I don’t understand paralysis.
Can’t imagine it, can’t relate to it, can’t say I have any close family or friends who are afflicted by it. It is utterly foreign to me.
And so, the first time I saw the kickstarter for Craig Muderlak’s film about Enock – a paralyzed climber who dreamed of climbing El Cap – I ignored it, and kept on scrolling through facebook.
Later I went back and watched it. Good cinematography? Check. Good storytelling? Check. Captivating narrative? Check. But I distinctly remember not wanting to invest the emotional energy necessary to really care about Enock’s story. It was a decision: tune in, or tune out. I tuned out.
Over the past week, though, something about this experience kept bugging me. While I can’t relate to Enock’s condition, I certainly can to Craig’s. After all, Craig is like me – an artist who has some real talent, and some success, but is trying to make it in an increasingly difficult industry by telling stories that have to do with something more than high five competitions, and sick dynos.
I know I want to support the Craig Muderlaks out there, I know I want to support the film about Enock. I know I want to see stories about climbing with substance. But every time I saw the kickstarter in my facebook feed, I scrolled past, looking (presumably) for something more “like”able.
Of course, we all know how the internet works. The less “likes” something gets on facebook, the less it gets clicked on, the less it shows up on google searches, the less it actually exists. It’s a self-perpetuating system that breeds clickbait, and exterminates rumination.
And so, it’s not a big surprise to me that the kickstarter has only achieved 30% of its goal thus far, with little more than two weeks remaining, or that it has only had 26 backers. Doesn’t surprise me – but still makes me sad.
It’s not because Craig Muderlak is unknown, or because we don’t trust his artistic vision. His work has been all over the place lately. We eat up his drawings voraciously – the way we did with Jeremy Collins before he got so big he left the stratosphere. The reason the kickstarter is not doing so well right now is the same reason that the best work of many artists goes largely unrecognized.
I was just talking about this with a friend, while recording an episode of the Dirtbag Diaries. Some of our best pieces, she told me, you put out there all excited, and then all you get are crickets. Then you go and do something light-hearted and funny, some story about a dog or something, and people are coming out of the woodworks to congratulate you on such an awesome episode. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.
Of course, it’s something I’ve experienced time and again in my own career. The fact is, depth and virality often seem inversely related. We are with content the way we are with food – we say we want something nourishing, but when faced with the choice between a big mac and a home-made kale salad, we tend to go for the big mac.
Art is about telling the truth. The truth is, “Enock was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida rendering him paralyzed from the waist down.” The truth is, he decided he wanted to climb El Cap. The truth is, people doubted him, told him he couldn’t do it, looked at him through a lens and saw a crippled body instead of a living pumping determined heart.
Enock’s story is not easy, or easily consumable. It’s not built for a quick tap of the like button, and then move on with your day. It demands a willful suspension of disbelief; it requires you to invest some emotional energy; it insists that you take more than five milliseconds to think about it.
But Enock’s story is what many of us claim to want. It is the nourishing kale salad of a climbing story you’ve been looking for.
So just take two minutes, CHECK OUT THE KICKSTARTER, donate $1, and then go tell your friends why you did. If you believe in it. If you don’t, then whatever – keep scrolling.
But if you’re like me (and I bet a lot of you are) then it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. On the kickstarter page, there’s an option for $1. It says: “Just Because: you believe this narrative deserves to be told.”
Well, I do. Who knows? Maybe you do, too.