Your Life is a Work-in-Progress
"This is your life and you are dying one minute at a time."
— Tyler Durden
We've all heard it before.
From the moment we are conceived and a heartbeat begins pumping and a series of brainwaves commence, we have begun our death sentence. And life is the process of surviving the plethora of obstacles and events that strive to make the sentence shorter rather than "long-lived."
If each of our deaths is a work-in-progress, the question begged is "What do you want the sum total of that Life to amount to?" If each of our deaths is a narrative (because we human beings love for things to have a story that makes some sort of sense of it all, don't we?) then what is the story of you?
Sixteen or seventeen years ago, I directed an improvised play called Postmortem. The idea was to utilize a fresh obituary from the Chicago Tribune and, using only the paragraph or two for guidance and clues, recreate that person's life from birth to death. What we discovered in the process of preparing for and performing the show was that the list of accomplishments was almost never what the show ended up being about. We started with the catalogue of what each person did, but figuring out who he or she was often boiled down to our imaginations. Certainly, career milestones and extended family were the signposts to the narrative, to the work-in-progress, but rarely did these markers actually tell the story.
Standing in line at the Jewel, I notice an older gentleman (I mean, he might have been the least gentlemanly cat on the block but how would I know?) He is a well worn man, his back is hunched over, his face a series of dry river bed wrinkles, his hair in unkempt tufts and white patches. He has lived some life. He has taken the hard road at some point or points in his path. His story is in the Final Chapters.
What is his story? If I asked him, would he tell me about the jobs he had? Would his career as a Union Man/Teacher/Cop/Chef/Accountant/DJ/Poet/Electrician define who he was in his work-in-progress? Would a list of his family members give me a clue to the Great American Novel that is him? Was he a veteran and did his time in the military change him? Had he been adopted?Married? Divorced? Did his true love find him or did he lose her? Or him?
What life lessons did he learn? What, now at the end of his story (at at least closer to the end than the beginning) is he afraid of? Like a great painting that has been painted, envisioned, painted over, changed for decades, this simple man in a Jewel is a fucking work of art. Like a sculpture of a man carved from a huge stone, the process of dying a little each day, chipping away at the essential physical material and the erosion caused by the elements has created a masterpiece.
We are all surrounded by these masterpieces everywhere we go. The City is a giant gallery of amazing works-in-progress. Only someone with his head straight up his ass refuses to stop in an art gallery and not notice the Van Goghs and Magrittes.