1/23/08

Not Sure What To Make of It

On the way to work yesterday, the guy on the local college radio station brought up I'm Not There, the new movie I've noticed being billed as "Ruminations on the life of Bob Dylan, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician's life and work."

He said it sounded good, and I agreed, but what struck me was the way he introduced it: "So yeah, there's this movie... and it's... about Bob Dylan."

I'd heard of it, so I chuckled a little at his blunt summary -- I mean, it's a friggin' Biography, man. What else would it be about? And besides, Bob Dylan is too big to be captured in a 135-minute film. He evokes a whole generation, embodies an era in American History, stands as a universal touchstone for all the folk singers who preceded and followed him. The man wrote "Don't Think Twice," for crying out loud.

But when it comes down to it, that is what the movie is "about." I'm sure it covers beatniks, Greenwich Village, alienation, motorcycles, and more, but yeah, Radio Dude, you're right -- when it comes down to it, the movie is about Bob Dylan.

So I started thinking more on the word "about." Wondering about Aboutness. Such a big idea, such a nondescript phrase. Imagine making a whole movie, two-and-some-odd hours long, taking up months if not years of your life, and having it boiled down to a couple of words. And fairly so!

I thought about other notions that seem too vast to comprehend, but actually could be succinctly summarized with a little effort. "If that movie's about Bob Dylan," I wondered, "And it's just that simple... what, then, is my life about?"

And that kind of overwhelmed me. I may have swerved the car a little bit. So I thought maybe I could post here about it, and pose the question to you: What is your life about? And who decides?

But that all seemed way too cosmic. I knew I was in over my head, so I tried to think smaller. Maybe it's ridiculous to assess the entirety of your existence in a couple of words. Maybe that's crazy.

What, though, about individual moments?

I bet, if I tried, I could decide what today was "about," or at least this afternoon. Maybe just this moment. Still, it's a start.

And it reminded me of something Penny says sometimes, as a way of pointing out bewildering behavior. It's perfect, what she does: "Dude. You're wearing a wool sweater without an undershirt? What's that about?

So maybe it's a good question. And I guess, next time, when life -- or just a little sliver of it -- seems overwhelming or inexplicable, or both, apply that funny little word and see what it shows you.

"What's this about?"

2 comments:

-T- said...

We're way too close to ourselves to self-assess. I work, but am I about work? I'd say no, but those that are not me might say yes... What I think's more fun to think about is how many characters it would take to encapsulate you in a movie. 6?

Colin said...

No, I think Clooney could pretty much cover me. Or, more likely, Casey Affleck. :(

If only we all had the moral clarity of Master P! He knew for certain that he was 'bout it 'bout it. I just can't remember what "it" was.