In Paris, the surrealists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali have débuted a film based on their own dreams, separate but, for fifteen minutes or so, united on the screen. Unfortunately, France remains in Europe while I remain at home; if only the surreal were the real, and I could dream my way to Paris.
In his "Yellow Manifesto" of last year, Dali denounced "the total lack of youth in our youth." One can understand his disappointment. But there's so much at stake when one is young: the successful formation of a workable self, of happy relationships with others, of secure identification with a community--whether political, religious, philosophical, or what-have-you--or, more commonly (bringing deeper confusions), some combination of communities, each crowding the other. And the slightest recognition of those duties--more specifically, their inexorable force and threatening finality--is enough to send anyone into full retreat. I know many young people who simply want to be let alone--and not out of some fierce petulance, the impatience of youth in the face of age and responsibility. No, they want their own youth to depart, leaving instead shelter from the storm. They're more than willing to let the world do what it will, as long as it lets them be--to find employment, wear decent clothes, buy an auto, go to the movies. In return, they promise obedience, a buttoned lip, and a willingness to serve--at least a little, every once in a while.
I feel this, too, the urge for peace and quiet, a simple task before me, and time to complete it. But we never get a chance to finish. Our lives will end in mid-sentence. And so I turn to Dali and Buñuel--the latter, I read, disappointed that the stones he had kept in his pocket (as defense against outrage at their little dog of a movie) were unnecessary, that the bourgeois audience loved his film. And so where is outrage, or the ability to offend--let alone create, the highest calling of youth at any age? I have not earned the right to ask--off to the side as I am situated, simply watching. But I think I am watching closely--even when the film squats over there in France, glaring and out of reach--and I suspect the surrealists will continue to try what they can: Dali's imaginary iconography, little pieces strewn on the plain, dots and bones, torsos and pins; and Buñuel's cinematic donkey-cart, the quick and the dead dragged along together as equals, never in a straight line, but always onward.