Monday, August 20, 2007

Glass half empty or half full? Or is the glass there at all?

For a while now, I've been considering my writing with a more critical eye (critical in the pure sense, rather than the judgmental) and it occurred to me that I don't often write 'happy' material. This prompted my departure into the considering of a woman's moments of bliss (oo-er) a couple of days ago, and my posting of a recent poem penned in plentiful pleasure (how we love alliteration).

Apart from these two pieces, most of what I write can be, well, frankly, depressing. Not so much to me, but certainly sometimes in the effect they can have on others. It's no exaggeration to say that one piece I wrote a couple of years ago had my dad on suicide watch for a couple of weeks (it was a short story about depression from an insider perspective of a young woman in her twenties).

So, I've been meditating on why I'm so often moved to muse on the melancholy. I realised quickly, when I started to consider the things I enjoy watching, reading and listening to, that there is a strong part of me that just finds tragedy more compelling. I went to Boathouse No 6 last week with my friend Richard from work to watch the amazing biopic of Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose. Her story is a tragic one, a life of extremes: poverty and success, love and loss and terrible addictions interspersed with moments of incredible friendships and joys.

When I was discussing the movie in the Peace Cafe the next day, I remarked how much I had enjoyed it, and Andrew, one of the the Castle Road Irregulars, sat at the next table, overheard.

"La Vie en Rose?" he called across, "I saw that last night too. I came out feeling incrediby depressed actually, although it was a beautiful film."

I mused on this for a moment, surprised, because although I could clearly see the film was sad (I'd cried at several parts), I had emerged from the cinema with a strong sense of life's glorious tragedy.

Sat in Lou Lou's over a coffee today, I ask James, "Do you think that acts of incredible creative beauty are only possible if they're run alongside circumstances of incredible tragedy?"

He raises his eyebrows at me, swallowing a mouthful of toast before answering, "No, I think we just have a tendency to perceive everything in dualities. It's a false perception."

I like this response. It's very Buddhist thinking, that all we have are our perceptions of the world. You think it's happy, it's happy. You think it's sad, it's sad. We literally see what we want to.

Of course, what I like most about this response is that it removes my dilemma entirely. There's no such thing as happiness or sadness, there are only the names we give to our experiences. And in terms of my work, there are only my perceptions of the story and the readers' perceptions of the same.

We must each make of the story what we will.

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