Monday I felt I just had to go out to find the film Julie & Julia, as it is an appropriate parallel story for an enterprising author and for any blogger, of course. I streamed the movie and found the most relevant element for me to absorb was about the long process Julia Child undertook to transform American sensibilities in relation to more than just French cooking. She was introducing a style, literally making palatable an attitude as well as a culinary revolution akin to the sexual liberation movement that developed in tandem with this European flair.
What is a writer or an artist if not an innovator and somewhat of a provocateur? Julia’s persistence over many years of developing her talents and composing her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), served her well (not a pun! well, maybe so). She merged American gastronomic desires for nouveaux choses with traditional rural French cuisine in a manner that freed not only the taste buds but as well the fertile imagination of Americans after WWII had already begun to open up for us new territories of European philosophical thought and literature/ culture. Spiritually I must infer this was no accident. Julia Child was the right person for the task she undertook with her grace and fortitude plus her special brand of loving, even lovably awkward humor.
The parallel mythic aspects of Julie and Julia in relation to my own current life activity are obvious to me but that’s personal; not worth expounding here. Her perseverance and persistence despite the opposition she first encountered to a new approach that blended sensibilities rather than merely presenting one style in a didactic way offers lessons for many of us.
It was telling to see how Nora Ephron (screenwriter) drew parallel mythic connections in her screenplay between Julie Powell and Julia Child’s lives quite explicitly, fusing two historical epochs of an American in Paris from 1944-1961 with New York City in 2002, just after the 2001 Twin Towers disaster.
Our own story can merge with history itself in fundamentally useful ways. Julie Powell’s blog about cooking all of the recipes from Julia Child’s book in a year sparked the imagination of readers ready for a fresh inspiration to go beyond routine with a license to revitalize their passions. Powell actually worked for an agency helping victims from the Twin Towers attack to recover their own lives, so it is fascinating how she was led to intersect her own life and imagination with the life and times of Julia Child. Are there any accidents? I believe in co-incidence instead.
So, where does your Life Story stand positioned in the ongoing flow of human history? I know, that’s a big question. But of course our personal life history narratives are and must be understood at some level as products of History itself.
But how to unpack this? Just a brief musing (I invite you to write your own reflections…):
Born in 1954, I experienced the 1960’s while in highschool in Lewiston, New York. I started a Human Relations Club there to honor and punctuate the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. within a mainly “Lilywhite” community. This along with a 10th grade class by one of my best early mentors (my English teacher, Mr. Scelsa)–in which for half the year we studied the Black literary Renaissance–led me to develop a sensitivity to issues of diversity in all forms. This was at a time when openness to new ideas was beginning to flourish. The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkle, and my next and lifelong mentor (who knows whom he or she is…) led me to want to be a writer, to make a contribution, to “make a difference” really in any way I might. So that led to 21 years of college, studying literature/philosophy,linguistics and cultural anthropology and then moving on to university teaching. These multidisciplinary threads and historical influences have coalesced to an interest in the interplay between cultural psychology and personal cognition, with the notion that we can free ourselves from self-limiting thoughts and behaviors, if we so choose.
So, what about you? How does your Life Story intersect with History? What are the consequences?
I welcome your insights and stories!