Maybe the reason I was caught by the idea of the Three Wise Men is because it is an inclusive one. In the first image I remember, one had a distinctly Oriental look, another was the complexion seen right across the Middle East and the third was black. The Magi (singular magus) may have been Zoroastrian priests, the worship of fire Persia’s prevailing belief before Islam, holiness and majesty in one package, or they may just have been wise men. Or I may have conflated the black boy of Scandinavian Christmas tradition into the story of the three men following the star because I like star followers to be generous.
Three is a magical number – the reasons vary across cultures – including the good, the bad and the something else: if at first you don’t succeed, try try try again : the Christian trilogy and the notion of decision. But sometimes decisions are made for us.
It is my contention that writers need praise as much as actors because of the exposure of writing. It is possible you don’t care but it is also possible that, if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t write. Few of us do something for one reason only. And when you find information intelligent to you, the tone hitting true on your personal ear, it’s exciting. There may be just a phrase that crystallises something for you but it matters to you.
It’s strange how somebody you never met can influence you. Although fame can be distorting, perhaps its most benign and personal attribute is for each of us to project on to the recognised one something of ourselves. Hence the sense of loss when they die, the mice of time nibbling at the garments of existence. Our heroes, however flawed or small, inspire us and they do that by allowing us to think we know something about them – though what we know may be what Norman Mailer called “factoids”, half truths so often repeated they congeal into knowledge. At best our star followers are people about whom we know something at first hand, or about whom we believe what we have projected on to them – this last uncharted territory.
When you don’t see the work, you wonder what the star follower meant to you – or do you just acknowledge how hard it is to get that far ? Michael Cimino wrote a seminal film , The Deerhunter. I have never seen it but 50 years on from America’s imperial war in South East Asia is maybe distance enough. He made six other films and Google lists three times as many projects. I don’t know anything about him except from the look of him, he was pretty ill. I have friends who see many more films than I do. I choose what I want to see, I am in some way seeking something often unknown and a tangent will upset the balance, rather as the studio was upset by Heaven’s Gate and its director became an imploded star
The bravest thing Elie Wiesel and his wife Marion ever did was to have a son. You wonder, was it will ? Was it fate ? It was certainly courageous. Elie Wiesel was a Romanian/Hungarian camp survivor who dedicated his formidable energy to bearing witness, to the proposition of “Never again” and to that end spoke up for others tormented and denied. In his book on the Hasidic masters, he tells of the predestination of Auschwitz. “ Who says that we are question ? And what if our death were answer ?” And he introduced me to the idea that God loves stories.
I am rereading Dispatches, after Michael Herr died last week. When I opened it, out fell a poem I did not know with a note from a friend of a friend, whom I do not remember. Herr, embedded in the Vietnam War long before the term was current, knew all about the vicissitudes of memory. His was the first example I ever accessed for myself of using one form completely opposite to imagine another, words for warfare. When I first read it, I was reminded of the Russian film Solaris which required me to breathe differently to stay with it and begin to understand. How I respect his wife.
So there you have the thoughts for the week – three wise men who followed their particular star: , one blown out, two made good and the common denominator is war.