Last night we caught a very fun and inspiring documentary on the Sundance Channel. "Flight 666" is about Iron Maiden, and an epic tour they did a few years ago, covering countries and continents in just a few months. Not only were they flying huge distances between shows, but their lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, was also piloting the huge jet that took them there. Unlike the recent documentary about Metallica, in which the band had to enter group therapy because they were at each other's throats, "Flight 666" is incredibly sweet. This real-life Spinal Tap may sing about the Devil, but on their time off they visit tourist sites together, bring their teenaged kids on the road, and even... golf (they have Iron Maiden golf bags for heaven's sake!). The scene that really made me smile was one where they're somewhere in Mexico, visiting a Mayan ruin. They all go down into the tunnels beneath one of the temples and you're thinking okay, this is where they get all satanic and sacrifice a goat or something. In the underground dark, the drummer cups a candle in his hands and... makes a wish for his friends' health and happiness. When you see footage of them on stage in front of thousands of writhing fans, their delight in what they're doing shines through in their huge grins.
I ran into an acquaintance a while ago, a musician I respect. He was making a living playing in a band with some other aging rock stars, members of a fairly high-profile Canadian group. "They all need lawyers to talk to each other," he said. "When they need to make a decision everyone has to vote and argue and it takes forever."
I thought of that group as I was watching the Maiden documentary. How some cling stubbornly to one way of life because it is lucrative, or because it is the only way they know, even though it brings them pain and puts them into conflict with people they once liked. And how other people can be following the exact same way of life, and still be doing it with joy and enthusiasm. If I have one wish for 2011 it is that I have the courage to let go of things that are not working and also the courage to keep putting the effort into things that do work.