Narrative Unsure

I recently got the results of my “Waking Dreams” photo shoot with Michele Serchuk. Unsurprisingly, they are incredible – some of the neatest pictures that I believe have ever been taken of me. I mean, how can you not love something like this:

WD_Gray2338…even if the hat is no more, having been lost in the performance of Security Theatre at LAX a few weeks ago.

When she sent me the links to the pics, Michele also sent me the text of the blurb she is sending to potential subjects:

The idea is to represent a part of you that you love – a pleasurable daydream, something you aspire to be, your fondest dream or fantasy about who you are or who you could be…They are not completely literal. The image we create needs to be meaningful to my subject but it’s ok if the viewer isn’t always sure of the narrative.
That last bit is, I think, more important than we ever give it credit for. It’s ok if the viewer isn’t always sure of the narrative.

The Continuing Stoooooorrry…

breakfastclub-benderHomages to muppet soap-operas aside, the fact is that life is not a John Hughes movie, and when the particular narrative arc is done you don’t get a roll of credits as you fist-pump into the sunset. While we like telling ourselves stories about our lives, we also tend to imagine them having some kind of “happy ending” – and that really doesn’t come about. Oh, you can be happy, no doubt about it – but endings just aren’t there.

This is one of the reasons I like the Waking Dreams project so much. That picture up there is definitely a part of my story – meaningful to me, certainly, but there are other stories that people will find in it as well. But none of them are ended. For some, it may look like a lonely man. For others, a disgusting habit. It might indicate travel. It might tell a story of an old-school writer with pen and paper.

For myself, it represents a story of success – a moment spent with dear friends creating beauty made of words on paper and electrons on silica. It represents a place that has been the scene of great professional success and deep relationship failures. What it doesn’t represent, in any way, is an ending. In fact, it doesn’t even represent a true arc.

It’s a snapshot, and in a Heisenbergian way it is easy enough to tell where I am but impossible to tell where I’m going or where I’ve been. You can fix location but not direction. But here’s the trick: lives are nothing but a series of moments just like that one, over and over.

One Never Knows, Do One?

I think that’s an important thing to remember when we’re working out our own narratives. Not only that we shouldn’t necessarily be sure that we’re telling the right one, but also that it’s ok to be unsure of the narrative we’re in. The fact is, we’re all part of several other “understories” (more on those later) – that is, there is always more to any situation than meets the eye, and while you may be a lead in your own drama you may also be the funny sidekick in somebody else’s romantic comedy and the extra who slips on the ice in the background of someone else’s whodunit.

It’s possible that we’d all be a lot less miserable if we’d just adopt the motto “Little did I know…” and then enjoy the story as it unfolds. It’s a different take on the old saw of being mindful, being present…but I think when we tell ourselves that we are often creating a new narrative of I’ll be happy and calm and at peace if I cultivate these things.

Could be. But you’ll also still slip on the ice, because ice is slippery and gravity sucks and neither one cares how enlightened you are.

Might as well sit back and enjoy the suspense. Something really exciting is just around the corner…


3 thoughts on “Narrative Unsure”

  1. The combination of the picture and the “little did he know” leaves me with the feeling that this image is a lovely start to the hero’s story, oblivious to the dragon’s stalking. Her other images look more mid-story to me, but this one is a man gathering strength, gathering thoughts before a grand adventure.

    1. Huh? What? Dragon? DRAGON?!? Nobody told me there was going to be a dragon! Stalking where? OK, time to renegotiate the contract…

      (channeling my inner Bilbo)

  2. Ahhhh, I should have known the mention of narrative when my photo subject was a writer would lead down a complicated path 😉

    I do love the train of thought that snippet of my mission for the Waking Dreams sparked for you, and I do very much love the photos. Thanks for playing once again in my work!

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