Go Big or Go Bust: On Meeting Jonas Mekas, Hearing About The Anthology Film Archives Completion Project And Getting Sage Life Advice

I had the honor and pleasure of being invited to lunch today with the lovely Sebastian Mekas and his father, Jonas Mekas, a hero of mine and of art and of independent film. In 1990, Jonas Mekas was responsible for giving my feature film a month-long run at Anthology Film Archives, the cinema and library on 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street in New York’s East Village which he founded and continues to oversee.

In two recent articles in The New York Times, John Leland has written about Jonas Mekas’ extraordinary life and approach to life including how, at 92, he feels 27:

“…he wakes up without intention or worry. “I’m not seeking,” he said. “I’m not a thinking person, and I’m not planning…”

“…In a 1974 essay, “On Happiness,” Mr. Mekas concludes with a meditation on a plate of grapes that might serve as his summary of his life. “This plate is my Paradise,” he wrote. “I don’t want anything else — no country house, no car, no dacha, no life insurance, no riches. It’s this plate of grapes that I want. It’s this plate of grapes that makes me really happy. To eat my grapes and enjoy them and want nothing else — that is happiness, that’s what makes me happy.”

With my apparent addiction to feeling 'anxious and tense', I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out how he maintains this attitude. And so I asked him, how do you do it?  How do you live like this without expectation or desire?  

He looked me straight in the eye and then he looked away, pausing for a moment and looked back:  “You just do the next thing in front of you.  Live your life! … There’s no answer to this question!”  

 photo by Sebastian Mekas

photo by Sebastian Mekas

Anthology Film Archives is planning a $6 million Completion Project which will make it the largest repository of independent film-related material in the United States. The drawings of it look gorgeous. It'll even have a café and a Sky Room and Roof Terrace with a catering pavilion.

On May 7, 2016, there'll be an auction to benefit this work. Artists, cinephiles and others are invited to give and to make contributions to the auction (signed movie posters, props, an acre of land in Vermont, a piece of music to be written for a special occasion or purpose … “It’s a wide window.”) and to spread the word.  “It’s best done in person.”