One Great Thing... George Harrison and Martin Scorsese

HBO has many ways to prove its value.  Every time I begin to think... "But I don't want to watch a dramedy about a man with a huge penis... why am I paying for this...?" something comes on that makes me really glad I subscribe.  And that it's a tax write off.

The past two nights I stayed up late watching parts 1 and 2 of Martin Scorsese's 4-hour documentary on the life of George Harrison.  You know... the third most interesting Beatle.

The documentary is called "George Harrison: Living in the Material World."  I am too young to know anything about Beatlemania that I can't learn from documentaries, but you know what?  The third most interesting Beatle is still plenty fascinating.

It's a very long story, filled with anecdotes both familiar and surprising.  So I'm going to mention just three things I learned while watching it.

1.  Great people are great for a reason.  People don't just fall into lives like Harrison's.  They bring something special to the table when they enter the world.   The record of such a life is more like a vapor trail behind some brightly burning, wondrous thing.

Laird Hamilton doing his impression of Beatlemania
from George Harrison's POV.
The secret of living well has often been compared to surfing, learning to ride the waves as they come, etc...  Much of the beauty of this film comes through watching the powerful but naive young Beatle ride such titanic waves as came his way, as have famously damaged or outright crushed Elvises and Michaels in the past, only to reach the beach, and smile.

The life-as-surfing analogy is about balance.  Inner life balanced with outer.  We know Harrison's outer life.  Scorsese gives four hours of his best work to offer us a strong hint at an indescribable counter-weight, the inner-life that afforded George Harrison such remarkable balance.

Through the narrative of the film, you can literally see it on Harrison's face as the intelligent, talented, but arrogant young man grows into the visage of a master, a sage.  It's a slow motion jaw dropper.

Harrison - taunting me. 
2.  Even as a remarkably handsome bald man, I guess I really am jealous of hair like that.  Harrison looked awesome even with 70's Jesus Hair and managed to not look like a complete tool in the 80's.  A truly amazing feat as those of you who came of age in the 80's already know (and if you don't know, look at some old pictures of yourself - you looked like a tool).

And finally, the last thing I think I learned and the reason for this blog post.

Harrison was a spiritual seeker.  The good kind; the kind that leads by the example of their life, that doesn't tell other people what they are doing wrong, but seeks to slake their own insatiable curiosity, driven by the same desires we all seem to have been given at birth, but guided by a degree of control that lets desire lead to accomplishment, and ultimately to wisdom.   This is the wisdom to realize that no matter how great the accomplishment (or the failure), it's really not a big deal in the grand scheme we all seem to be a part of.  It's the wisdom to know we can all just relax, because there is really only one thing to do here that is important, and it's not as hard as surfing giant waves or being a Beatle.

From the story of George Harrison's life as presented by Martin Scorsese,  I think I learned this...

3.  If you want to know God, learn to love other people.   Even if it's just one.  That person is God.  This is why we have friends, why we marry, why we have children.  And it's probably why we have enemies too.  Everyone is a gift to help us learn.  And we are all in a position to do it.   So keep practicing.

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