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August 21st, 2003

When I was a kid, the kids who went to the local missionary baptist church always told the rest of us that when you die, you get to watch a movie version of your entire life, apparently as an essential process in one's personal rush to judgment. Albert Brooks turned the notion into a brilliant concept for a movie called "Defending Your Life", although like many of Mr. Brooks' best concepts, the movie did not quite live up to the scenario.

But I notice that even before I achieve some post-life experience, I read life around me as if it were a novel or film. Evelyn Waugh's Charles Ryder, the quintessential "ordinary man looking in on the truly eccentric", is portrayed in "Brideshead Revisted" as someone who relates everything in his emotional life to a book or movie. I just notice how much I infer from every bit of data I receive. In part, this is healthy and natural. But I am not prepared to self-diagnose whether in part it is a bit excessive. I just notice that I live my life as if I were watching a cinema show sometimes, and I am grateful that they do not put excessive butter on the popcorn.

I always find that although I am a reasonably subtle person, I am surrounded by people far more subtle than I am. My personal movie is more like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" or the original version of "The Winslow Boy" (I have a budding crush on the film actress Margaret Leighton), than like "8 1/2" or "The Conformist".

I sometimes call myself "ordinary", not as a value judgment on myself, but because I would like to be like that woman Sarah in the children's book I read last weekend: "I am plain and tall". I'll bet I could spend years in counseling, if I wished, learning that I am more complex and ignoble than I ever imagined. But I would rather be plain and tall.

I like people who are what I call "plain in the best sense". I like people who are comfortable with who they are, and whose assertion is quiet, and assured. I like people who don't worry how they look, or how rich they are, or what obstacles keep them from living. I like people who just live out their lives, plain and simple. It may be a gift to be simple, as the song says, or it may be a choice. I don't know. But I long for simplicity, even as I suspect I am making my analysis far too simple.

I'm on another road trip, in another hotel room, far busier than I imagined I would be tonight. Thank goodness for post-it notes and Domino's pizza.
But I have this instinct that quiet, simple times are ahead, and if I am fortunate to enjoy some simple time off soon, I will be enough of a pure simpleton to enjoy it.

radio songs

"I don't know what it was that was painful, but sometimes it's there in your face. There are times when you just look disdainful of the human race"--old Al Stewart song

a cynic is a romantic once removedCollapse )