Friday, July 18, 2014

Upon these Elysian Fields . . . we lose our innocence

I can’t stop watching this video. I woke up this morning thinking about it. And I’ve tried to parse my emotions or rationalize them. Would I like this video, this song even if I didn’t know the story behind them? Would the images alone have stayed with me? Probably not.

But what are images without story, and what is story without some kind of picture in your head to go with it? Isn’t this the power, the driving nexus of being human—what art is all about, really.

The images are uncannily raw—real people, real college . . . one that sounded familiar when I first started watching. Hadn’t I heard something recently about Seattle Pacific University? Oh, the hi-jinks, the stupidity of being 21, 22 years old. The utter recklessness. The surface emotions, the underlying passion, the fire in the belly. Then—

It’s what happened next that could be described as a videographer’s good luck or someone else’s nightmare. But, filmmaker James Marcus Haney keeps the camera rolling when the kids get the news that a shooter has come onto their campus. He captures the disbelief, the processing of fear, and that sinking knowing in the pit of the stomach. The group does a head count, are they all there? There is one friend missing. The rest is from James Marcus Haney’s blog:

"Soon after I arrived in Seattle to begin filming, an armed man walked onto Turner's college campus and shot four students. One of them died. I was staying on my brother's couch in his campus dorm room, living amongst sixty or so sophomore boys. The name of the slain student was not released, and no one knew when it would be. As hours passed by into night time, one student was still left unaccounted on my brother's floor, four rooms down from us. One of the dorm-mates decided to sleep in the hallway just outside the elevator to wait for the missing student, so that he would wake up when the missing student came home. Others followed suit until the entire dorm floor hallway was filled with mattresses and students unable to sleep, all waiting for the elevator door to open.

"When the victim's name was released the next day, the fears were confirmed. Turner's friend and dorm-mate, Paul Lee, was dead.”

Elysium or Elysian Fields is a classical reference similar to Arcadia or paradise. It is one way to describe death or where people go after they have died. A euphemism, though when it comes to dying or tragedy there really is no sugar-coating it. These kids got it.

"That weekend, my brother and his friends wanted to finish the video, in honor of Paul. The end result is a video that depicts real friends, real teenagers, experiencing something far too real."

Brother do you believe in an afterlife
Our souls'll both collide
In some great Elysium
Way up in the sky
Free from our shackles, our chains, our mouths, our brains
We'll open all the gates
We will walk careless, straight into the light

The song “Elysium” will be on a new record from Bear’s Den coming in the fall. "Just hold out against the night / And guard your hope with your life."

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