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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Really Living Real Life

Yesterday Mark and I drove into Lawn Guyland to see his Mom before her trip to Chile. We caught an early showing of 'There Will Be Blood', the new Daniel Day Lewis film directed by P.T. Anderson. Having seen this movie and 'No Country for Old Men', I am completely worn out. Both were incredibly intense.

I won't post any spoilers, but I will say that the acting was tremendous all around (Day Lewis, of course, and Paul Dano, who was perfectly cast as the priest). The music and visuals were excellent.

Mark doesn't like going to the movies, what with the high ticket prices, the crowds and sometimes obnoxious theatergoers who talk to each other, use their phones and kick your chair. So for the last couple years, I haven't seen many movies on the big screen. Now it's an utter shock when I go.

When movies are on tv, they're at a comfortable distance. The lights are on. The cat is nearby and I can always switch the thing off. Even so, I've gotten soft in my old age. Violence shocks me. The mangled bodies that routinely appear on 'CSI' or 'Law and Order' induce a mild anxiety. Magnify the scene a kajillion times and I am there in the darkened room or wide open plain. Add the spooky music, and I am cowering behind my hands.

Mark doesn't understand. 'They're just actors! It's a set!'

Yeah, sure.

It's absurd for me to be such a chicken. New York is remarkably safe these days. Though the police still randomly check bags at subway stations, I'm not living in a war zone with bombs flying or suicide bombers. Help is a dial away on the cell phone. We have rights. We have it good.

In the video games Mark and I've been playing, we race desert dune buggies down swoopy ramps that send us hurtling into space. Mark and I yell out loud when the car flips over and bursts into flames. My feet sweat with nerves. I've become used to placing myself in the big screen.

I have to wonder: Have we really gotten to the point where it's more exciting to sit at home, risking our virtual lives racing cars instead of experiencing real life?

As a follow-up question, what does it mean to really live? Is 'really living' travelling to Chile or trekking in Machu Picchu? Is it starting a business from scratch? Is 'really living' raising three kids on your own or throwing lavish parties without thinking of the bill?

It used to be that I thought living on the edge in New York was 'really living'. The romantic idea of the artist's life in a grungy Williamsburg loft appealed to me (this was before the hipster invasion). I had the fantasy of collecting furniture pieces left out for collection and creating retrofitted pieces from them. (What they'd really look like, I don't know, but they'd be cool and functional).

I never got quite that far. I lived on the Upper West Side (much, much cushier) in a tiny two-room studio. I trucked up and down the four flights to my apartment with bags of laundry or groceries. I had a laughable kitchen.

Now I live in Brooklyn, on the second floor. There's an elevator. The laundromat is right around the corner. Mark has a car. We have escape mechanisms like Playstation. We order out. Part of me feels guilty about living such a relatively cushy life. But is this really living as opposed to my former Manhattan struggle?

I don't have an answer. But there's a part of me that loves to tear through the desert without a thought to anything like personal safety or the cops. I don't have to deal with crowds, smoke or damaged limbs.

All I need is a video game, a big tv and a bucketload of time.

Photos by myself at the Farmer's Market in Union Square, where you can get eggs, veggies and honey fresh from local farms.


Tammy said...

It's the age old question, "Are we truly living or are we simply existing?" I don't think it matters how hard we struggle compared to someone else's struggles, it simply that we are trying to be happy no matter how hard the struggle is.

Very thought provoking post Kitty. I like it when I read something that makes me think.

Ruvym said...

"There Will be Blood" - loved DDL and how pretty the movie was (not to mention the tense soundtrack). Otherwise I had major issues with Dano (flat and predictable), and the story (slow, could have been 30-45 min shorter). I gave it 8/10. Saw "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" last night. Oh Lord does that movie creep along at a snail's pace.

Re: "Living," I always see it as experiencing new things and meeting new people. I never feel like I'm living unless I'm on some random vacation seeing a new site, or laughing with people in a car/bus. And then at the same time, unless I'm finding myself in new settings, doing cool things and meeting interesting personalities, I feel lame. I HATE routine.

Additionally, other than feeling like your "living," I think a related but different thing is feeling that your "accomplishing" something. This is also something that gets to me a lot. Whenever I'm sitting still, watching TV (which I don't have myself), reading a book, at work, etc., I feel like I'm not "doing" anything, like I'm not moving towards some greater goal. I think that sense of accomplishment is also integral to feeling that you're living. Whatever "accomplishment" means to you.

PS Thanks for the camera advice.

A Red Mind in a Blue State said...

Your photos just continually knock me out-- great job!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

I'm the same, very squeamish about violent images on TV or at the movies, I've heard Sweeney Todd is great, but I'm too much of a chicken to see it. I also have to turn away from CSI, although I love the show.

Just Jinny said...

Machu Picchu...that is so on my list.

Kitty said...

I was in a semi-anxious, contemplative Sunday mood when I wrote that.

Tammy, I like your way of thinking. There is no use comparing

Jinny, that's on my list, too, as well as Nepal. It looks gorgeous. There's the high altitude, of course.

Red Mind, thank you for the compliment! NY is so photogenic.

Ruvym - a couple more things on the camera. Size and weight make a difference, esp. if you're interested in shooting candids. The camera gets heavy if you're toting it around.

Also, make sure the mechanism to change Fstops and apertures is easy to manage, while you're just about to take the picture. My Canon shows the info directly on the LCD screen. You can toggle between the two and adjust settings using one finger.

This is good site to compare prices, stats and sample pics

Suzanne said...

Kitty - am too wasted tired to comment intelligently on this post, apart from agreeing that your photos are just great and I look forward to each post because I know another one's coming. You've got me like one of Pavlov's dogs over here for your pictures. :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Kitty.

I was thinking about that "really living" thing the other day when I was driving somewhere. I do think we often lose sight of the here and now and only focus on what we are aiming at next. Every second is living, every second is unique, so it is important sometimes to focus on now, to do something that is important to you every day (even if it is just relaxing and in essence doing nothing)regardless of whether it leads to anything or achieves anything.

My thoughts are all provoked now!!! Very painful it is too!

Kitty said...

Suzanne, thanks so much for the kind words. I hope you got some rest!

RB, I agree on the pain factor. I guess the thing to remember is that no matter what you do, time passes.

I agree with you that sometimes just frittering time away is important.