Following an inspiration
I went to see the movie Julie & Julia yesterday, and I really liked it, way more than I expected. I remember Julia Child from her TV show when I was a kid. Either my mom or my grandmother (or both) used to watch her show regularly. I wanted to see the movie because I thought it was about her life (which it is), but what blew me away was the story of Julie, who takes on a project of going through all of Julia’s recipes and blogging about it. The experience she has doing this matches my own blogging experience in some ways. I am also following my inspiration where it leads, and I also struggle with my own ignorance. What’s comforting and inspiring about the movie is it shows that 1) those who inspire us went through their own struggles and doubts, and 2) we tend to idealize/idolize our inspirations. In a Platonic way (after Plato) these idealized versions we hold within ourselves are really “forms,” and they’re our inspiration, not what we think are our inspiration. We come to own our inspiration using the illusion that it all comes from someone else to make the inspiration stronger within us at first.
The movie is based on two books: My Life in France, by Julia Child, and Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, by Julie Powell, which is based on her blog The Julie/Julia Project. The movie skillfully interweaves the two stories to show parallels in the lives of these two people–and perhaps idealizes them as well.
Coming out of ignorance and teaching others
Speaking of Plato, I came upon a video recently showing Plato’s allegory of “The cave.” It describes well an aspect of the journey I feel I’ve been on, based on my experience. It was meant as a way of expressing the process that one goes through to reach enlightenment, the responsibility of the enlightened to try to help fellow members of society to go on their own enlightenment journeys, and the obstacles they face in doing it.
There’s a morbid aspect to this allegory. Plato says that those who return to the “prisoners” to try to free them risk death, for those inside do not wish to leave their unenlightened state. I think I read that this allegory was Plato’s way of describing the significance of the life and death of Socrates, and that this allusion to “the danger of death” to the enlightened was an oblique reference to his Athenian trial and death sentence. I don’t feel that this applies today, but I have sometimes seen the mocking and dismissive resistance that Plato described when I’ve tried to share in the “troubles and honors” of fellow developers, and present an expanded viewpoint of computing.
This story is more than 2,000 years old, and it shows that the process of becoming enlightened, and the difficulties in helping others do the same are part of the human condition.