This past weekend, I watched the James Brown movie, Get On Up, a biopic that details the life of the Godfather of Soul, who revolutionized the way we think about African American music.
As the credits rolled at the end, I was fascinated by the concept of a biopic. A man lived his life, and someone else found it so meaningful, so transcendently significant, that he wrote the story down and got another person to pretend to be that character. I also got to thinking about whether or not James Brown knew what was happening as it was going down. At what age did he know he was going to be a household name? At what point did the idea cross his mind that maybe, just maybe, a movie would be made about his accomplishments?
By the depiction presented in the movie, it doesn’t sound like it would come as much of a shock to Brown that he was the subject of a film. His ego lent itself well to the kind of superstardom that he enjoyed, and he probably would have loved the idea of his story being told to a new generation, many of whom may not remember the world before Funk. In the moments that they were happening, though, those around him probably had no idea that they were bearing witness to a paradigm shift, that they would one day get their own depictions, not as the stars of their movie, but as bystanders in his.
When looking around the world we live in, what are the moments that are going to find their way into the stories we tell twenty, thirty, forty years down the road? There are some stories that we can fairly assume will find their way into the history books and even onto the silver screen. Major world events, like September 11th and the Arab Spring are easy examples. It is only a matter of time after a significant historical moment that someone begins to tell the narrative, the backstory that accompanies these turning points in human existence.
It is, though, the subtler stories that are the most fascinating. We go through life every day, and we are so often underwhelmed by how ordinary it might be. Nobody wants to write a book or shoot a movie about waking up, going to work, making dinner, and going back to bed. But everyone has a story to tell, and you can never really understand someone’s story unless you’ve asked them to share it.
You never know when the child you grew up with will turn into a superstar. You never know when the simple interaction you have at the grocery store might turn into a life-changing moment. You never know when the door will open and the beginning of your story might begin.
As I went about my day after watching the movie about a young boy from Georgia who changed an entire genre of music, I was drawn to the idea: what will my story be? And who will be listening? Even more so than that, what are the stories that I could be telling, if only I was paying attention enough to listen?