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Stranger than fiction.

May 13, 2013
An old black and white photo in Lebanon.

An old black and white photo in Lebanon.

After watching Stranger Than Fiction today, I was reminded of something I often forget – even though the title of my first blog and Tumblr is “Ordinary Life Illuminated.”

I was reminded of was the beauty of nuance. The importance of the simple things. They don’t seem to matter much, but actually are the things that make our lives…real.

At the end of Stranger Than Fiction, the narrator says over a beautiful sequence of scenes, “As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick. “

How true. From my rooftop, I see a maid in a loose blue cotton outfit, attaching damp shirts and pants with wooden clothespins to a line hung from the balcony. I see a family sitting on a couch swing, moving slowly back and forth. I see a young man eating breakfast at a small table in a patch of shade on his rooftop, a bowl of hummus lined up beside his laptop. A man several buildings away is wearing a tight white tank top and smoking a cigarette, hanging halfway out his window with his left forearm resting on the sill.

I look behind me, where there are black and white photos of complete strangers taped to my wall that I bought at a souk. Isn’t that why people are driven to collect photographs of people’s lives that they have no attachment to? To connect with humanity’s idiosyncrasies, to recognize yourself in others? It helps us realize how much we have in common with people we’ve never met.

A friend of mine wrote something to me once that I’ve just stumbled upon that helps explain why we need to connect to other people, and how it helps us understand who we are. Though he was writing in regards to fiction, I believe the same holds true for non-fiction – our lives.

He said, “In his novel, The Lazarus Project, Aleksandar Hemon writes, ‘All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is.’ Fiction allows us to explore people, places and times not our own. Moreover, it puts us into those people, places and times and lets us find the little bit of ourselves that exists in them –‘what the world is.’ It makes us realize that only by sheer luck or misfortune are we born into this family or that religion, this country or that ability. Things could all be different.”

A dance practice, a cigarette clutched between the fingers of an old man as he reads, a woman looking into the distance on a rooftop. Life.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Barrett Tabeek permalink
    May 14, 2013 2:29 am

    I love this. So well written and so easy for all to relate to.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Rich Hartmann permalink
    May 15, 2013 5:22 pm

    Really well written Melissa! Simple and clear message. Our life’s are about our encounters with people.

  3. May 17, 2013 10:12 am

    Very nice I could really feel this.

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