Let’s say you were given a prompt, maybe it’s a writing prompt, or maybe it’s part of a game. The prompt is “Life being what it is….” and your task is to finish the thought, take it whichever direction you want it to go.
What would you say?
Life being what it is, we all dream of revenge.
The prompt comes from the nineteenth century French artist Paul Gauguin. He is cited as having written the line, “…life being what it is, one dreams of revenge…” And that’s a bit odd. It’s sounds a bit strange to me, anyway, because speaking for myself, personally, the amount of time I dedicate to thinking about revenge is somewhere between minuscule and zilch/zero/nada. And I’m guessing that “one dreams of revenge” wasn’t quite what you had in mind either.
I imagine, though, that for a person who has anger management issues, it wouldn’t necessarily be strange to be consumed by thoughts of revenge, given a little time to let the mind roam, but that’s what really makes Gauguin’s quote strange, at least for me, because Gauguin seems to be suggesting not simply that he, Gauguin, dreams of revenge, but that anyone would. He says it like it’s the human condition, as if given a little free time to let the mind wander, it’s perfectly natural that anyone’s mind would drift into dark dreams of vengeance and retribution.
In fairness to Gauguin, there’s evidence that artists like Gauguin and his contemporary Vincent Van Gogh thought about “revenge” a bit differently, in a more constructive sort of way. Van Gogh wrote in a letter that he dreamed of taking revenge on the hypocrisies of Christianity by worshiping “love,” that is by worshiping the kind of love that theologians deemed to be “sin,” that is by loving prostitutes and other “sinners.” Oh, and also by engaging in free love.
That’s still a little weird, but certainly less malicious. It’s even subversive, in a way that I can appreciate.
Then there is also this letter, that I found via a light Internet search, supposedly the letter within which Gauguin make his infamous quote of vengeance.
That would certainly be a great twist, a positive slant on the idea of revenge. The Internet being what it is, however, I can’t be entirely certain that the above letter is legit, although it does seem to fit with the general perspective and zeitgeist of artists like Van Gogh.
Whatever its precise meaning or context, I like the way it acts as a writing prompt: life being what it is….Fill in the blank.
You can go a lot of different directions if you start with the phrase “life being what it is.” It can take you places. You can give it a twist and do something a bit unexpected, like Gauguin, or you can just start talking about normal life, in all its mundane glory.
It also seems like a good theme for my blogging, which tends to be eclectic but usually traces the general contours of what’s happening in my life, the strange stories, or what I’m thinking about or what I’m reading or where I’m hiking.
Life being what it is, one experiences many odd things, one dreams all sorts of dreams and thinks all sorts of thoughts.
Life being what it is, our lives are something of a random assortment of experiences, so here’s a list of some of mine:
- I am not a pirate, even though I wear bandanas and have an anchor tattoo.
- I’ve spent the past 8 summers (and some winter time, too) in Alaska, doing everything from working boring tourism gigs to commercial fishing in Kodiak.
- I like to laugh and I like puns and other jokes that make people groan.
- I’m currently working on re-writing my first novel, set in Alaska, and hope to be able to start pitching it for publication sometime in 2018.
- I currently live a quasi-transient life and write a good deal about it, both in my novel and on my blog.
- Politically I’m a socialist but also a radical individualist, a sort of “libertarian socialist” or “democratic socialist.”
- I consider myself something of a spiritual pilgrim, walking in the path of all of those who have viewed their lives as a journey of intentional and very extremely practical faith. I’m one of the Nones, i.e. my religious affiliation is “none of the above.” I come from a Christian fundamentalist/evangelical background.
- I’m originally from the Midwest but can’t imagine not living out west.
- I’m still a bibliophile. I graduated from seminary with a degree in biblical studies, and while I am no longer attached to any one particular religion, I’m still a bib studies nerd and I like to blog about that from time to time.
- For the sake of maintaining a healthy neurological system (and a better mind, more generally), I sit and do nothing but watch my breath for an hour every morning.