High cotton

by Keith Barber

Summertime, and the living is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high. — George Gershwin My heart was full and tears began to well in my eyes as I listened to violinist Chee-Yun perform the theme to the classic Italian film Cinema Paradiso. Chee- Yun stood on stage next to the brilliant jazz trumpeter Chris Botti at Reynolds Auditorium Saturday night and played with a virtuosity and passion I never imagined possible. The sold-out crowd was mesmerized, and so was I.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my girlfriend, Suzanne, gauging my reaction. Cinema Paradiso is one of the films I raved about when we first met. The 1989 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film is in my Top 5 favorite movies of all time. The power of music is its ability to express the best things in life, which words and human thought cannot approach.

My favorite author, Joseph Campbell, was fond of saying that we talk about the third-best things. The best things are unknowable and cannot be comprehended by man. The second best things are our feeble attempts to describe that which our minds cannot fathom. Therefore, we talk about the third-best things.

Saturday night’s concert marked yet another glorious occasion in la mia vita meravigliosa (my wonderful life). If someone had told me that at age 42, all of my dreams would come true, I wouldn’t have believed them. Something deep inside would’ve crushed that notion and perpetuated the lie that I wasn’t deserving of happiness and success. Now, that lie has been obliterated.

Two weeks ago, I stood before a packed theater on the campus of Wake Forest University and introduced the world premiere of my first feature-length documentary film, Any Given Friday. Ninety minutes later, when my name appeared on the screen — Directed by Keith T. Barber — and I heard the enthusiastic applause, I instinctively bowed my head in the darkness. I did so out of reverence for that higher power that made it all possible by giving me the strength to see it through to the end.

My face was flushed, and I felt this wave of warmth fill my body. I even broke into a sweat during the question-andanswer session. Afterwards, I received hugs and congratulations from family and friends. Their sentiments were genuine. They were truly happy for me.

So as Chee-Yun played her marvelous violin solo, the melancholy melody of Ennio Morricone’s masterful score touched off another wave of emotions. I turned to look at Suzanne and was reminded of the infinite power of love and human forgiveness.

Her hand squeezed mine, and I knew I would never feel alone another second in my life. And I would always be loved.

In the very recent past, these thoughts would’ve sent my heart racing, and set my mind off in a million different directions. I would’ve been plotting an escape route, a way to avoid true intimacy. But it was that single moment in time, the moment I had dreamed about for more than 10 years — the moment when I experienced an audience’s reaction to something I conceived and created — that revealed the real truth about me. It turns out I am deserving of happiness.

Suzanne and I waited patiently for Chris Botti’s autograph after the show, and despite being clearly exhausted, the artist was gracious enough to pose for photos with each of us. Botti’s soulful music has special meaning for us. It is the soundtrack of our romance. Our shared love for his work offered one of the first signs that we had quite a bit in common. And as our appreciation of Botti’s transcendent style of jazz has grown, so has our love for each other.

Riding home in the car, Suzanne was effervescent. Her enthusiasm mirrored my own. Finally, I’m in love with a woman who gets as excited about life as I do. We were like two wide-eyed children seeing the beginning of a future with infinite possibilities and feeling the very best things in life without saying a word.