Thursday, November 24, 2011

Just because I'm losing, doesn't mean I'm lost (Coldplay)

I got bored in a meeting recently and started making a list in my head of things with a 'lost' theme. One thought tumbled into another and pretty soon I had a head full of LOSTNESS, it helped that it was a very looooooong boring meeting.

I had so much in my head that I had to write it all down later (it filled a page).

Before I outline what was in said head you probably need to get yourself a coffee, then take the phone off the hook and get comfy – this’ll take me a while to explain I suspect.

I started with books on a 'lost' theme but pretty quickly I had roamed all over the cultural landscape - over films, under music, and through TV shows. Along the journey my thinking had morphed into 'lost' record albums and about being in a state of 'lostness'.

Here’s an example of my twisted thought process.

I started, fairly predictably and naturally, with Robinson Crusoe (by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719). Mainly cos it’s in the front of my brain – I downloaded it onto my ipad and have been reading it off and on for the last few months.

It is an archetypal castaway/shipwreck plot which has fed loads of other 'lost' storylines. I’m pretty sure it was the first such realistic adventure book with this plotline. The Tom Hanks film Castaway is a modern rendering.

From there I leapt to Swiss Family Robinson and detoured to Lost In Space’s Robinson family before getting to Gulliver’s Travels.

Lost In Space reminded me of the Albert Brooks film Lost In America which, by being an update of Easy Rider reminded me of the great tagline to the film. What was it again? Something like, ‘They went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere’. From there it was a natural leap into Paul Simon’s song America’And we walked off to look for America’. That also reminded me of the key line later in the song:

Cathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and I'm aching and I don't know why
Countin' the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They've all come to look for America, all come to look for America

When I got to this bit a light suddenly went on in my brain.

Lost isn’t just the Beatles in Yellow Submarine getting lost in Pepperland. Lost isn’t just a castaway on an island lost from civilization. Lost isn’t just about discovering lost worlds a la Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost Continent  or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core. Lost isn’t just people trying to get away from civilization and looking for a mythical Avalon. Lost isn’t just about seekers trying to answer Allen Ginsberg’s great question - America when will you be angelic?

Lost is all these external things and more. Lost is also about all the internal things – Paul Simon’s feeling of being lost and not being heard. The existential lost world inside us which drives so much great literature and cultural pointers like the TV show…Lost.

Told you my brain was twisted.

Allen Ginsberg from his poem America again:
It occurs to me that I am America. I am talking to myself again.
The next bit of thinking was my most interesting discovery of all: WHAT IF every theme in songs, TV shows, films, literature…EVERY theme…could be traced back in some way to the theme of loss?

Whether it be an external loss – Paradise lost, loss of life, loss of something tangible/physical, lost relationships…
Or an internal loss - Loss of innocence, loss of life and subsequent grief, feelings of alienation or abandonment, loss of direction in life, lack of understanding…
Or an abstract loss – the whole balance of gains and losses (can’t be one without the other), financial loss, lost in translation, when meaning is lost…
Suddenly I felt a bit like Phaedrus in Robert Pirsig’s amazing book Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In a moment of mad clarity I had glimpsed the universe. But was it true or had I just lost my mind?
I needed to test out this what if thesis on some random texts.
First some books (obviously this is restricted to ones I’ve actually read). I went to the Guardian’s list of the books I should read as a random source (wooah there were a lot of books in the list I’ve not read!). Here’s the first three I’d read:

Don Quixote (Cervantes) – bags of mental loss starting with a loss of perspective and geographical displacement (anyone working in education in the sandpit will identity strongly). The Don is a few mangoes short of a chutney, i.e., he’s lost!
High Fidelity (Hornby) – Lost loves and lost records!
Catch 22 (Heller) – Sanity has goneburger and the world is lost!
Okay – so that’s all literature…tick!

Next - some random films from imbd’s ‘films to see before you die’ list.

Fight Club – lost masculinity and lost teeth.
American Beauty – Lester in a mid life crisis is mourning his lost youth.
Road To Perdition – about a hit man and his loss of humanity and his lost relationship with his son.
Okay – so that’s all films ever made…tick!

Music might be tougher though. I’ll need to do three random songs for this exercise.
Some reductions are required first though. It think it’s a given that every love song ever written will conform to Wozza’s Lost thesis ©. It’s either lost love, or the love that never was, or unrequited love, or she-done-me-wrong love or some other twist that always involves human relationships. And those we can trace all the way back to Paradise Lost. So that’s love songs done and dusted.
So I’ll take a random three non-love songs from the Guardian list (set out thematically bless ‘em):
It’s My Life The Animals – lost opportunities and the way Eric Burden sings, ‘No regrets’ you know he’s lying.
Space Oddity  David Bowie – severe dislocation and alienation for the poor geezer floating in his tin can high above the world. He’s very literally and metaphorically lost in space!
Penny Lane The Beatles – beautiful nostalgia from Macca and all nostalgia involves a sense of loss.
Okay – music…tick!

Finally - Television shows. Here’s the last three series we’ve watched:
Grey’s Anatomy – a whole heap of lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year.
Bones – lost lives, lost hopes and dreams.
Hustle – a bunch of Robin Hoods stealing from damaged people who have been making their vapid way in the world.
I think the Wozza ‘Lost’ thesis © holds up but I invite you to send me your challenges. I bet I can find an angle!

So there you have it - I'll leave you with this great still from The Graduate. Two people, embarking on a mystery ride, lost in thought having just read this post and wondering what the heckfire Wozza was on about.

Love and peace - Wozza


Rajshri said...

this was really a "LOST" thesis, and i probably "LOST" my mind reading it. and i am still "LOST" in the content. you are a good writer though and even though i didn't understand half of it but still i like "LOOSING" my mind in it!
keep writing....

Wozza said...

Yes it was a Lostathon ramble within my mind. Glad you enjoyed it. I guess you need to know the fragments of the other texts I alluded to to get into it fully. But that's how my mind works - twists and turns, one thing leads to another. A bit like my own internal Chinese whispers exercise going on.

I will keep writing and you're welcome to keep reading.