Here's Woody Allen. It's a shot from Manhattan, near the end of the film. He's speaking into a tape recorder and pondering the question of what makes life worth living. He's on the couch, of course--a reference to psychoanalysis. It's worth watching the clip of these moments, as he discovers his answer. The acting is so natural, and his list is such a celebration of specificity. Also, it's such an antidote to discomfort, the recurrent theme of this blog.
Although discomfort is a recurrent theme in Woody's films and in all art and literature, sometimes we need a break. Lately, I've been seeking comforts, and in this idea--that it's the tiny moments and gifts that make life worth living--I have somewhat found it.
This is not a make-your-own-list-a-la-Woody challenge. Trying to do so after watching his performance on the couch in some senses feels like a pale imitation. But yesterday, as I walked around my town, I did try to notice the details that give me pleasure: a beautifully constructed stone retaining wall in someone's garden, living in a town with large trees and a variety of interesting houses, the tiny perfect blue flowers on the "false forget-me-nots" in my yard (nothing about them seems false to me, but this is their name; and they are just a memory at the moment, as they bloom in the spring and early summer and I never take enough time to look at them), the taste of a juicy peach (made especially compelling this morning when I read the NY Times article about Roger Ebert, who can no longer eat anything but remembers flavors and smells), the anniversary gift my husband gave me to celebrate our 27th year together--a subscription to The Paris Review, which he got interested in after reading an article in the Financial Times about the new editor. Oh, baby, I have tears in my eyes. If that man doesn't know me, who does? If that isn't a gift that goes to some of my deepest values and longings, what would be? Maybe I can't do it as well as Woody Allen, but I'm trying.On a related note, What Makes Life Worth Living is the theme at the University of Michigan this fall. And it is in this context that they (the University of Michigan Honors College) chose my book as the one for incoming freshman to read over the summer (which I believe is about to end). I have been pondering the connection between my book and this theme. Certainly, having it chosen in this context is something that makes life worth living. But in the book itself? How does it fit? Was the selection panel thinking about the characters and what they do in the book? That is, trying to connect with others? Taking risks? Feeling connected to a place enough that losing it would matter? By the time I go to visit the campus in November, I'd like to have arrived at an answer. Maybe a session on the couch with a tape recorder would help?