Saturday, December 26, 2009

(256) James Marsh and the responsibility of doing your own thing

On the morning of June 5th 1991 I was selling advertising space for Cornhill Publications. I began introducing myself for the first time to sales prospects as ´James Marsh´. Many salespeople used pseudonyms although in my few months in that job I had never before adopted one. The name was partly inspired by Plaskett´s meaning ´marsh dweller´.
That afternoon through the hubbub in the office I heard colleague Tim Preston ask to speak to "... your President, James Marsh."
It transpired that out of the hundreds of potential leads he had chosen to call one with which he had no previous dealings and their President was James Marsh.
... ... ...
Some months later I had a dream which was scripted around an episode of the 1970s BBC drama Colditz which I had seen in the early 1970s.

The series was set in Colditz castle which was being used by the Germans during the Second World War to house hard case P.O.Ws. My dream was framed around an episode in which an Englishman hoped to exploit a clause in the Geneva Convention which permitted the repatriation of any P.O.W. determined insane. The officer planned a unique escape attempt by feigning insanity.
He was so convincing that many of his fellow inmates even were taken in and the Nazis sent him home.
Not long after the British Commanding Officer in Colditz reads out to some of his senior officers a letter he has received from the released prisoner´s wife. They are smiling as he begins the recital but then visibly shocked upon hearing that "... Doctors think a cure unlikely." i.e. his feigned insanity has slipped, unnoticed by his comrades, into the real thing.
The C.O. forbids any more escape attempts of that kind.
The ambience of the dream was somehow that my own attempts at yoga had led me to too isolated, unnatural and indeed dangerous a way of life, and damn near the brink. A more wholesome, social and integrated lifestyle such as that upon which I had embarked in 1991 was much better.
Shortly after the dream I was to see that episode of Colditz rebroadcast.
I noted that the "crazed" and crazed escapee was Wing Commander George Marsh.
... ... ...
On October 27th 2009 I tried ringing at work someone with whom I had worked at Cornhill but with whom I had had no contact in 13 years. I was asked by the person who took the call for my name. For some reason I gave the one that I had never deployed since 1996: "James Marsh". I was then asked for my company name and improvised; "I work for my own company."
My erstwhile colleage proved unable to take the call.
The next day I (re)e mailed Byron Jacobs requesting he send me a diagram of a chess position.
He did, also asking if I had given up with the Internet Chess Club, presumably because he often frequented it and I, who had been apt to hang out there, now rarely did.
I replied, sullenly and very inaccurately, that I had given up on life. He responded that if a man had become fed up with the ICC then he had probably found something better to do. I sent back again (untruly!) that I had given up on life.
But at the end of his response Byron had asked if I had seen Man on Wire, saying that he had watched it the previous evening - the 27th - and that it was stunning; "Man´s got balls of steel."
I seemed to recall hearing something about this film, and so looked at its trailer on Youtube.
I was amazed and went on to view the entire film that day, blown away by the fairy tale story of Philippe Petit´s illegal tightrope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center of New York in 1974.
I noted that the director of this 2008 Best Documentary Oscar winner was 46 year old Cornishman, James Marsh. His name had never registered with me before.

The trailer for this breathtaking film spoke of striving for the impossible ("That is what we´re here for") and how life is for living and the film concludes with the 57 year old Petit speaking of the importance of not repeating yourself and of making "... every day, every year, every idea a true challenge, and then you live your life like you are on a tightrope."

Earlier that morning I had been adding some quotations to a file of such that I was making under the heading Responsibility. Most of the quotes I had already there were about punctuality and reliability, but this new batch was for the most part from respectable people I knew who were in agreement that 9 to 5 routine was nothing to be proud of and that one could be perfectly responsible and respectable without subjecting oneself to such straightjacketing.

James Marsh´s film proved a timely motivational fillip!

The BBC Colditz series ran from 1972 to 1974, so it was showing in the same year as Petit made his walk, although the epsode featuring Wing Commander Marsh´s escape aired on December 21st 1972.

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