No plot, no problem

Rushing forward to the next big thing often causes us to miss out on life

By Lloyd Lee

Plot is overrated. It makes us anxious, always looking forward to some resolution. In film, it keeps our attention on the screen. In life, it convinces us we should keep on going.

Last year, Andy Rooney, on 60 Minutes, talked about how people are always concerned with what’s next. He said that everyone is so concerned with what’s next that often we miss the in-betweens. He said something about missing April because he was too busy looking forward to May, or even missing whole years while looking forward to the next.

I related very much to Rooney’s words about looking forward to things. Often I don’t take the time to appreciate holiday breaks because I’m so anxious to get back to Hyde Park. By the time the holiday has ended, I’m ready to leave and go back to the drudgery of school, and I don’t even like school.

This past holiday break, I actually worked for two weeks. I woke up at six o’clock in the morning every day and still looked forward to coming back to Chicago. It wasn’t that the work was overly hard or boring, but I was still, like always, in a constant state of looking forward to what was next, even though what was next was quite familiar.

And do you ever feel better when you finally arrive at that point which you were looking forward to so much? Like when the quarter ends, or the year ends, or even when the class you’re in ends?

I would guess not.

The time students spend looking forward the most is during their last year of college. Constantly thinking about jobs, grad school, and life after the comforts of the past few years can be overwhelming. And like the plot of a “good” movie, there has to be a beginning, middle, and end—something to look forward to.

But it’s the middle and end I’m not so sure about.

Why does the beginning have to trek up towards the middle, and then fall down towards the end? I recently watched Sofia Coppola’s latest film Somewhere. At the end, when I walked out of the theater, two people behind me were discussing how there was no plot to the film. I kept wondering why there should be one, or at least why there should be an obvious one. Somewhere was a meditation on life, seen through the lives of a father and daughter. Coppola knew that her audience would be unsettled by the lack of an explicit plot, and began the film with a long sequence of a car driving around a track. I think this was to let the audience’s expectation slow down a bit.

I guess those two people walking behind me were too busy looking forward to something else in the theater. Maybe there should have been drugs involved, or abuse in some way. Usually I would expect this as well, but having seen every previous Sofia Coppola film, I knew I should go into it Andy Rooney- style.

You just sit back, try to relax, and don’t expect anything. Let all those thoughts about moving forward, looking for some climax and end, just let it all go. Just watch what happens in front of you, hear what is around you.

The nuances of life are quite beautiful when you slow down and look at them. I realize that in college you’re supposed to fight your way onward, and finish the race. But at the end of it, you don’t want to find yourself having missed all of the little, and big, things throughout because your eyes were so set on finishing or on what happens after.

When does that all end? Eventually, there’s not going to be much to look forward to. I kind of think that life should be like Somewhere, or I really hope that it could be: that I could just ponder life for 80 years without worrying about or looking forward to anything. Of course, this isn’t easy; because of society, it’s incredibly difficult. But we can still hope and try.

Lloyd Lee is a fourth-year in the College majoring in Political Science.