I watched Still Life recently, the Jia Zhangke film capturing a Chinese town that is forever left in the past to make way for the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The realism and atmosphere are immense, but it's the English title, which bears no resemblance to the Chinese one, that kept me thinking. I see people online interpreting “still life” in the artistic context, as “a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter.” Then they go on to explain the symbols in the film for the lifeless and the lively. Now, that might be the correct interpretation, I don’t really know, but I tend to read Still Life differently. Because, I think, beneath the characters' ordinariness, there bursts vivid life. Because the hardship, poverty, repetitiveness, and seeming numbness they endure — they are just life, there is still life, and it will continue to be life even after the Three Gorges Dam completes.

Life is a composite of goods and bads after all. Good and bad things. Good and bad moments. It’s like the moment of looking up and seeing the sky slashed by a violent streak of pink gracefully diffusing into twilight after the section that you were certainly falling asleep in but sincerely hope no one saw, and you think “oh meet me in the afterglow.” That was still life. Or the moment of sitting in bed thinking about how the only thing between you and the melancholy rain pouring into the deserted courtyard was a bay window, and you contemplate how lucky you are to have been there in that singular dissipating blink in time. That was still life too.

In Still Life, lifestyles changed, marital ties changed, friendships changed, location of the motel changed. Changes that are glossed over with layers of gloom, regrets, and loss. People tell me “never change, Lawrence,” and sometimes I feel like maybe I indeed never will. Is that a good thing? I once again do not know. There isn’t any great impetus to change, at least not in the last two wasted years. There is nothing I aspire to become, nothing I tangibly have as a goal (other than the good ol’ make money, ew, I cringed when typing that). But everyone goes through a lost phase in their early 20s, right?

I think of the quote that I will probably never completely understand: “The big words from those ages when as yet happening was visible are not for us. Who talks of victory? To endure is all.” Grandeur is not guaranteed in life. The epic forces of light and darkness might never come into play. A common, forgettable, average life might not be what most aspire to, but end up being what they lead anyway. So perhaps it’s fine to not have a direction right now, since the only way is forward, I guess. “You fight the past, it fights back, so forward, even if alone,” I guess.

In other news, covid is some kind of back, ugh. Nothing much I can say about that, except the fact the excuse to do nothing ever ever ever ever is renewed for another year. I want to do something though. I want my 2022 to be still life, not “still life.” I will try to write more (2021 really did hijack my plans for writing), verbalize more thoughts (which I think will be good for my sanity), actually start and finish projects (procrastinate less and likewise care about school less). There is more world out there, more life out there, I will tell myself, so don't be afraid to jump then fall. It’s better than not to have jumped at all.