively find ways to be more united as a human race? Kubrick’s narrative was artificial intelligence controlling us and by 1977, Lucas taught us that he was incorrect. That in fact, we would still be controlling and at war with ourselves. Humm, and to think you were expecting a Happy New Year from me. Very sorry to disappoint.
Well, on an optimistic note I say there is still no greater time to live. We do have much to be thankful for, especially in terms of creativity. For many of you, like me, retirement years are upon us and life is very good. For younger generations, I beg you to find your path to happiness. All of the craziness going on has honestly been going on forever. While making your way through life you will have to deal with the nuttiness of humanity in the most humane way possible by carving or sculpting your own vision for the future. It is a new decade. We are twenty years into this century. Imagine the possibilities, then create them!
Live an artful life,
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