With the help of Woody Allen, I think i’ve figured out life. No, seriously. Hear me out.
I know i’m not alone in feeling that life can be a little unsatisfying. Why unsatisfying? We don’t know where we are, where we’re going, what it all means, etc, etc, etc. And maybe we look behind us for some inspiration and we see that the past holds pieces that feel more real, more amazing. More like the life we think we want. The great thinkers and artists, the inventions and ideas, the fights for freedom, change, and a new world. Maybe we feel that people aren’t fighting as hard, or contributing as much, or that we’re more lazy or more greedy or more stupid than our counterparts in the past. Maybe we just feel that we’ll “never be that good.”
But i now know why we think that. It’s a perception issue.
The problem is that we’re not done cooking. We do not know how history will paint us. It is only with the brushes of hindsight and the paints of time that we’re able to truly understand the world, how it worked, how it was intertwined, and the pieces and players that were instrumental in making it the age that it was.
It’s for those reasons that of course the present feels less satisfying than the past – the present is still unfolding in all it’s potential glory. The past has happened – we know the outcomes, the players- we know the whole story (well, kids in Texas might not). Humans tend to dislike stories where the ending is unknown (oh come on – movies that end in a “what” moment? they leave us feeling a little… unfinished)- which, is the case for all of us in the present. We don’t know what will happen. We plan, dream and work towards goals but in the end we have no idea what will come and how it will be. The present is both wonderful and terrifying for that reason.
In the past, we know who rises to greatness and stands the test of time! We know what decisions worked and which ones didn’t. We know which fights were won and at what cost. Who wouldn’t want to live in an era when we know where the pockets of greatness and wonderment are?
Maybe you wish you’d have been born earlier to have created alongside da Vinci during the High Renaissance or sit in the café’s in Paris with the now-classic writers in the twenties or been in Hollywood in the late sixties early seventies when the now-greats were getting their start. Every generation thinks the generation(s) before them were better, or nicer, or more gratifying in some way. As will the folks who come after us. And so on.
And that’s what’s so unsatisfying about the present – we. have. no. idea. It’s not all laid out. Most of us don’t know if those nights in the diner writing poetry on the back of placements will be lost to history or preserved. We don’t know if our story will stand the test of time, nor if it will work out how we hope.
In the movie Midnight in Paris (which i highly recommend you go see), this advice is given: “Don’t succumb to the despair. [It's your job to] find the antidote for the curse of existence. ” It’s our jobs as artists – the creators of things including our own destiny- to not let the despair get in our way. To do the hard things, the things that we don’t know (and may never know in our lifetimes) if they’ll have the impression, impact, or outcomes we want them to.
The present is unsatisfying because life is a little unsatisfying but we should only take lessons and inspiration from the past, not the thought that it was better than now or that we will never live up to the ideals of the masters. The gift of now is that the story is unfinished. We get to finish it. More stories to start, and finish and start again.
We can not succumb to the despair that the greatness has already happened, that there is nothing new to be done. We have to slay our own demons, let go of what’s holding us back and run as fast as we can into the unknown with as much aplomb as we can and make life our bitch. (excuse me).
To that end, while slightly non-sequitor with my original point (sometimes i have them), i leave you with this message wrapped in a catchy little ditty from [title of show]:
You’re welcome. ;-)