A Matter of Perspective
We were shooting television shows in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a picturesque Canadian fishing village. I was on camera working on the third of three segments of a 15-minute show. Every single take had been interrupted by some intrusive sound – a boat motor, a truck backing up, seagulls so noisy they weren’t ambiance but interruptions, a mother yelling at her child – those kinds of things.
Everyone was desperate to get the segment done before Nova Scotia’s notorious tide started coming in. I was on the last couple of sentences of a take that was going well when I saw a worker turn on a power washer to clean the walls of a boathouse across the bay. With the great difference between the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) and the speed of sound (.213 miles per second) I knew I had a few seconds to finish the segment before the sound made its way to our set. I was down to the very last phrase when the power washer arrived and the take was ruined.
We tried three or four more times but the power washer was just too loud. Finally one of our production assistants drove over to the boathouse and paid the guy $100.00 to stop for the remainder of the afternoon, but by then the tide was coming in and we had to strike the set. When we got back to the hotel we were all tired and cranky. I could usually shoot 10 – 12 segments in a day, but we had only managed 8. We would have to work twice as hard the next day.
I remember that day in Lunenburg very well because it was September 10, 2001. While shooting the next morning on a bluff overlooking Portuguese Cove, our videographer received a call from his brother who worked in the Air Force Strategic Command. His face turned ashen as his brother told him America was under attack. Suddenly the previous day’s frustrations were put into perspective. They meant nothing. There was a whole new bar for what could be considered disturbing.
Over the past year I have had my times of self-pity. It’s been tough, the hardest thing I have ever done. I have lost so much – not just jobs and financial security, but friendships and good work. For two or three years I had been doing the best work of my life, and I knew it. Now, suddenly, no one wanted me to do that same work. Everyone says, “You could have anticipated this?” I did, in fact, anticipate this response from the Evangelical world, but that still doesn’t take away the sting of rejection.
Two movies I have recently seen have reminded me how small my suffering is compared to others. As I wrote two weeks ago, I was profoundly moved by Selma. I was equally moved by Morten Tyldum’s brilliant movie, The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing, the father of theoretical computer science. Turing saved an estimated 14 to 21 million lives in World War II by breaking the Nazi Enigma code. His thanks was to be prosecuted for being gay and forced to undergo chemical castration. The things humans do in the name of moral outrage. Turing died at 41 years of age, his death officially recorded as a suicide. In 2013 Queen Elizabeth granted a royal pardon to Turing, though his conviction has never been overturned.
The offerings I have brought to this world have been modest by any measure, certainly when compared to those of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Alan Turing. They made the world a better place and brought about lasting change, though their great accomplishments were accompanied by great suffering and early death. What I have gone through, by comparison, is little more than the disruption of a rogue power washer on a sunny Canadian day. For most of my days I have lived a very privileged life. Only now am I beginning to taste, in just a small way, what so many have known through the ages. It really is all a matter of perspective.