Thursday, August 15, 2013

Patterns, Fish, and Roxbury Drive

Patterns and people have a notable similarity.  Some in each category are bright, vivid, expansive, and interesting.  Others are unimaginative, predictable, boring.  Still others are flamboyant, over-the-top, seemingly self-canceling.

A pattern is a matrix, a template, a repetition of a design or motif, which is one of those words from one culture meaning pretty much the same in yet another.  A theme or salient design (aha, another near- if not complete synonym), played forth in some systematic repetition.

People meet head on with patterns in the best dramatic manner--action.  You could say that individuals who are predictable are being observed following a familiar pattern, one egregious example being Fred, who has for his past four marriages, chosen younger, taller women, all of whom were redheads.

You could also say that persons who write stories that follow certain patterns which, upon examination, reveal similar themes, are playing roles in dramas constructed to fill some unspoken need.

You have an on-again-off-again relationship with patterns in that you are quick to look for them, just as quick to be dismissive of them or the source that produces them.  This is a matter of predictability inserting itself toward the head of the line of things you like least about stories, real or invented.  Thus the problem to haunt you from time to time:  the appearance of the predictable in your work.

You can remember long (and expensive) discussions with a man named Arthur, back when you were still an undergraduate.  Arthur had an office on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills.  In one of the rooms, he had an enormous fish tank, filled with brightly colored fish, which provoked rather heated discussions between you because of his opinion that the fish appeared to be quite happy where they were, and you expressed the belief that fish on Roxbury Drive had little choice but to appear happy because that was in a sense the pattern of Roxbury Drive.

You were a student, looking for things, trying to sort out and understand things.  Arthur was a highly respected psychiatrist.  Roxbury Drive, at the time, at least, had an incredible number of psychiatrists.  A recurring theme among your expensive conversations with Arthur was the expectation most persons had of consistent behavior.  Numerous times, Arthur asked you if you believed you were being consistent, and your responses, often in the form of another question, had to do with your wondering what was so important about consistency, even to the added question of whether consistency was a turn-off.

These conversations at one time caused you to pose the question of whether a similar tank of fish in a similar office below the equator would result in the fish swimming in a counter-clockwise orbit.  Your observation of Arthur's fish had them swimming always clockwise in their search for happiness.

You at the time were not so much searching for happiness, at least not in any sense of pattern, as much as for, in no particular order, girlfriends, story ideas, experience, a sense of what you were good at (perhaps influenced by a growing awareness of the things you were not good at), and some system wherein all these quests could be conducted in some kind of harmony.

Somewhere back in those days, you wrote a short story called "Fish," which you greatly admired and, until your recalling it now, assumed it was triggered by a reproduction of a fish drawn by Picasso which was given you by a girl who worked in the campus bookstore.  True enough, the Picasso fish was called out in the first paragraph of the story, but there is a good possibility of the Picasso fish being a motif for the happy Roxbury Drive fish in Arthur's office.

Over the next years, you developed a pattern of working at jobs of incredible boredom and monumental demonstrations of things at which you had only minor ability, in order to pay down the cost of those expensive conversations you had with Arthur.

Did those conversations prove valuable to you in the long run?

Ah,yes.  They helped you see patterns of consequences, results of being a smart-ass kid, then refining that quality to an increasingly easier to live with cynicism mixed with unfettered, surprising bursts of optimism and enthusiasm.

You might wish to dig through the cobwebs, extract "Fish" and see what it does for you.

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