467: Rediscovering wonders of human life in a movie about minds & music

If you’re among the millions of American families caring for relatives recovering from brain injuries, then you already know something about the heartbreak, the hard work, the hopes—and sometimes the moments of great wonderment that can occur in this long journey.
    All this week, we’re exploring the mysteries of life. (Don’t miss our special interview tomorrow with a wise scholar from the Rocky Mountains on connections between nature and human life!)

TODAY, we’re urging you: Tune in tonight to PBS!
    We’re recommending a new documentary, debuting on PBS’ “POV” series tonight, called “Life. Support. Music.” Here’s a link to the movie site at PBS, where you can check for local listings. It’s worth the effort of taking this surprising journey with the family of Jason Crigler—a red-hot young guitarist in New York clubs earlier this decade.
    In July 2004, he collapsed on stage as the result of what doctors discovered was an unexpected bleed inside his brain. The incident was so devastating that we see Jason in the film, many months after he collapsed, still curled up in a condition so extreme and frail that it is almost impossible to recognize the high-energy guitarist who we met in an old home movie in the film’s opening moments. The Jason we “knew” so briefly seems completely—gone.
    The basic story is this: Jason is fortunate enough to have friends like singer-songwriters Norah Jones and Marshall Crenshaw—and a hugely supportive extended family. First, relatives pitched in to help with his home-based recovery and soon his musician friends helped out, too, by inviting him to come back to clubs with them.
    I don’t think I’m spoiling the film at all by telling you: Jason makes an amazing recovery. I realize that millions of families don’t experience such dramatic physical revivals. In watching the film, I thought back to the 1990s when my own family cared for my younger brother—who did not recover as Jason Crigler did.
    And, this may seem like a strange observation: But, I don’t think the “good news” outcome of Jason’s recovery really is the point of this film. The point here is—observing various stages of life and relationships. Throughout Jason’s recovery, we see dozens of short clips from home movies throughout his entire life. We see a child, a boy, a man, a musician, a patient, a father—Jason in all kinds of roles. This film isn’t merely a meditation on medical recovery—it’s a meditation on the meaning of life itself.
    Having taken this real-life journey myself (and even though my brother’s outcome wound up more somber in the end), what I recall from our own odyssey is the wonderment of my brother’s life. For example, in his recovery, he never was able to drive a car again and often could not even recall what he had eaten for lunch—but he recalled beautiful and funny lyrics from Cole Porter songs word for word.
    Sometimes he had trouble walking. But, one sunny day, he accomplished a personal goal he had craved for many months: He climbed a series of sheer, rocky cliffs with the help of relatives.
    He was unable to complete scholarly work that he was pursuing before the trauma to his brain. But, each day he lived, he focused on adding one new word to his vocabulary from a little paperback guidebook he carried—and he shared with us insights about language that often surprised me.
    We often were sad and tired. He often grinned and cracked jokes.
    Those are the miracles I recall in our journey. Now, such a journey—the odyssey of Jason Crigler and his friends and family—is captured on video for all of us to appreciate. That’s why you should make an effort to see this film—not to scare yourself that you might one day be among the millions who must struggle with these injuries—but to rediscover the awe we all should feel at the miracle of human life.
    Here’s that PBS link again, a page that’s packed with resources, including a link to order a copy for educational groups.

    Don’t miss this experience!

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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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