Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Life without a Plot

I was drinking coffee in the old town of Sarajevo recently when a guy walked by with a t-shirt reading, in 200 pt. font, “My life has a superb cast but I can’t figure out the plot.” Slowed by the shock of such honest existential angst plastered, far too tightly, to a man’s chest, I failed to snap a picture. Later that day I discovered that the quote is from a 78-year-old English author and cartoonist, Ashleigh Brilliant. He was tweeting before twitter. The tagline on his website is: brilliant thoughts in 17 words or less.

In these 13 words he has captured the sense of uneasiness we often feel in life. Even though we are surrounded with people we love and who love us, and even though we have a nice job and fun recreational activities, and even though we should be happy and satisfied, something is missing. We feel hopeless and helpless, like we are floating in a vacuum. We have a nice life, but we are missing a plot.

Life without a plot can lead to despair.

Soren Kierkegaard, a man familiar with existential angst, pictured a life of despair as a king without a country. The king attempts to protect his position and his sovereignty by building an enormous castle. Only, as he comes close to completing his fortress, he discovers that it sits on nothing. His castle is floating in the air. With no foundation, the whim of the breeze or the rain can destroy it. All his work is nothing but a capricious castle in the sky.

We can surround ourselves with a superb cast and beautiful scenery, but without a plot we are floating in a vacuum. Have you ever felt this way? I know I have.

What do you do when you find yourself without a plot?
Is there a way to “write” some adventure into your story?
What does it take to live an interesting story?

These are some questions I have been thinking about over this past year and would like to explore more on this blog. Because life may be similar to a book or a movie—it has a cast, a storyline, a setting, a plot—but it is different in one essential way. When I find myself fighting to endure a horribly-made plot-less movie, I can get up, walk out, and find a better film to watch. I am only given one life to live. I can’t walk out on it. I can only fight to make its story better.


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