The Great Beauty

A life that one doesn’t identify with.

A past that means less with estrangement.

A guiltless trip due to an unknown culpability

Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty

This 2014 movie seems to capture the mixed feelings of modern day hedonism, but it seems portrayed as more optimistic than as a warning. Even though many people I know are capable of partying this frequently, no one I know in recent times lives like this in middle and senior age. It’s not to say this is a false picture of Italians- surely there are high-life socialites the world over, but it’s a thoughtful reminder to plebians that, unless they’re suffering miserably, and maybe I am, that this lifestyle of partying in Rome is more a celebration of life than a rejection of past mistakes. I haven’t seen this movie, but I think some people are not cut out for a life of tradition. It’s not to say they would avoid it at all costs, but in late age, a chance encounter with a past love or grave news does compel a lost soul to seek redemption for an unfulfilled life.

I feel like there is an imbalance between family-centric members and society-centric individuals. Being a loving father/mother, husband/wife, or brother/sister is a respected and priceless role in the life of a son/daughter/husband/wife, whereas being a plaything of a clique of bachelors and bachelorettes seems like a fleeting pleasure, renewed only with constant repetition. It’s not to suggest that deep down, Roman high society lives a joyless life, but overthinking this pursuit leads me to that belief. It’s reasonable to explore a way of living that has been practiced for thousands of years, albeit by a very few, but it’s more reasonable to say that one way of living hasn’t worked for everyone.

Fortunately, there isn’t always a pressure to conform, and this world allows ourselves to seek options. What I don’t identify with much is being overly family-centric nor a socialite of hedonism. Yet I am privately into both. I feel like living close to family and friends doesn’t make me more aware of myself. The only way I can really get to know myself is to spend lots of time alone. I am still a social creature, dependent on conversation, but I feel like I am shaped by my past failures in crossing bridges too wide from soured friendships and relationships. If only I was born on the same planet, would communication flow naturally. Often it does, except when it doesn’t.

What’s missing in this world is simply a good day for everyone. It would be nice if everyone had a good day, everyday. The gap between happiness and inadequacy is a gulf so wide at times that we spend our lives crossing it, often with peril. I’m skeptical to believe that a middle class is growing if intellectually, it is declining. Perhaps the rise of sub-standard populism is due to the fact that society’s best and brightest are actually progressing at living by example and eschewing regressive conventions which is leading to a more visible denial by everyone else than generations prior. Perhaps things are getting worse before they get better. I can only hope and observe without agitating unreasonably.

When things are “the best of times, the worst of times,” all it means is that the times are separated by class. A society or world separated by geography is relatively immune to change except when travel and commerce accelerates.

I’m using this movie as a crutch to extrapolate the worldview of the West. There are many different cultures, sensitive to this and that, yet increasingly, it’s our lifestyles that determine how we can live life best. It’s understood that some people need more space than others, whereas others live simply. An interesting contrast is that even some of the most conservative third world strongmen rail against greed, whereas the right wing in the industrialized nations make no mention of greed as a concern. Before the world can begin to better integrate its trade and tourism, it must first agree on the definition of greed. Unconditionally, it would merge an economic policy of capitalism and communism, but only where it is most needed. Economics isn’t the solution to every malady, as some foreign policy think tanks like to set forth, but it is one of the most effective movers and shakers, along with poetry and art.

A normal individual doesn’t have to explain why they want to change their life, at any time. An extrovert who decides that one day, after 60 years, they want to be introverted may be uncommon, but is a normal event for a curious person. Sudden introversion could be marked by other life events. Not everyone is the same- has the same plans, experiences, success and failures. There is a discomfort with disagreements on the definition of illness. Extroverts may mistaken some introverts as ill, whereas the awareness of one’s “knowability” is imbalanced. Introverts don’t all think they are lacking in some social regularity-speaking as one, I am more interested in getting my point across when I am unable to. A person who is mute shouldn’t have to explain everything about their mutedness. It seems there is an gap in social dependency amongst extroverts. The ease at which conversations flow in two directions has more to do with how valued the content of the conversation is weighed. A person who disagrees ideologically with much conversation is not going to see much interest in a dialogue. Yet, analyzing anything enough, one can reach the conclusion as to who is unreasonable- the individual who likes to explore ideas, and the one who likes to reiterate “reality.”

It’s no surprise that writers are driven to the typewriter, when the rhythm of a keyboard is more pleasant than the cadence in an awkward conversation. Call it inhuman, cold, and severe- a typewriter is the defibrillator of the marginalized bystander. I occasionally lose awareness of my stature in the world- have I been, for the past 10 years, an average bachelor, with small but steady improvements in my life situation? Or, have I been declining in some other way, physically, intellectually, consistently, towards some new low? If I were to compare myself, I could easily find someone more and less successful in certain ways. If I did not compare myself, I could easily improve or decline without knowing it, albeit at greater risk.

The definition of insanity is not knowing one’s limits. Perhaps one can test their limits, slowly, and relatively cautiously. People who want to develop themselves know they must take chances, yet the resources to do so can feel much more limited than are often encouraged. This is one of the few areas where I respectfully disagree in approach. Others suggest sometimes I should be more bold, when I am certain of its dangers, whereas my strengths lie in traits where I am most sure of myself, yet can appear most frightening to the unaware. I should be allowed to say, once in a while at the very least, “I know what I’m doing!” “Now it’s my turn, You!” “Are you going to deny me this now when I was letting you be in control most of the time?”

Those who are most surprised by other’s sudden or latent metamorphoses should be forgiven for not paying close enough attention. Everyone wants to progress in their life. Life is not just a series of intentional bluffs. People who do not react to honest and clear communication of a change of life plans are simply not paying enough attention to their family, friends, or acquaintances.  Perhaps there is mixed communication- some people joke and others are always serious- thus there can be misinterpretation understandably. But when someone opens their eyes and sees someone else successfully changing their life, not because they just need to but because they want to, reasonable relatives usually come to accept that. This blog subject is not in response to any thing recent, but across many years of trying to develop smoother relations. I am confident things will improve, but I also must accept myself that family and friends will both be there and not be there all the time. I can’t always choose though. Gratefulness is a act of practicality, not of endless exploration. Exploration is my way of comparing myself. Without exploring the world and its ideas, I would never be so sure of myself. Who are those who doubt professionally, and has anyone ever admitted to such a profession? It would be understandable if some people were unaware or inadequate in their sophistication, but I think the older one gets, the better they get at choosing what they want to deny others. Thus, with age, it is more correct to be more honest with oneself and others, except when it is unreasonable or dangerous, but at the same time with plans to one day do so.







I Vitelloni

Kubrick’s favorite movie. My favorite scene was when Alberto, after discovering his sister ran away and his mother was sobbing, vowed never to leave her. This kind of scene would never appear American enough, but it’s the most touching scene.