Mr. Turner & my new goal in life: once more with feeling


img src=aline-diepois-thomas-gizolme

If someone had asked me for a declaration of life goals ten years ago when I graduated from university, I probably would have said something like this.

One. Find Nietzsche.

Two. Scoot around Rome or some other romantic European city.

Three. Hike Zermatt to Charmonix.

So … ten years later … am I getting closer to these goals?

One. I don’t actually pick jobs to increases my chances of finding Nietzsche but somehow it worked out that way. As soon as I joined Milliman, I started asking people for book recommendations and was given the suggestion of Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options which I loved which led me to read other Taleb books. He does an amazing job explaining Nietzsche. But more than that, experiencing the 2008 financial crisis made me realize my work should not be about trying to control chaos but trying to benefit from chaos. Then, in 2012, I actually found Nietzsche. In conclusion, I’m giving myself a rating of “so far so good”. Although a part of me thinks that I’ve actually never really truly confronted the chaotic. Hard to say whether I really get it until that happens.

Two. I still don’t have a driver’s license. But it’s okay because, in 2010, I realized that I actually enjoy riding a bike up and down hills. And nothing is more romantic than realizing that a flood has covered the original route and a new one must be found.

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Gazing at Les Baux-de-Provence
a.k.a. taking a break after realizing that I’m not there yet

Three. I’ve visited neither Zermatt nor Charmonix let alone hike from one to the other. The picture at the top comes from a series of photos entitled Abstract Zermatt. The project is described as follows: Les images échappent alors à la photographie de paysage et participent d’une démarche picturale basée sur l’impression, la sensation et le souvenir, la trace et la disparition.

A pictorial approach based on feeling, sensation and memory, trace and disappearance is a great way to describe Turner. It’s way too early to say what my favorite film of 2015 will be but Mr. Turner had quite an effect on me. Looking at the man’s life from the outside shows the opposite of beauty. He is a strange looking fellow. His is estranged from his ex and children. His communication style is baffling. At the beginning of the film, when he sings (not so well) and brings tears to the woman playing the piano, I was like … I don’t understand why this is so moving. At the end of the film, as he lies there dying, I found myself thinking … he is so wonderful … don’t let him go. And I can’t even pinpoint exactly what happens between the beginning and the end that makes me so attached to this character.

To be honest, when I saw the preview for this film in November, I was a bit shocked. I always imagined Turner to be a most interesting person and here we have a character who mostly grunts. But on second thought, art is not defined by whether the artist has an interesting life. Art is not even defined by whether the subject matter is interesting. In fact, one could argue that art is about seeing supposedly uninteresting things in an interesting manner. And what does it mean to have an interesting life anyway?

Once upon a time, I was convinced that life is about doing interesting things like hiking from Zermatt to Chamonix. And meeting interesting people. And by interesting people, I mean people who want to do interesting things with me. Now I realize that this is a dangerous way of thinking. Walking through life with preconceived notions of what is interesting can make us blind to the things that are unexpectedly interesting. And the unexpectedly interesting is the key to chaos.

If someone asks me for a declaration of life goals today, should I say encounter the unexpectedly interesting? Or find the key to chaos? Do such goals even make sense? Probably the best goal I can set is the one my piano teacher gave me long ago: once more with feeling.

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