When a man looks at the world, he gets the impression that people have life. That is to say that there is such a thing called the life of a person. He can look at a family, that sits together in the living room, or a couple seated in a café, or a group of youngsters walking on the sidewalk- and he can think that… this is their life that these people are alive, right now, and that life is happening for them, and in them, right now.
When he looks at the sight of a girl walking, he looks at her and says to himself: “she has life, and she is now walking in her life and to her life; i.e. there is something waiting for her later, and something is fulfilling her right now. Something that every bit of her is a part of. Life is happening to her. She is happening with it. Generally speaking, people appear as if they have a life, and are a part of the greater life, life at large.
And later on he might begin to realize that instead of living, and living in the now, people, are constantly trying to start the engine of their life. And this is what happens: every time they go to the theater, every time they read a book, and when they pick up the phone to call someone, and at the beginning of sex or a relationship, every time the TV is turned on, and with the birth of the new child – all these are efforts to try and start the engine of their life.
I am talking about many efforts to try and create a mosaic, a collage, – of life. But it is not a solid internal unit that lives and breathes, bubbling, with a living dynamics that originates from a deep magnetic center of gravity, rather it is some kind of a coat made out of patches stitched together; one patch is the daughter (or the son), another patch is the workplace promotion, another patch is the book that one has started reading, and another patch is one’s hobby, another patch is one’s friend and their conversations. But these patches cannot become as a replacement for the real happening which is their life.
From a distance, everybody appears to have a life, but this is appearance only. It is not a world. It is not a universe. It is not even a planet with its own atmosphere and life forms. It is only the things that people do in the absence of life. These are a substitute for living.
This is not how he pictured life (his own and other people’s). Every time he takes a closer look at someone’s life, which seems to be harmonic and whole, it is only to discover, later, a series of segments, just like in a pointillist painting, not connected dots that only due to proximity create an illusion of movement and a distinct unified form.
And indeed, appearances can be deceiving; looking at a pub you see couples, threesomes. But when you come closer and closer you notice that the threesome is actually three lonesome people absorbed in themselves and that they are more alone than they are a company. When you zoom in more and more you find inside them the absence of coherence and homogeneity, you find many many thoughts and petty feelings running simultaneously all over, their attitude toward one another is filled with petty resistances. But from outside, each of them is trying hard to keep the conversation alive, and to create a sense of continuity and dynamics. But in the bottom line, they don’t consolidate into one whole with a life of its own.
And after all this intimate observation he has to ask himself: “is this life?“
Everybody is so certain that other people have life, and if here we do not know how to live, maybe somewhere there is knowledge how to create life. May be we, in our country, in our neighborhood or in our families, or me, in my personal life- have missed it, but, foreshore, somewhere there must be a place where people live and know what life is.
It may be hard to grasp but this is the situation for men. Everybody matures towards unknown future, and wishes it would be life, full, rich. Dynamic life. Only later on to experience one’s own impotency as an individual, in creating a world that is filled with an ongoing living. At that point everyone tells him that this is what family is for, so he tries to make a family, only to find that a family consists of two lonely individuals, that are, in most cases, strangers (that reminds me a wonderful series broadcasted in London in 1975 called ‘intimate strangers’. What a wonderful and tragic name). They are also strangers to their children. Strangeness is intertwined between and inside of them.
You can see it everywhere. Writers, for instance. They live in a writers’ world, existence, a universe of writers. They live the life of writers. They come together and discuss the things that writer should discuss. But observing a group of writers reveals disharmony and hidden rivalry. Each of them is trapped inside his solitude, with his endless inner conflicts. They carry the image but don’t make a whole.
And it is so; external wholeness conceals endless internal efforts to start the engine of life.
This ongoing illusion of life spreads all over. You can find it in banks, restaurants, offices. You might want to believe that after-hours, when a person return to his home, books, hobbies, friends and family, he finds himself surrounded with the ecology of his own life and world.
But it is not so. He returns into emptiness, into nothingness. Into the huge void that he desperately tries to fill with all kind of stuff. He constantly tries to breathe life into it with graceless attempts; tries to read a book, pick up the phone and call a friend, maybe goes out with the wife or husband, or watches this program on TV, as he did yesterday and the day before. It may look as if he has a rich full life to come home to, but the truth is there’s nothing. His life is simply not there for him.
It is the case for private people, but also for life in general; a hotel, a hospital or a crowded restaurant, seem filled with vital life. We want to believe that just like on the TV series E.R., a hospital is a universe and things really happen there; people come and go and their life takes place without the constant need for resuscitation. We get the feeling that life can be this crowded vital universe teeming with life. We watch this life occurring effortlessly in T.V. in: E.R., Chicago hope and Friends. For some reason this does not happen for us. Maybe we took the wrong classes, met the wrong people or been to the wrong places. We wonder what is it that other people have that we don’t. Is it the books they read? Is it their master’s degree?
We all know that E.R. and Friends are fiction, but somehow it falls into place for us because this is how we envision life elsewhere, especially in those big buzzing places; hospitals, hotels, news paper editorials, TV companies. But when we enter one of these places, instead of a lively universe we find people. Lonely people. And they sit together under the same headline but hide behind masks and create rituals that act as a wall which keeps them safe from their own fears and personal wishes, that are divided into thousands of sub particles, colliding and un aware, because their awareness is much to busy dealing with the shallow surface of the social mask, which is a collage of clichés that cover for the lack of a whole group dynamics.
So life is not the bursting drama of E.R. or the light amusement of Friends. That is merely makeup. A clearer reflection of life is found in plays by Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, and August Strindberg. Their dramas and tragedies peel of the masks and tear it to shreds. And that is the doing of prose in its best, to shred the wrap called ‘my world’, ‘my life’. We use this wrap to cover up our own lives (for the sake of others) and in it we hide our downfalls and graceless attempts to weave life together. Downfalls and ruins are hidden inside glories men, who appear to have life.
And finally, is the potential of this total happening, which in it you are alive, can really be fulfilled?
To answer this you need to face your real materials of your life for what it is, accept it, accept yourself – with all of their imperfections and weaknesses, and only then you have the real material with which life can happen to you and upon you.