Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Introduction

I hate the word blog, it sounds like someone vomiting - which I guess is the connotation: mental/verbal spew. And to be honest, this is what has kept me from posting up until now: the fear that what I write here will puzzle or put off my potential visitors as they attempt to learn more about this project. In the two years that I've worked on WARRIOR SAINTS, I've learned just how many people out there have an active interest in Sikhism and making Sikh culture, identity and values understood and appreciated around the world. Sikhs have been burned so many times by the media's representation of them, that they take public representations of them very, very seriously. Thus any film or artistic project dealing with the topic has a signficant burden to shoulder. It can be very intimidating.

And at the same time, the way I'm approaching this project -- as a personal journey -- seems to run counter to the ostensible mission of presenting an expansive view of a major global religious community. As this project has become more and more personal, I fear that the personal aspect risks distracting from the subject of Sikhism and the travails of its 25+ million followers around the world. But I feel like the path I have taken is justified, if not inevitable -- for what significance does religion and spirituality have if it is not a sanctuary to discover and express one's innermost self? This is the paradox of religion which has taken me years to understand, and through a religious tradition that two years ago I knew nothing about.

The japji, the most sacred text in Sikhism, is commonly perceived as the word of God as told to Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. But one fascinating interpretation I've heard is that it is really Guru Nanak dictating to himself, while in a state of intense meditation -- it's as if he is having the most intimate and probing conversation that he's had in his life, and he's having it with himself. Imagine having the biggest heart to heart you can remember, magnify that by a hundred, and then picture yourself doing this with yourself. That is a level of self-knowledge and self-communication that I both envy and crave for. And so much of my journey with the Warrior Saints has been not just discovering an entire new world of people, culture and conflicts, but a world within myself. And the more I've learned about Sikhism, the more I've come to embrace the idea that one can discover the world through oneself as much as one discovers oneself through the world -- the two can go hand in hand in a stream of harmony.

So the purpose of this blog is to take the two halves of the WARRIOR SAINTS project, the personal and the public, and bring them to a point of daily confrontation and reconciliation. I need to do this to get to the heart of this project and bring it out as much as I can. This blog will serve as a regular meditation forum for me as I work through the project: completing production, reviewing and editing footage, community outreach and many other aspects of what it takes to get a movie made and seen. This has been an incredible learning experience for me both professionally and personally -- it has forced me to confront my fears and rise to the challenge of making what I hope will be a significant documentary on an amazing topic.

So as my first bit of news to report, I am proud to say that I am the recipient of a quadruple rejection from the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival -- four pieces I submitted (three of which were Sikh-related) were turned down for the May event. I shudder to post this here for fear of the doubts it may cast on my work for anyone reading this. But this is exactly what Sikhism has taught me -- to take those fears and externalize them instead of let them consume one from within -- to turn symbols of shame into emblems of self-acceptance, pride, and progress. There is simply too much work to be done to be bogged down in discouragement. And so, let's begin...

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