Evergreen Creations

by Krishna on June 23, 2007

About 13 years ago, a few movie enthusiasts including me gathered after class hours outside the Great Hall in CMS College, set up a TV and VCR and started playing great movie hits. Among them was Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights”. I remember being extremely touched by the final scene between Chaplin and the flower girl. Today, I watched it again and, even though I knew the ending, I had the same lump-in-the-throat feeling as I watched that final scene.

What a great film! Made as a silent movie three-quarters of a century ago in black-and-white, it still has the capability to arouse strong emotions. That is the power of great creations. They last long after the creator has passed away and are immortal. It is not just movies — great writings, paintings, music, architecture, philosophies, etc. created decades and even centuries ago have lasted and influenced human culture and way of life.

Most of us live in the present and are, in one form or another, news junkies. We want to read or talk about what is happening right now — things that affect our lives or careers. And there is a huge market to cater to this need. The whole newspaper and TV news industries exist because they can serve our need for information now. On the Internet, news and product bloggers attract the largest number of visitors every day.

But beyond our instant news gratification needs, we also crave for the immortal stuff. These are the ones that have lasting value. They give greater meaning to our lives, enriching it with ideas, dreams and experiences. And it is not just the inanimate things like books and movies. Think about the people who were in your life. Which teachers do you remember? Which friends would you stay up the whole night talking to?

When I look back, the teachers I remember fondly are the ones who taught us to dream and hope. We didn’t even know what we wanted to achieve, but they gave us the confidence that we could achieve anything we tried. The good ones transferred their passion to us. They made us love what we were learning. Teaching for them was not about exams or grades — it was something much more and we could feel it.

The friends that I respect are the ones who had this contagious disease of love for their life and work. My memories? My long discussions with my friend Chase Joseph about politics, economics and history. My old Hit Software gang at college (Jeesmon & Jayan) going crazy over class projects. My present and former colleagues teaching and encouraging me. The Internet friends who I have never met or spoken to — their emails are so full of enthusiasm and bubbling with life that I wish I were 20 years old again.

I was recently again reminded of the idealism of youth when I read this blog by Vipul Naik. He recently posted two good posts about how people are easily influenced and manipulated by false criteria of success. He has amazing maturity for a person of his age. When I read his posts, the thing that runs through my mind is that his post would probably be just as valid and meaningful 40 years from now as it is today. That is immortality.

Of course, there are many A‑list bloggers who create such content — notably Joel SpolskySeth Godin, Paul Graham, Guy Kawasaki and, recently, Marc Andreessen. But Vipul’s blog is an illustration of how people who are not famous can still create content that is highly relevant even as time passes. In sharp contrast, a popular blogger like Robert Scoble has mostly content that has high impact today, but loses its value as each day goes by.

The question is not whether you should be creating “immortal” content. In my opinion, doing something for building your legacy is egotistic and conceited. It also has less chance of succeeding because your behavior will lean towards pleasing people today. No, the best work comes when you don’t even think about your legacy.

It comes when you really love and understand what you are doing. It comes when you genuinely believe that others would be just as happy as you are if they would do the same things you are doing. It comes when there is a twinkle in your eyes when you talk about your work. It comes when you want to share the knowledge you have about your work, because it is so much exciting.

Roger Ebert hit the nail on the head when he said,

If you take a step back and really think about James Bond, you will realize that he is mad. So is Batman. So is the Phantom … They live in fantasy worlds of their own creation, and bring a certain style to their delusions.

To achieve truly great things, you have to be a little crazy.

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