We think we would like our lives better if our lives were more like movies. Yet each of us, because we are constantly surrounded by mundane things like email and day jobs and ourselves, thinks we are the most boring person in the world, the person furthest away from and least deserving of adventure. I'm not qualified to speculate on what it would take to make our lives literal movies full of waterborne machine-gun fights and last kisses before our lovers who are named after string instruments board trains which will take them out of our lives forever, or even whether we would fully appreciate it if it happened tomorrow, but I have an idea as to how we can make our lives the kind of movies we wish they were in a way we might find actually satisfying.
I think we should start looking for adventure everywhere, in the dull glossed-over crevasses of our painfully real lives. We will in all likelihood have lives that started out sort of normal and boring by any standard, greatly mediated by technology, and we will in all likelihood have lives that end even MORE normal and boring because at that point we are used to them and they are even more heavily mediated by technology. But if we start to take these lives that most anyone would consider pretty standard (and we ourselves view as EXCRUCIATINGLY standard because, hey, we're the ones living them), and start trying to look at them as tiny adventures that are no less thrilling or epic for the smallness of their scale, then I think one of two things will happen, and both of the things are good:
1) We will eventually get so good at viewing our everyday lives as epics that it will not bother us in the slightest that the heroes and villains of these epics are real people we went to high school with and real bosses we've had at jobs we were overqualified for and the major narrative events are printer-paper jams and long wait times at family restaurants during the holidays. If the main things in our lives are computers and not getting enough sleep and the snot-nosed members of our family and the achingly flawed people we sometimes give our hearts to, then we probably ought to learn to tell ourselves the story of our place among these things in an interesting way, or else we're going to pine over the theoretical and fictional lives of others until our own lives finally, unceremoniously end.
2) We will look at the things we are surrounded with and the lives we have in some ways been handed and in some ways made for ourselves and think, "This in no way resembles the crazy, fantastic life I long for, and that's not okay," and we will start demanding lives closer to the ones we're capable of dreaming up. And I don't mean demanding in a whiny, "shut-ourselves-in-our-rooms-until-there's-such-a-thing-as-dragons" way. I mean it as in demanding it of ourselves, in how high we aim with our work and our private lives, and how justly and heroically and flat-out nicely we try to treat everyone we encounter, and also demanding it of the world, in what we are willing to accept. If we decide not to accept a world fueled by low standards and deathless lies because it seems like a poor place to stage a future that will hopefully contain wonder of both a global and a personal nature, we will hopefully start working to change it, immediately and very, very hard.
I actually think if any one of us started really trying to make a habit of noticing the little bits of fantastic our lives routinely contain, we wouldn't just feel one of the two ways I listed above. I tend to believe that one would happen, and then the other. If we fed ourselves a steady diet of working-class training-wheels adventure, then after a while, we might start to think ourselves worthy of the real thing, the kind of thing that when you describe it, you end your description by sighing and saying, "Yeah, but that kind of stuff only ever happens in the movies."
I am always eager, when laying this out for people, to stop at the tiny every-day adventures and back off the "I really think we could change the world" stuff. It sounds kind of crazy. But this is me trying to get into the overly-ambitious-by-design training-ourselves-to-demand-more habit: people in real life say "Well, I tried," and "I did what I could." People in epics say, "No. No matter what, we're gonna change it forever. Yes: the whole thing." And that's going to take, at best, a really long time.
Here's something I think could happen for all of us reasonably soon: We reach the end of an evening and look around and think "Wow, that was not only like a movie, not only like a really GOOD movie, but that was like… the ideal movie. The kind of movie they're not supposed to be able to make because characters have to be somewhat universal, they can't literally be me and my jerk friends, they have to be generalized somewhat, and because you have to move the story along for the sake of narrative economy, you can't spend ninety minutes in a diner with your characters joking around, swearing, and reminiscing about high school embarrassments if you have any hope of keeping the audience in their seats long enough to see the climax where we outran those raptors in my Honda Civic."
So the raptors, that's probably gonna take a while. But I think we could have that appreciation part fairly soon, the appreciation that says: my friends, my town, our lives underneath the same 32 neon roadside fast-food signs, this is the best movie no one will ever make, the movie that were it to become an actual movie, the kind that is shown on screens, would end up flattened out and toothless and safe.
And I'm not fully backing off the dinosaurs. I really do believe that in trying to burn onto our brains the habit of not taking a single thing for granted, nor letting a moment pass without seeing it for the turning point it might very well be, we are making it easier to some day wake up in a world that very closely resembles our wildest dreams. I'm not qualified to speculate on what concrete steps we need to take to get to an Earth once again walked by raptors, but I am sure it will get easier once more of us decide we not only want that kind of Earth, but deserve it, once we start hearing more statements like, "Before I die, I think I deserve to outrun a raptor in my mid-range import automobile. Who am I, that I think I deserve such a thing? Nobody. Just a guy with an email account, a TiVo full of things I'll probably never get around to watching, and a fairly common first and last name."
÷ ÷ ÷
D. C. Pierson was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. He graduated from NYU's Dramatic Writing Department in 2007 with a degree in writing for television. His comedy group DERRICK made a feature film called Mystery Team. He publishes short stories and unsolicited opinions on his website, dcpierson.com. This is his first novel.
Books mentioned in this post
D. C. Pierson is the author of The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To