In Episode 3 of the fascinating exploration of the decision to have a vasectomy, Jonathan Stack decides to get an unexpected set of second opinions . . .What do you think they’ll advise?
It’s just about five years ago during a walk in Prospect Park that my friend Kenny and I brainstormed a fundraising campaign, A MAN WILLING TO PUT HIS BALLS ON THE LINE FOR MOTHER EARTH. The idea was simple; auction off his vasectomy and give money to help train environmental activists in the Amazon.
Now, with only a few weeks left to edit THE VASECTOMIST, there’s great satisfaction in seeing how an idea that was born out of such a specific, albeit seemingly random, moment is evolving into a global project. And yet as the finish nears, I find myself asking; is all of this simply a matter of living out my destiny or am I in fact the product of a lifetime of choices and decisions?
Earlier in the project, I had visited an astrologer and she asserted that what some call ‘chance’ has indeed been determined by celestial orientation and the either planned or unplanned event of which I am a product of (i.e. my conception in September and birth in June), has more to do with determining my identity than pretty much anything else. And so it is, I am a double Gemini; an air sign, creative, good with words, a free spirit floating through the universe and opposed to any attachment.
While I may want to ‘want to’ settle down (my socialized persona), my true spirit has dictated otherwise. Personally, this all sits right with a philosophy of life I already adhere to: first, ‘to know thyself’ and secondly, ‘to be true to thyself’. The simplicity, and may I add, accuracy of my reading is comforting to me, but for others, especially my girlfriend, it comes across as self-serving (and selfish). According to her, any lack of commitment is all about my fear and nothing to do with my destiny. Apparently, ‘the truth’, even when delivered straight from the skies, is not necessarily what people want to hear.
She points out, rightfully so, that I don’t lead my life as though it were all scripted and more importantly, that I don’t believe in astrology. Which was true until one night in the summer of 2008 when I found myself at dinner with my younger son’s mother.
A little background: although we share a child, in fact I barely know this woman. We had slept together just once (it happens boys!) and been to court a few times but after many years of conflict we communicated mostly through her secretary. It was a very rare dinner together so I soaked in all she said.
After dropping our son off at camp on visiting day, she shared that despite whatever else was wrong about me (and according to her there’s plenty), she wanted me to know that our son’s very existence was pre-ordained, “You see, in the early 90’s I was in Los Angeles and went to see a psychic astrologer”. As she described the house, I had a feeling I had been there been before. She described the man as strange in spirit and form and then, “I was married at the time, but he told me I was going to have a son at age 40 but as a single mother”. Before she could say another word, I asked, “Was his name Tom Sexton?”
This was one of those magical moments in life that you cannot simply write off with logic. Almost twenty years earlier, while visiting a film festival in Estonia, I reached out to members of the Jewish community about making what would be my first documentary. The Berlin Wall had yet to collapse, the Soviet Union ruled the country and with it a deep seeded fear of working with an American filmmaker pervaded. While the family I hoped to film with was eager to participate, out of caution, they asked me to first present the project to their trusted friend Tatiana. She was due to be in Los Angeles a few months later and the plan was for me to send her a formal proposal and then meet to discuss it.
A month later, I traveled from my home in NY to LA. Upon arriving at Tatiana’s hotel, she immediately told me that she could not give a definitive answer to my request, but that there was a man who could and so we drove across the city, over the hills and into the valley. I had expected a Russian psychic, but instead, we were greeted by an ordinary-looking white American man. “Hello, my name is Tom Sexton.”
He invited me into his ‘study’, sat me down, held my gaze for a few seconds and started laughing. “My God, what a mess. You’re going to end up with three children with three different women. Prepare to suffer!” I had no children at the time.
Long story short, I thought he was nuts, but I left satisfactorily as he went on to declare that it was imperative that I make the film as it would help save lives from cataclysmic changes taking place in Estonia. My last memory of the reading was that as I walked out the door, I asked him, “Oh, by the way, how does the film turn out”. He said, “it’s no masterpiece, but you still have to make it”. One year later, the family who had come to attend the premiere in NY, never returned home as their country collapsed into chaos.
Fifteen years later, barely a week after his mother turned 40 my son was born, and as Tom predicted, I ended up having three children with three women. And, of course, I suffered plenty.
When I visited the astrologer that you’ll see in the webisode, she told me that while we are born to a given plot of land, it is up to us what we plant in it, how we fertilize it and how we tend to that which grows. So, is life happening exactly the way it’s meant to be or are am I responsible for the life I lead?
I suspect it’s a bit of both.
PS The film, One Generation More was, as predicted, no masterpiece.