Charlie Chaplin and Me - Birth Day Thoughts
My name is Frieda Babbley. Today is my birthday. I share my birthday with Charlie Chaplin. I am 38. He is dead. Charlie died 6 years after my birth, at the age of 88, having died of old age in his sleep (the way I hope to go).
Charlie was born in East Street, Walworth, London to music hall entertainers. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, the daughter of Greek Immigrants who barely spoke the language, but somehow made it, despite the struggles.
I remember laying in my crib one winter day. I was one? Maybe younger. My parents were working together sealing the window frames with silver duct tape to keep the draft out of my room. It was late afternoon. The light was white and hazed from the snow and the clouded sky. My mother's hair was long and reddish brown. Even in the haze, it sparkled. My father wore his blue jeans, and a brown, cable-knit sweater. He stood on the left, my mother on the right. I remember them talking and laughing with each other. The tape was sticky; it kept getting stuck on their fingers and on the white curtains with navy, flowered, trim. They bantered back and forth about which to use, the scissors or my father's silver pocketknife. I peered through the bars of the crib. I remember them saying something to me, telling me what they were doing and did they wake me, thinking I couldn't understand because I couldn't answer back; it was too early for the language in my head to have culminated into verbal speech, and therefore, to many, this means one's child still cannot fully understand what one is saying.
However, I did understand. And years later when I brought it up to my parents, they were shocked. They barey remembered it themselves. They remembered the action, but not the specifics.
This idea always fascinated me during thoughtful moments, the idea that interpretation of communication and it's various forms are so often held in the eye of the beholder, much like beauty, much like art. It is a personal interpretation based on where we've been and where we are. Communication is an interpretive art form, to me, for this reason. Simple and complex. One or the other. Often times both.
Like many people, I have my oddities. Watching movies with the volume muted, is one of them. Not that I do this all the time, but there is something awesome about doing this.
I know that others do the same. if they didn't there would be no videos like this one.
I often wondered, and still wonder, if I were to lose iether my sense of sight or my sense of hearing, which I would choose. Hands down, every time, I would choose to keep my sense of sight.
If you knew me, you would find this an odd choice, as I am music from my head to my toes. Instrumentally inclined, so to speak. My answer is that, if I can hear it in my head, if I can play with my eyes closed, if I can read the music, watch the rhythm in the body of the performer, then what do my ears have to do with it? I am not saying by any means that I would wish for a loss of hearing. And very doubtful that I will lose either until the most precious years of my life. But what if? The what if of a child. The what if of a silent movie.
I have always been fascinated with silent movies. How they tell their story without a sound. No need to speak. We all understand. I relate them to listening, with ones eyes closed, to jazz, classical, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, or any music that has no verbal lyrics; these are the moments when the choice between sight and hearing become contradictory. These are the moments during which I could not choose between them. Fascinated, moved, thoughtful, provoked, inspired, astonished, relinquished, abandoned, held in abandonment... By both. By one. By the other.
Charlie once said, "I don't believe that the public knows what it wants; this is the conclusion that I have drawn from my career." He is right. Though I know that this is not what he meant, that he was likely speaking of generalities, of desires as opposed to choices, yet I cannot help but wonder what my own choice would be. Sight or hearing? Which would I want, which would I choose, if I could, if I had to? When making love, would I rather see or hear the pleasures?
Pleasures come in a variety of forms from a variety of places. One of my favorite pleasures is laughter. Life without laughter would be intollerable to me. Charlie feels the same way about this.
Charlie says that "a day without laughter is a day wasted... Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain." I must say, we can all agree on that.
Though I don't believe Charlie was being slight in any of his thoughts or words on laughter. Not in the slightest; despite, and indeed because of, the fact that he was quoted as saying that "in the end, everything is a gag". Laughter was a philosophy to him as much as it is to me. “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” If you understand this, then you truly understand the meaning of laughter, the juice of life. That is my thought on the matter at any rate.
I realize that this sounds like an obsession, my qualm with sight vs sound, and perhaps it is. It is certainly not as grandios as debating the meaning of life; perhaps if this were the case, if this were my life's debate and struggle, (to find the meaning of life,) I would not sound quite so off kilter. However I have always believed that life is made up of choices and possibilities. Yes, fate, of course, plays a large part in it. I believe this. But how can fate do anything if we are not prepared. If we do not know what we desire. "What do you want meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning." Thank you Charlie. My point exactly.
As Charlie and I seem to have so much in common, and since you have kept with me thus far, I feel obliged to share one last piece of Charlie wisdom. " I do not have much patience with a thing of beauty that must be explained to be understood. If it does need additional interpretation by someone other than the creator, then I question whether it has fulfilled its purpose." He is right in this, I believe. And in a sense, I do not have much patience for it either (do you?).
As a creator, you either have the greatness, or you don't. Charlie had that greatness.
I like to think I have a bit of that greatness myself.
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