Why Man Creates — Memory of a Movie

I attend­ed high school from fall of 1969 through the spring of 1973. In that four years, I was shown the movie Why Man Cre­ates two or three times (I’m real­ly lean­ing towards the three). It is a strange flick and most of it I only vague­ly remember.

I do, how­ev­er, vivid­ly remem­ber one long sequence. I do no so much remem­ber what all was in the sequence, but I remem­ber what it looked like. The con­ceit was that we are look­ing at one long con­tin­u­ous sheet of paper scrolling across the frame top to bot­tom. As the paper scrolls, a pen­cil point enters the frame and draws (very quick­ly) illus­trat­ing the his­to­ry of mankind.

I can still remem­ber the dark ages going by as the pen­cil draws tall tow­ers with arched shut­tered win­dows. Then one shut­ter opens up and a man leans out and says “Egads!! I’ve invent­ed the zero!”. Anoth­er shut­ter near­by opens and a man leans out and says “What?”. The first man responds with “Noth­ing. Nothing.”

I am a big lover of puns and I thought that was great. I’ve always remem­bered it. Or did I?

As you can see, the movie does not quite con­form to my memory.

The nerve.

I see that I took my favorite “dia­logue” from the movie and insert­ed it into the mem­o­rable sequence (the pen­cil sketch­ing). Then I for­got all about Allah and sub­sti­tut­ed “Egads!”. Those two things com­bined gave cred­it for the dis­cov­ery of zero to the wrong cul­ture. This mem­o­ry per­sist­ed even though I knew bet­ter regard­ing where the cred­it lay.

This makes me won­der about the verac­i­ty of my clear mem­o­ry of writ­ing the song Amer­i­can Pie. I’m sure McLean stole it from me.…

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