It’s not just my story.
We don’t create in a vacuum. We’re contributing to a larger narrative. The best art works this way. It connects us from our past to our present and launches us into our future.
I love the idea that all art acts as a form of collective remembrance for our species. I can watch a film from 1939 and be provided a catharsis that perhaps shifts my focus ever so slightly. I didn’t know these filmmakers. I never met these actors and actresses. But when I watch that film it’s almost like we’re spiritually connected.
They were drawing on something, almost outside of themselves, distilled it into their art and eventually it reached me. And then, in the moment of connection, their emotions became my emotions. Their memories, my memories.
When you encounter something like this, it almost feels like you’re participating in something greater than your individual self.
This could be why I’ve always felt it important as a filmmaker to be in touch with my masters of the past—to honor, study, and understand their work.
Because their art isn’t dead, though they may have passed on. It’s brought to life again whenever we watch and participate. It’s there, ready to whisper and share all of its secrets, if only we’re willing to listen.
One of my favorite television shows is Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations for this exact reason. Anthony has such a profound respect for history and culture. When he visits different cities and countries, he uses food as a conduit to explore. A culture’s food can reveal so much. It is a story in and of itself.
He has a respect for tradition. An oft-repeated line he uses is (paraphrasing here), “The way things have always been done, are done today, and always will be done.”
In his travels to Spain to dine at the now defunct El Bulli, a chef friend of his, José Andrés, remarks, “If you don’t have a connection with the tradition and with the past, it’s impossible that you can then have a connection with the present and with the future.”
To that, I want to share where the name of this website, We Have Embarked, comes from.
It is taken from Wim Wenders’ 1988 masterpiece Wings of Desire, which chronicles two angels as they observe humanity while desperately longing to participate in the experience. A minor character in the film is Homer, the aged-poet. Homer is unique in the film. He is not angel… but we get the impression that he is not quite human either. He occupies an in-between space.
Homer seems to be a channel between the angels (the divine) and the human (the mortal). He speaks of the importance of the “storyteller” throughout the film and worries that if man loses its storyteller, “then it will lose its childhood.”
In this sense, Wenders implies that storytellers are akin to the prophets of old. They speak for the divine, though they are not divine themselves. Their job is to share our story. The role of the prophet was never a self-aggrandizing one. They existed to bear witness and to serve.
To me, that’s the responsibility of the storyteller. Of the filmmaker.
Homer has the last lines of the film, “Tell me of the men, women, and children who will look for me – their storyteller, their bard, their choirmaster – because they need me more than anything in the world… We have embarked.”
It’s not just my story. It’s your story. It’s our story.
We all contribute and all take part in this magical, ever-evolving narrative.