Gnomicon 258

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Gnomicon  258
Friday 25 January 2013
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I’m lucky; people write scripts for me.
Catherine Deneuve (22 Oct 1948 – )

There is an immediate as well as secondary honesty to what this classy, beautiful French actress has to say here.

How secondary?

In the sense that although she is ostensibly talking about the kinds of scripts that screenwriters write for actors, one can easily push a broader implication that I read into her words, namely, that we all have scripts by which we live but we don’t necessarily have the luxury (?) of operating on the basis of scripts that others have composed for us.  No, we are our own scripters and our own actors.

Not, to be sure, that we always have a memorized script to guide us through the next scene, but I do believe there is a sense in which at some level we all work from some kind of script that each of us has worked on over the years and developed to suit the many occasions when it’s good to be able to go on automatic.  We know without knowing just how to behave and just how to talk and just what kinds of things are apposite for the situation at hand.

What are some scripted moments?

Well, I think it begins with working out some sort of routine for engagement on a number of levels with parents, primarily one’s mother.  And I do not mean to imply that this is in any way a percipient strategy that at a very early age we are cognizant as such of devising. I think it just happens – and only much later it becomes a conscious or at least not unconscious maneuver that we devise and deploy.  In a way it makes the negotiation of quotidian life so much easier – it affords you the opportunity (as a wag once put it) to fake your sincerity and seamlessly phony up intense interest.

I don’t mean to sound excessively cynical, but the time comes to extract from deep memory the various scripts resting in there and match the appropriate one to the situation and circumstances at hand.  This a largely but not entirely autonomous process, and I just roll with it.

Let’s see … here are the possibilities for this guy I kind of used to work with that I run into on the street: family (his, mine), last night’s bowl game (boooring, boooring!), the non-news about the economy … and, in closing, “Yes, let’s get together soon!”  And indeed on some occasions that is precisely what happens.

Now, that’s an example of a personal script for a given situation.

What about the public, or professional scripts.

Professors, I’m sure, have them.  As would lawyers.  And waitresses.

Comment on the cute baby, the woman’s lovely scarf, the gentleman’s striking tie.  Run though the specials.  The sotto voce hints at what is really best today.  Take your time with the menu while I get you water and that coffee.

The lawyer has it all ready for the hysterical wife of a cheating sleaze who definitely does not want to be talked out of imminent divorce, and so nods sagely as she rants how “… when we’re through stripping him of all he’s got he and his Jezebel of a floozy will be setting up house under the Bay Street bridge.”  That one calls for script 13-E with the Mädchen variant.

The professor confronts the enraged student whose “father knows a member of the Board of Regents” and will hear about “this unacceptable grade” on a paper she (maybe herself) wrote, she whose high-school speech teacher had told her she was an excellent writer, and furthermore “I’ve never gotten a grade like this in my entire life before!” So much, he thinks morosely, for 1) the mercy-D he gave her, and 2) that powerfully persuasive argument for a better grade she just laid on him!  In an effort to decompress the boiling anger of traduced genius he mumbles something meaningless about coherence, grammar, starting to write earlier, doing better next time, … .  Any number of scripts will work here, the ire being essentially generic and the response to it merely a matter of accommodating a vocabulary more specifically relevant to the particular issue at stake.

There is nothing wrong as such with developing and having on tap as it were these various scripts for various situations and conditions encountered in both daily and professional life.  It would be utterly exhausting to have to come up with entirely fresh expressions and explanations every time, and, whether we realize it or not, we are all deeply dependent on these extended pre-fabrications to a greater or lesser degree.  We couldn’t live without them.  And thank heavens, I say, that unlike Mme. Deneuve we can and in fact do write our own scripts, become the screenwriters for our ongoing lives and are thus better prepared for any contingency.

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