Reality is never truly perfect. Well, at least, not man-made reality. Much of our lives are spent on the paths and roadways of reality. “I work from 9 to 5.” “Show up to the party at 1600 W. Central Avenue.” “My alarm is set to 6:30 a.m.”
We stress, especially in America, these highways of space and time. The concrete details that make up our everyday lives fill our calendars with pen markings and doctor appointments. “Take the trash out to the curb on Wednesday.” “Class is in Trent Hall, room 110, at 12:30 p.m.”
We imagine our lives in black and white descriptions. Graduate high school at 18. Get a degree at the local university. Marry sometime early 20’s. Everyone tries their hardest to follow the basic map of life, to stay on their route, no detours.
However, no one ever accounts for the experiences and details in between the details. “Life happens”, as we say. Accidents happen. Coincidences take place. We get stuck in traffic.We show up late to work. In conception, the “blocks” of space and time we have scheduled for our daily lives seem simple enough, but following through is nearly impossible. “Forgot to gas up the car before work.” “Power went out last night.” “Slept through my alarm.”
We all understand both sides of life. The blocks, singularities, calendar dates, and then the life in between the details; the life that is in between the lines. Society wishes life could be perfect. The world depends on it. If people didn’t show up to work everyday to push their required buttons, if traffic lights didn’t change every set amount of seconds, if people didn’t show up to class, life would be complete chaos.
However, no one expects or depends on the life in between the lines. We don’t think of the long lines at amusement parks. We forget to check our blind spots on the highway. We don’t notice Mother’s Day clearly highlighted in red on our calendars.
What we don’t realize is that life is more relatable, more fun, and more meaningful if it is lived between the lines. Some of my favorite comedians are not the ones who exaggerate details, flaying their arms, thinking that mundane life has no humorous details for an expectant audience. I love comedians who joke about the absurd moments in life everyone often doesn’t notice or admits seeing. Brian Regan jokes about issues with mailing packages or the terrors of going to the eye doctor, everyday issues that many people forget about at the end of the day. The best humor is often not well-crafted words to create a surprise pun; the best humor is often the most relatable. Joking about the life in between the details.
And really, this concept of life not being perfect, that there is so much life lived in between the black and white, can be applied to most everything. As a writer, most ideas seem perfect at initial concept, but as I try to put my pen and words to paper, the idea feels muddled and blurry. It’s imperfect. It isn’t the 5-word premise that popped into my head while I was daydreaming.
Jurassic Park deals a lot with this creative conundrum. To John Hammond, the owner of Jurassic Park, the idea of a park not filled with old, boring animals like lions and zebras but filled with dinosaurs, real-life (cloned) dinosaurs, might seem perfect in his head. A park with dinosaurs you can actually see and touch seems brilliant, really. The world would get excited over an idea like this; everyone would want to come to Jurassic Park.
However, ideas are never perfect when actually put to use. Things go terribly wrong at Jurassic Park. When we as movie-watchers hear the words, “Jurassic Park”, we don’t think of a beautiful park with cloned dinosaurs families can go see in real life, we instead picture a nightmarish landscape of destruction and mayhem.
What’s beautiful about this idea, a zoo of sorts with dinosaurs, is that Spielberg and Crichton (author of the novel) didn’t create a campy story of a park for dinosaurs that lawyers are trying to take over. Spielberg and Crichton realized that life and ideas aren’t that perfect. What is the worst possible thing that could happen? How can we make the idea of a park for dinosaurs more real? The fact that it’s nearly impossible to create a fully-functioning park for dinosaurs as evident by the four films in the franchise makes a lot of sense and more real in the face of a giant T-rex staring right at us. Dinosaurs aren’t meant to exist in the modern-day world.
Another fictional world I love is the world of Spider-Man. Sure, kids love giants of power and super-abilities like the strong Superman or the tech-titan that is Iron Man. What if I had powers like that? What if I was as fast as the Flash or as strong as Superman?
