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Suzanne Arruda | Just What Does Larger Than Life Mean?

Sometimes I feel like Jimmy Stuart in "It’s a Wonderful Life," gazing at the National Geographics and dreaming of adventures in far away countries. Instead of living those dreams, he stays in his town, filling the role thrust on him. I vicariously live my life of danger and adventure through my character, Jade del Cameron, the heroine of Treasure of the Golden Cheetah. With her running point, I can safely climb Kilimanjaro, charge a lion, and do battle against evil without breaking a sweat. Via Jade, I shoot rifle and bow, throw a mean lariat, fly a plane, and kiss a handsome man. (Well, I do get to do that last part in real life.)

Jade is often described as "larger than life" and that’s probably true. But it makes me wonder, just what does "larger than life" mean? Frankly, life is pretty big. Sometimes that can be intimidating. We might find a safe spot and hide in it, camouflaging ourselves for anonymity. We stay with what’s comfortable and call risk takers crazy daredevils. So perhaps being larger than life simply means that a person grows to take in as much of life as possible.

That heroic kind of person sees every new idea as an opportunity to be tried on. Like a kid, they want to explore every closet, open every box, look inside every room. They wear life with passion. It’s a favored garment, tailored to their whims, constantly embellished with something from everyplace they’ve been until it resembles an adventurer’s travel trunk covered in labels of exotic locales. Sometimes circumstances force a person to take on a larger role, to wear a piece of life they didn’t choose. But instead of letting the trouble dominate them, they wrestle it down and then add that new patch like a battle trophy. But do these people exist outside of fiction? Certainly . Jade is a compilation of several real women including African bush pilot, Beryl Markham, explorers Osa Johnson and Delia Akely, pioneer coffee farmer Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). I threw in several WWI ambulance drivers that drove the front lines under shell fire. All of those women could be labeled as "larger than life" but in fact, they were simply stepping into what life had to offer or demanded of them. War and pioneering does that to people.

Being larger than life didn’t stop in the 1920’s. Aviators Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love found wings when airplanes appeared in the world. They opened up new vistas for themselves and for other women when they started the WASP and Ferrying Division of WWII, respectively. Jackie kept on pushing her life’s envelope, becoming the first woman to break the sound barrier. And all those women who left the home and went into the factories to help the war effort expanded their lives as well. None of them would have considered themselves "larger than life" at the time. They did their duty with pleasure, but I look at them with awe, wondering if I’d have had their bravado.

Still, I’ve done some big things. I was a zookeeper for a while and possibly saved my boss’s life when a rattler bit him. I would have preferred to hide, but life pushed me into a larger role that day. And perhaps even breaking into mystery writing in my mid-life is heroic to others. We should all strive to fill up our lives; doing and participating rather than settling for being a spectator. I suspect, if we look around and get to know someone else’s story, we might discover that they live "larger than life." And perhaps you are doing that now and don’t even know it.

Suzanne Arruda is the author of the Jade del Cameron mystery series set in 1920’s Africa. Visit her website www.suzannearruda.com and to learn more about life in Jade’s time, go to her weekly blog: Through Jade’s Eyes.

 

 

Comments

6 comments posted.

Re: Suzanne Arruda | Just What Does Larger Than Life Mean?

I would rather read about someone "larger than life" then be one. I'm more of a homebody enjoying my pugs and grandkids. Maybe to them I'm larger than life.
(Theresa Buckholtz 1:44pm September 8, 2009)

Suzanne Arruda: Thank you for your post and your request for feedback.

Here's my opinion. Perhaps when we get down to it, there aren't any characters or real people who are larger than life. They're larger than what we expect in life.

They're larger than what we anticipate, are comfortable with, can readily process, and conveniently deal with. Through their words and deeds, through their very existence, they challenge our assumptions, both individual and social. Intentionally or not, they expand our thinking, which can result in expanding our actions.

And thank goodness such people exist! Both fiction and reality would be so much duller without them.
(Mary Anne Landers 3:13pm September 8, 2009)

We all dream about being a heroic figure. A person who knows no fear, but few of us want to be faced with that situation. If confronted we do what we must do and that makes us 'larger than life.
(Rosemary Krejsa 6:47pm September 8, 2009)

I never knew how I would react in a real emergency. I don't move quickly. I like to think things through. However, last month we were driving 70 mph on Route 70 in Kansas and my husband (the driver) fell asleep. Instead of screaming (which I wanted to do), I kept reassuring him that he was all right and we were okay until he got the car under control. It seemed to last forever.
(Karin Tillotson 10:52pm September 8, 2009)

Sorry, I hit post before I was finished. I think we all have the ability to be larger than life - even in little things.
(Karin Tillotson 10:54pm September 8, 2009)

As in many of the examples you gave,
people doing what needed to be done
is what made them special. Being
recognized for it made them larger
than life. Live your life to the fullest,
that will qualify you.
(Patricia Barraclough 12:08pm September 9, 2009)

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