“Life should be like a poem.” said Joseph Campbell in his PBS interview with Bill Moyers. I will attempt an interpretation of his statement, which, I hope, he would have approved of. Just like in a poem, where words put us in resonance with experience that transcend their meaning, so in life, our actions, if carefully chosen, could bring us in touch with experience that transcends time. But it was not this interpretation that came to mind when I first heard his statement. It was that for as long as I remember, I wanted my life to be just like a minimalist French film.
It’s not that I am necessarily a fan of minimalist French films as films, as much as I like them as potential life. They are spare, devoid of frivolity, prohibitive of good-natured banter. Every glance brims with meaning. There are few actions, but they all matter. In short, like with literature and music, all the insignificant stuff, the padding, the superficialities so ubiquitous in life - all of it has been edited out. And that is what I think I wanted – my life – an edited version.
And yet when I think how could I have pulled it off – all the glances that could have been more packed with meaning, the insincere how-are-yous that could have been avoided, not to mention myriad vacuous moments that one can never get back - I get exhausted just thinking about it. My life would be all angles, no curves, all bone, no cartilage. Sharp and searing, sure, like eternal existentialist judgment that even frivolities are choices, and that there are no revisions in life.
True, there are no revisions of the old material, but thankfully, there is always new material one can try to get better another time around. Yes, we fall short of perfecting our life into an art. Our lives are not poems as much as bad journals – of little interest to anyone but ourselves, never revised, but enjoyed nonetheless. All we can try for is an inspired line or two, a moment here and there where we fall out of time into Campbell’s eternity.