Saturday, March 19, 2016

Curious Characters

We all know, or have known, someone in our lives who is impulsive. Carefree. Erratic. Charismatic. The kind of person who is constantly in pursuit of the next thrill. The person who always takes it slightly too far, the person who has little respect and concern for boundaries, whether natural or man made. But this isn't a bad person. He or she is a person with a warm heart, a joy to be around (at times), a huge capacity for empathy, laughter, and honesty.

I'm thinking of this after Pear Cider and Cigarettes, an animated film that circumstances allowed for me to watch a few days ago. The film tells the story of Techno, an erratic type, the type I described above, and the narrator's longwinded attempt to save him after he inevitably lands himself in deep trouble.

There is a kind of charm in the risk takers. In contrast to the narrator's (and our, presumed) fear and shame, Techno's defiant grin beams out of the back of a police car when he gets arrested. People like him are charming, but frightening. On a good day, we cherish their company. On a bad day, we're fearful for their lives. What makes them the way they are? Is it inherent, manifesting itself in the tiniest acts of rebellion as toddlers and children? Or does circumstance compel them to push on and on, irrespective of the consequences?

How can we measure love of life itself? People like Techno seem to love life more than anyone. They chase every experience to its extreme, even - in fact often - when it puts them in harms way. These people, of whom we all know one, to varying degrees of extremity, could die for experience itself. They could die, they would die; they have died reaching for transcendence, in speeding cars and bottles of liqueur. For us, on the other side of extremity, life is precious. Survival is key, and nothing that puts life in jeopardy is a risk worth taking. Does that mean we love life more? The essence of life, being alive? Satisfied without having to go beyond that?

These carefree souls are a bundle of contradictions. We regard them with both pity and admiration. They are brave and fearful all at once, and as the film aptly puts it, 'completely in control and completely out of control all at the same time'. And while their stories, often tragic, are cautionary tales, they are intriguing ones. Perhaps there is a thing or two we can learn from them. Perhaps we can challenge our fear of all kinds of boundaries. Perhaps we can praise their lively spirit, their raw disobedience, their bravery.