I recently read ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and like all good books it made me think. I don’t mean about the book itself nor even about the concepts of good against evil and the powers of the subconscious that Stevenson was exploring. No, what interested me was the idea of something new. Stevenson dashed the story off in no time at all. It’s a bit clunky and the plot doesn’t really hang together but the author was so excited by the fresh ideas that were being explored around him by Sigmund Freud and others that he was driven to experiment with them as quickly as possible, just like Dr Jekyll. It was all about the zeitgeist.
This morning I started listening to something else, a book about Earnest Hemingway and how he left the confines of America to live in exciting and bohemian Europe. He could feel the vibrancy of what was going on there and wanted to be part of it. And in my course at the moment, I am studying the Harlem Renaissance and how a burgeoning arts movement drew people into New York like a magnet.
I spent my morning cleaning my house. Yesterday I studied and tidied up and cooked. The day before was similar. And the day before that. For me and many millions of others that is what makes up the essence of life – the necessary, unrelenting and repetitive performance of mundane tasks that ensures that things run smoothly. And I’m happy with my life. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
But where is the excitement that Stevenson and Hemingway felt? What, in 2012, is the new and exciting thing that the young and the talented chase? And what about the rest of us, the ones for whom upping sticks and dream chasing is itself nothing more than a dream?
It’s a talent I suppose, spotting the next big thing and harnessing its energy before it grows too big to control. It must be a talent that I don’t have because I can’t see what is currently firing up imaginations and drawing people en masse to a particular city or person. Maybe that kind of approach is a casualty of the internet. All the dreamers and the fighters and those with voices to be heard are sitting in rooms alone and typing furiously into their laptops. There is very likely a whole virtual subculture that passes the likes of me by but is attracting all the modern day bright young things like a moth to a flame.
I too had dreams – not like the great writers of the past. I’m far to sensible for that. Mine were practical, commercial, achievable and didn’t involve emigration. And they were fulfilled. I have no complaints on that score. But I do sometimes wonder how much time there will be left for following new dreams once the children are flown. I have a very long list of things that I want to do when it’s just the two of us again. Yet I wonder whether I will still have the energy or the inclination or the money to start ticking them off? Perhaps I should have started earlier?
But back then I had no desire to take off and explore. I wanted to get through my education and get a good job and begin what I saw then as the important things in life. I would probably do the same again. But if the adult me met the 18 year old me, I would give myself a good talking to. I would explain about the day to day realities of the life I was striving for and then perhaps I too might have followed the zeitgeist for a bit before I got too bogged down. Or is that a dream in itself?