I am an extra.
I am a non-speaking character in a coffee shop background sipping coffee and staring at my laptop. There are raindrops on the windows, a blade of grass moving in the wind outside, cars moving past on the road, murmuring conversations, a large orange sculpture, a concrete floor, a sneeze, a ding, words, a child’s cry, salt and pepper shakers, iphones, mugs, music wafting above the hum of mid-morning conversations, a green shirt, smell of eggs and coffee, fingers on the keyboard, people behind the counter waiting, people behind the counter making lunch, yellow road signs, an itch on the neck, words on the wall, wood tables, metal chairs, stripes and me.
I don’t despair being an extra. Extras in books, movies or television are never credited with names, just actions, like, “shop keeper” or “crying child.” I am a silent actor in your story, a voiced actor in mine. You can only see my actions, my role as an extra. You don’t see my inner monologue, my struggles, my joys, my worries or my guilt. Recognizing that I am an extra in the world, a silent actor is surprisingly empowering. As you walk by my table where I type, I can trip you or smile, I may not change your story but I color it with my actions. I don’t have to be the main protagonist. The main character depends on the extra. That is the secret: we are all extras. Being extra. I came to see myself as an extra and found an extraordinary life. I stopped trying to be named, stopped trying to be the main character, a proper noun.
Philosophy, art, religions all try to address our longing to connect to something larger, more meaningful than us. This is another attempt. An extra attempt.
We all share the small things, like coffee cups, salt, phones, chairs and walls and the big, like cities, roads, landscapes, clouds, and water. How we focus shape how our individual perspectives live and interact. You are an extra in the stories of almost everyone you meet today. You can probably count the people in your life who are essential on your fingers.
You are an extra.
Moving beyond identity politics, religion, gender, into object-hood into being extra. Being both more and less. Being Extra.
Depending on your outlook you could interpret the title “Being Extra” as either as being more, extraordinary or being waste, extraneous. We are always both: extraordinary and extraneous. It depends on your taste.
I arrived at this question when reading Adolf Loos’ modernist manifesto Ornament and Crime. All sauces he said was ornamental. The modern man eats roast beef. From my South Asian perspective, beef was ornamental, mostly used as a flavoring for curries and only the main component twice a year, weddings and celebrations when a sacrifice was offered. Always ritualized and associated with a momentous occasion.
Adolf Loos’ food example to explain modern architecture and design stuck in my thoughts.
What are your favorite sauces? Your favorite extras? Do you add spicy hot sauce to your dishes, maybe sweet-salty honey mustard, or maybe tart-sweet bbq sauce? How do you flavor your life?
Dessert is always extra, more than, beyond functional, ornamental and as a habit, dangerously unhealthy. Maybe that’s why we crave it. A British Toffee Pudding Cake draped in sweet toffee sauce is definitely extra. Here is a recipe.
Wishing you extra,