Extraordinary Old Men: Jiro Ono and Bill Cunningham


I saw two very good documentaries recently: Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Bill Cunningham New York. Each of them features a man over 80 years old. One is Jiro Ono and the other is Bill Cunningham. Both men are very unassuming people at first sight. One rides the subway to work. The other rides a bicycle. They both have a thing for dark jackets. However, what you will eventually find out about these two men is they are both giants in their respective fields. 

Jiro is a sushi master who runs his own award-winning restaurant. Bill is a fashion photographer for The New York Times. Both have dedicated their entire lives to the perfection of their craft. Neither of them seem to have any close friends. Nor are they emotionally close to their family. Their work is their family. Now I may have given you the impression that these two people are cold-hearted, relentless people who are incapable of basic social skills. That is simply not the case. I am not sure about the motivations behind them to appear on camera, but both seem to be more than willing to accommodate the curious filmmakers. They both appear to be honest in their attempt to answer questions and they are both graceful in their social conducts. I highly recommend both movies if you want to see artists who are totally passionate and completely engrossed in their work.

I don’t work, I only know how to have fun everyday.” -Bill Cunningham

I’ve never once hated this job. I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it. Even though I’m eighty five years old, I don’t feel like retiring. That’s how I feel.” -Jiro Ono

Other than the fact I enjoyed both movies immensely and I admire and respect both individuals portrayed, I cannot help but wonder, is this the kind of life I want to live? For Jiro and Bill, I don’t think the incentive is money, fame, nor pleasing others. The only reasonable incentive is love: the love of the work itself. I have no doubt both Bill and Jiro lived life with no regrets and given the chance to do it all over again, they would not have chosen differently. But to me, relationships with other people is something I value and cherish almost above all else. No work is more important to me than the people I let into my life. But that’s just me. For those looking for inspiration or just something interesting to watch, don’t miss out on these two beautiful films.

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About eleganthinker

A philosopher in practice, but a poet at heart.
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Movies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Extraordinary Old Men: Jiro Ono and Bill Cunningham

  1. I am passionate about the job that I have, I am very lucky to be a part of the scientific community studying the topic that interests me. Yet at the same time, the little kid in me, with childish innocence, asks me why I am not a writer, and that tears me apart every day. This is why I am a scientist in the day, and once the day ends, I become a writer at night. And in between, I try to accommodate my family with texts, fb messages, and Skyping with them. I think I’ve found a precarious balance between all the things I want to do every day, but sometimes I have to pick up the slack…

  2. The YUster says:

    I watched Jiro recently and that movie actually demotivated in wanting to work hard. I personally believe that the human body is genetically built to be social, to love, raise your kids (especially in his case because he made the decision to have TWO of them…not to mention marry a wife who he’s probably only had the time to have intercourse with her twice). That being said, i believe “addiction” is a defect, and what that man had was an addiction. of course he’s going to say that he has no regrets; ask a crack addict who has a lifetime supply of crack if he has any regrets.
    But let’s say his body truly was an anomaly and that he waaaas truly made to make sushi as prolific as he did. In either case, i would still call him selfish, because he chose to concede.

  3. Bob the Builder says:

    i like sushi too

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