Saturday, July 19, 2008

Live a Life, Play a Part

Occasionally I ask myself whether I am living a life or just playing a part. I know I know, Shakespeare wrote somewhere a line about the world being a stage, but my pondering really has nothing to do with that antediluvian hotshot. It simply occurs to me, once in a while, that I do what I do because it is expected from me and not because I want to do it. Just like an actor who acts according to the role he has been cast in.

I suppose we all have carved out a part for ourselves in life and grown so accustomed to it that eventually it shapes our behavior instead of the other way around. If a guy thinks of himself as respectable then he will not gamble or hang out in bars or get associated with women of dubious reputation, even though he might want to do these things once in a while. If a girl views herself as hip then she will have to dress smartly, go dancing at the hottest clubs and talk the newest gossip in town even though the topic may not be really that interesting. Inevitably, people around us see only the part we represent and expect us to act accordingly, plus we are too entrenched in our own habits to summon enough will and courage to behave otherwise.

Years ago, in a chatroom I met a man who had quit his white-collar job in Paris and moved to a mountain village to be a carpenter. We hit it off pretty well because we both liked Das Glasperlenspiel by Herman Hesse, but most of all because I appreciated the fact that he had the guts to break away from his role to live his true life. Later on when I resigned from a high-paying job at a large company to travel, all those who were close to me called me crazy except a friend I had met only in cyberspace.

While jotting down these lines I realize that most of the people I am fond of put freedom at the top of their values. Like Heidi and Josh whom I met last Sunday, when I came to Lake Fairfax Park with the intention of joining a church picnic there. To make a crooked story simple, I ended up not being with the folks from church but giving a ride to a young couple barely into their twenties instead. Josh and Heidi were from Maine and had been hitchhiking for two months just for the sake of traveling and having a blast of a time. They did not seem to have much money or creature comfort, but from our brief conversation I knew they were having their own lives filled with authenticity, free from playing any part. They are cool in my book.

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