Doing something with your life

Quartier MouffetardThere is a 50 year old man cycling around the square outside my window right at this instant, a Monday morning at 10:30 am. That means he woke up, put on his baggy multi-coloured trousers, got out his bike and started riding around in circles on the street down below. No shower, hair a mess, shirt from yesterday. Or the day before. As you would perhaps expect, he managed to get his bike tangled up with a stationary one, as he tried to ride by it clumsily. Humiliating. Even in his actions of complete futility, he manages to cause someone grief. Clearly, he has to do something with his life… But do something? Like what?

It is curious that there is a preconceived idea about what you should be doing with your life, without even, that we can put that directly into words. For those who, like me, saw the fellow with the bike, know that he is not doing it; whatever it is. Let us look a little further around the square. There are now about 30 people, with an equal number of cameras, taking pictures of each other on the square. There is a young man on a bench on the phone. A couple smoking and talking. Cars driving by. A few people drinking coffee on the terraces. A lot more people walking by, one stumbling with a large package. Notice that these people are all not doing anything special. Ah, finally, two men from the park service arrive, to clean out junk people threw into the fountain during the night. Men with jobs doing something useful.

Doing something with your life though, does not mean you have to be doing anything special, work or not. In fact, it seems only to suggest that a grown up man should not be riding his bicycle in circles around a square on Monday morning. But why not? What is so special about that? Why do we think he should be doing anything else? Is it jealousy of his idling? “Doing something” with your life is, after all, just seeming to be doing something, seeming to have some purpose. Perhaps there is some hidden purpose to the bike ride?

I think the real issue, if the man circling the square or untangling himself from the parked bicycle impacts you at all, would be that he is just in the way. By wasting his own time, he risks wasting other people’s time (the owner of the parked bicycle) He is just in the way. “Doing something” with your life, is not as much a judgement of their lives, as it is a statement about their dead weight presence, their blocking the way. It is a plea to others to keep out of the way of those people that are actually “doing something”. Which, of course, is us.

Image source: parisruemouffetard.blogspot.com

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