Saturday, 21 September 2013

Understanding subjectivity

It's a cold and misty morning. A car creeps down the road, its driver hunched low, while a flower seller unpacks yesterday's blossoms and hopes for sunlight. A bus belches into the scene from a cross-street. The peace is shattered by an army jet, scooting low across the rooftops.

In this story, who is the hero? Is it the car's driver, the flower seller, the bus driver or its many occupants, the jet pilot, a worker re-tiling one of the rooftops or maybe the woman tied up in the boot of the car? It's not so much about who's the hero, but rather whose storyline do you want to follow?

A clear understanding of this principle makes all 'news' a mockery (even more so when it's 'global' news and it's summarised to one minute - what do you figure are the selection criteria?). Life's so confusing precisely because we don't have the luxury of a journalist standing at one point, taking photographs from one angle, and then returning to his or her desk to write up a 300 word news story summarizing our entire life's context and goals.

When I think about 9 Billion people on earth and their interwoven storylines, my mind boggles. Is it any surprise that the developers of the latest Grand Theft Auto V game chose to weave together only three individual characters' storylines, and yet that was enough to fill up a game?

Instead of trying to live so that we can buy as many things as possible, I think it's a much better strategy to live so that you have an interesting story to tell at parties or to your mother when she calls.

PS: It also helps when somebody angers you: just remember that you don't know even a fraction of their full storyline, so whatever is annoying you now about them is just one act in a play far larger than the scenes involving you. Similarly, whatever body part hurts, whatever your bank statement looks like and whatever you're doing at the office ... there's a lot more to come. In short, in the words of Frank Costanza from Seinfeld: "Serenity Now!"

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