Friday, September 14, 2012

Too high a pitch

I really like this one quote.
"It seems to me that if you place music (and books, probably, and films, and plays, and anything that makes you feel) at the center of your being, then you can't afford to sort out your love life, start to think of it as the finished product. You've got to pick at it and unravel it until it all comes apart and you're compelled to start all over again. Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship."
It comes from the narration of the book High Fidelity, spoken by protagonist Rob Fleming. And it's about life. Real life. Not the kind of life you read about in books (except for this one, I guess), but the life that we (or at least I) live every day. The kind that is governed by notions of reality that are perhaps too far-fetched, too hopeful, begging to be brought back down to Earth.

Because I live in books. And movies, and television, and music, and theater, and art. And sometimes looking too much at a fictional world means the real one gets a little bit muddled in the process.

There must be a fault in human wiring when it comes to perceiving untruths. We spend so much time absorbing stories that aren't ours, focusing on tales that might provide useful allegory but little else. It's the idea behind Aesop's fables and morals to stories. What we learn is supposed to teach us something that helps with how we act. So we perceive it all as reality. And we start applying it to our own reality as a result.

A lot of times I realize only after the fact that what I perceived as being a lesson of what to do was actually a lesson of what not to do. What sucks the most is that I usually act upon what I think I should do before even considering the consequences. If it worked out in the story, then surely it'll work out for me.

Things haven't always worked out for me. The things that have stayed consistent are the movies and television and plays and paintings and poems and everything else. They never change.

I love fairytales. But why was it that Hans Christian Andersen thought it was a worthwhile message to write about how a mermaid (I'm subbing myself in for the mermaid in this situation) should give up everything for whom she loves and then die in the process because she wasn't good enough for the prince she was chasing? Or who suggested to the story writers behind Disney's Sleeping Beauty that dancing around in a forest would make for a reasonable and plausible meet-cute? That's just not how things go.

But they manipulate my life in ways that I don't realize.

Even when things are going well for me - when I have what I need and want, and when I could just choose to be happy with whatever life has handed me - I've always been able to discover a way to make it fall apart. That's the side they don't show you in the fairytales. How once you start questioning things, you unwittingly sabotage what you want the most, forcing your desires down until they've lost all their romanticism and all that's left is cold, hard reality.

But Rob Fleming had it right. In his story, there were always little extraneous factors that would ruin the fairytale notions. By letting those things escalate, he lived life "at too high a pitch." Too much of an expectation of perfection leads to disappointment and heartbreak.

So why have I been raised to always expect the best? From myself, from my peers, from my superiors? All my life I've nurtured this idea that people are inherently good and that situations will work themselves out. But with real world application, it's becoming ever-increasingly clear that the only person worth trusting is myself.

It makes me dream of a life where all I have to do to fulfill my own happiness is sit in a room filled with books and read all day. Or sit in a room and watch movies and more movies with all of my time. Whatever I'd be doing, it would involve sitting and absorbing rather than walking around and doing. But that kind of life never lives up to its own perceived simplicity.

As excited as I am to leave for London in a few days, I'm also deathly afraid. Afraid of new experiences, afraid of making mistakes, afraid to risk my heart and myself because I can be a bit too naive. There's really way too much to worry about. And that's the root of the problem I guess.

If you don't want to live life at too high a pitch, you have to find reasons to live it with fewer concerns for perfection. But if I was too much of that 'que sera sera' type, then I wouldn't be human, would I? Well, maybe I would be. But I wouldn't be me. Is that a worse fate?

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