who knows what tomorrow might bring?
Learn from your mistakes is my only advice
And stay cool is the main rule"--Bryan Ferry
When I browse Livejournals and other weblogs, I'm repeatedly struck by how much more *something* people's lives are than mine seems to be. I'll call that "something" 'vivid'. I rather feel I'm filming a documentary about bottle caps, while some folks out there have personal films which are much more Renoir, Cocteau or Bertolucci (I must admit it would be cool if, like in the movie, when I was walking down the street, a troupe of children began singing 'La Internationale'. It would not be cool in some art film way, but in the same way that it's cool to hear French counter help young women sing out 'bon jour' as if they were living doorbells when one enters a patisserie in rural France--life as good ambience).
My life tends to run down very conventional pathways. My monthly challenges all tend to be about meeting work deadlines, and enhancing family relations. Even when I was younger, I tended not to have grand controversies or intense breakthroughs. The most melodramatic of my personal life issues can in general be subdivided into needless mistakes and silly whims. Yet I read stories of lives so rich with detail and varied in their scope and accomplishment. I love that the journals I read have phrases in them like "when I left the cirque", "during my time in the commune", and "I'm editing page 474 of my dissertation". The nice thing is that I don't really mind that my own accomplishments this past week run more to "I got my to-do list at work worked down a bit", "I reserved three bowling lanes for our nanowrimo get-together", "the insurance company finally sent the body work estimate for my car" and "we're planning our January vacation".
By contrast, I read vivid posts about people fighting oppression, creating and selling art, turning back the forces of misapprehension, waging personal battles against the evil forces of greed and conventionality, and making in-roads on issues of equity, open-mindedness, and the quest to make the perfect Artist Trading Card.
I think that people are divisible into as many subcategories as there are people under consideration. But for the purposes of this post, it seems to me that there are two types of people. One type is the vivid type of person, whose life is filled with splashes of color, like some abstract expressionist run amok. The other type is the non-vivid, paint-by-numbers kind of person. I count myself in that latter camp.
Contrary to popular opinion, which is split in either direction on this issue, I don't believe that vivid people are automatically better than non-vivid people, or vice versa. I used to be intimidated, a bit, by talented people, but now I just enjoy their work. I'm intrigued by my continued perception that the creative urge and personal contentment, which should be directly aligned, sometimes seem at cross-purposes with one another, as a "vivid eye" does not always gain one pleasure in what one sees. By the same token, blinders do not always make the path clear, they sometimes just make it easier to stumble on a boulder.
I saw Les Blank's documentary film some years ago called "The Innocents Abroad". This film covered one of those 12 cities in 14 days European tours. The participants were largely midwesterner Americans on their first European trip. Many of the stops on the trip were very conventional, touristy ways to do Europe. Tour guides "hit the major sites", and lots of 'regional flavor' involving performers in traditional dress and the like was added in at meal time. The sort of traveling was almost the polar opposite of my own theory of travel, which is often nearly entirely self-guided, and devoted to finding out of the way charm that says it all. But the film-maker's point in the film was that these "innocents" somehow were capturing an experience which, if not 'authentic' in some 40 dollar a day way, was nonetheless a fascinating way to see Europe. If their Europe was pre-packaged, more paint-by-numbers, then it was still an attractive and workable place. When one has left behind all the vivid cliches about 'authentic travel', it really was about just enjoying oneself on vacation when one really will probably only get to Europe once or twice in a lifetime. These folks were not the 'vivid' backpackers in the guide books, but their lives were no less "real".
Of course, nobody is really all 'vivid' or all 'conventional'. We are all a mix of the two. The few people I've known in life who truly tried to flout all conventions became almost banal in the conventionality of their unconventionality. There's really nothing new under the sun, although I've not quite given up on Alpha Centauri. But I'm continually intrigued by how much more 'vivid', and, for that matter, emotional, some lives seem to be than my own has proven to be. I have my share of adrenaline, but it's intriguing to see how much apparent adrenaline some lives require to lead. I think that's a virtue of this weblog medium--it really shows a world of possibilities, which allows one to contextualize one's own choices, and choose again and again and again.