Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"56 Up": Real life. Real stories.

I just watched a very poignant PBS program which I found to be simultaneously uplifting and depressing.  (How very PBS, Non?) The documentary was called “56 Up" and focused on a group of individuals who have been interviewed every seven years for their whole lives.  The participants are now all fifty-six years old.  Apparently this documentary has been out for simply ages, but I’ve missed it up until now. 

Here’s the blurb:
"Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man." Starting in 1964 with Seven Up, The UP Series has explored this Jesuit maxim. The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, renowned director Michael Apted, a researcher for Seven Up, has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives.

The stories play out beautifully-- artfully, like some true-to-life Truman show.  Some of the individuals in the documentary have had lives filled with opportunity and good fortune, others have had disappointments, sorrow and hard times. All offer candid insights into their thoughts and feelings about the hand life has dealt them.
I was truly moved.

How could that lovely, charismatic smiling boy dancing about so joyfully in his short pants at the age of seven have had a life of homelessness, self-doubt and despair?  The boy is now a man, and incidentally a writer, and mused that no-body has ever read anything he has written.  When the interviewer called his writing a “gift,” the man laughed ruefully, and said, “Perhaps.  But it shouldn’t be like masturbation.”  Sigh.  Someone get that poor, dear man a blog. 

I found myself reflecting upon my own forty-seven years as I watched the program.  Musing on bad Eighties perms and other regrettable choices made.  The gift of hindsight makes us all the best of prophets, don’t it?  Who would I be without the choices I’ve made? Where would I be if I had gone the other way; bought the other ticket; said “Yes” instead of “No”?

 It was just what the Mid-Life-Crisis doctor ordered. 

I guess the reason I chose to share this with you is because as writers, I think you might find the stories told to be profound, in the way only real life can be.  Better than anything I could ever make-up. 

Real life.  It’s the stuff great stories are made of.


Here’s the link to watch it for free on PBS.
Up 56 link.