I love Peter Parker as a character not because of his powers or the villains he can face and defeat. Peter Parker is a brilliant character and super-hero because he has problems like every other kid out there. We all live in between the lines, even though we struggle to stay in the black and white. In concept, a super-hero like Spider-Man sounds cool: a teen who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and is endowed with spider-like powers of super-strength and the ability to climb walls. Stan Lee, in creating the character, however, gave the character problems, a life in between the lines. If he is more focused on being the alias Spider-Man, he accidentally distances himself from Gwen, MJ, or his school. If he seeks to fix his everyday life problems, crime grows and villains take control. If Peter Parker runs out of money, he can’t fix his web-shooters or repair tears in his suit.
Compared to other superheroes, Spider-Man is one of the best. I did not enjoy the Iron Man movies, where Tony Stark’s only problem will be a giant-ego supervillain with an Iron Man suit similar to Tony’s. Tony is a billionaire, and he can create whatever device or ability he wants to. Sure, his financial success is the means to the ends of creating a character who has suit that can fly. The idea is perfect in concept, but on paper and in drawing, he isn’t relatable to audiences. He doesn’t have regular, everyday problems with money, relationships, or just accidents in general.
In the first episode of Sherlock, John meets whom he believes to be Sherlock’s archenemy (it’s really just Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft). Afterwards, he tells Sherlock that people just don’t have archenemies in real life. Sherlock, slightly surprised by this, mentions that this sounds rather dull and asks what people do have in real life. “Friends, people they like, people they don’t like, boyfriends, girlfriends.” John replies. “Like I said, dull.” Sherlock says.
And yeah, John is right, in reality, no one has archenemies. And yes, life is a bit a dull. It’s more relatable, though, understanding that people just don’t have villains or archenemies. People have problems. And that’s about it.
Basically, we don’t often account for accidents, lateness, or just the mishaps of life. We forget our jackets at the movie theater. We get stuck behind traffic. We forget to bring homework to class.
Life happens. It’s unfortunate that many of us stress the black and white, the concrete details of life. I mean, sure, without the calendar appointments or scheduled meetings life would be a mess. Without the singularities of life, we wouldn’t know how to live. It’s sad, however, that many of us, or all of us really, overreact to the simplest detours of life. Of course, some accidents are not really excusable, like forgetting homework.
We all get stuck in traffic. We sleep through our alarm clocks. We miss the exit. Our flights get delayed. People say offense, hurtful things.
Reality isn’t perfect, especially man-made reality. We can never do anything right. It’s impossible to meet every expectation and arrive to every appointment. We try. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.
We try to live in the black and white. Many of us plan out our entire lives this way. No one accounts for the life in between the text on the page. Most of us forget to pack extra clothes for the trip.
Honestly, however, the life in between the lines is more meaningful and relatable. What about the feelings we have that our native language doesn’t have words for? What about the people we run into at the grocery store?
In reality, the life that we strive to live isn’t relatable to any of us. The life that we try to live perfectly. The life filled with calendar dates and blocks of times and places we have to be at. Those lives are impossible. In reality, the funniest jokes are about mishaps we all have been through. The best stories are the ones that embrace failure and imperfection. The best characters are the ones with everyday problems.
When we get up in the morning, we depend on our singularities of life, our black and white text that tells us how to move and drive and where to be and when and what people to meet. The best, most memorable days are not those that went perfectly or went horribly. The most memorable ones are the days when we can come home and talk about to our families the offensive customer, the crazy client, the old friend we ran into, the funny thing our teacher said. Most of the time, our passions are ones we stumbled upon. Our best friends and spouses are those we meet by sheer coincidence or accident.
The life lived in between the lines is the one we try to avoid. We try to keep ahead of traffic, keep to our schedules, arrive at work on time. However, life is never in the perfect black and white text we make it out to be, or at least, try to make it to be. We are all struggling to follow the overgrown paths we call our schedules and calendar dates. Sometimes the best lives are the ones where we take the path less traveled. The lives where we don’t follow the path at all.
Life isn’t the dull black and white we try to stick to painting. It’s the blending of colors, the interweaving of mishaps, coincidences, and adventures. The life lived in between the lines is the one we forget. However, it’s the one most relatable. It’s the life most meaningful.