Sunday, November 27, 2011

With One Person I Never Got Bored


We come to this world, don't ask me where from, and we leave it after dancing on it for a while, don't ask me where to. But some of us are otherworldly all through. I had the fortune to get to know one of them: Charlotte Zutrauen, who passed away this spring after more than a century on the planet.

Charlotte was born in 1908 and already at a young age she became an institution, an icon, in the emerging Hollywood. She was connected to an Indian guru, who was a spiritual advisor behind the scenes to movie moguls and other leading figures of the silver screen industry. Soon, so was Charlotte.

I met her in 2001, when I spent a couple of weeks in Los Angeles, several times in her inspiring company. Already at our first meeting she did, as they say, blow my mind.

Having written books on astrology and what-not, I've had my share of encounters with self-proclaimed New Age gurus, few of them making any kind of impression. Charlotte was nothing of the kind. She was the real deal.

Me and my friend Philippe Morotti picked her up at her rather modest house high up on the Hollywood Hills, for a ride downtown and a lunch. Before we were even halfway down the Hills, she had described my personal life dilemma in a nutshell. My curse. I get bored so quickly – with people, activities, anything.

She told me not to feel guilty about it, but to accept it and come to peace with it. That might not sound very profound, but think again: What could me more of a blasphemy than boredom? A splendid universe opens up to us when we leave the womb. Billions of people surround us, ready to interact and share. How ungrateful it is to quickly grow bored of this formidable gift!

So I tend to get bored, and then to be ashamed of it. Much of my life I spend struggling to hide my boredom, like a perversion even Dante could not have imagined. My dark secret.

When she revealed this, just a few minutes after meeting me for the first time – and showed complete acceptance of it – I felt deep relief. Instant therapy. Those words of hers still have the power to console me.

Later, when I got home to Sweden, I told my mother about this encounter and what Charlotte had stated about me. Although we had never ever even touched the subject before, my mother immediately nodded and mumbled a spontaneous confirmation. She knew in a second that Charlotte was right.

But Charlotte wasn't ready with me just yet. She made me start working on a movie script – giving me the glimpse of a theme and urging me on. Not that a movie script changes the world in any way, or even me, but because I just had to do it. And she understood that writing is what makes me tick.

When it comes to my writing, I never allow anyone else to guide me. I never listen to suggestions. There's no point. What I need to write is so particular to me, others are extremely unlikely to contribute. It's just a waste of time.

Again, Charlotte was different. She found the seed of the story deep within me – or she planted it there, what do I know? Anyway, I felt it rising from inside, like any other story I ever wrote, and I threw myself at the laptop, starting to write.

It was finished in a few months, which is sort of record time for me, at least the last couple of decades – my first full-length movie script. It's called Chastity and is set in Medieval times. A drama about impossible love. It's still floating around somewhere in Hollywood.

I wouldn't mind seeing it turned into an actual movie, of course, but that's not as important as the experience of writing it. The plot, the dialogue, everything came to me automatically, and the result was a story of which I felt immensely proud. It was what I wanted to write, without previously being aware of it. Many thanks, Charlotte!

A couple of more screenplays quickly followed. Now, I'm back to books again, but the scripts took me on a voyage I had not imagined beforehand. I'm sure I will get back to it, one of these days.

I left Los Angeles. Charlotte and I exchanged a few letters and an occasional phone call, but I never saw her again. On May 1, 2011, she passed away, 102 years old. I don't care. In my mind she is still very present and active. I never get bored of her.

The portrait photo of Charlotte above was taken by my old friend Philippe Morotti, who was also the one to introduce me to her.

PS: Charlotte's last name Zutrauen is German for confidence. Indeed.

7 comments:

  1. Sometimes we meet people who leaves a great impression in our life and turn it in another direction. Don't get bored! just remember Charlotte and look for others like her, there is so much in this world and don't forget the Aikido there is still a lot you can discover and do with it, only think about how we can help with that art O'Sensei left us.
    Thanks for an interesting post, although I don't share the boredom:)

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  2. Aikido is one of the few things I keep on doing - not that I escape fighting boredom also there, occasionally. It's an art. That's why it continues to intrigue.

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  3. I'm reading After dark by Haruki Murakami and one phrase Mari, one of the characters said reminded me you and Charlotte: she met a chinese girl under bad circumstances, translating for her and explaining the case to the other character she said that this girl became part of her, knowing that they will never meet again. So maybe in a sense Charlotte became part of you, just a thought.

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  4. Boredom is rough. It makes it hard to stick with anything. I've decided that when I'm bored it's an opportunity to try something new. Will I continue with it? Probably not. But I will enjoy my time doing it, and life should be enjoyed.

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  5. Irreverance, something new is always exciting, at least for a while. I've found that what prolongs the experience is how much it gets me curious. Maybe they are the ultimate opposites: curiosity and boredom.

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  6. Dear Stefan,

    Charlotte left another incredible influence in her wake, showing us that we never leave this earth, but leave strands for the future folks to weave in. I picked up one of her strands.

    In late 2011, I was looking for a house. A listing came up in the street of one of my best friends. The street was narrow with steep fall-offs on the side. If it had not been for my friend, I probably would have been a little too scared to even look at that location, but I went. As I was leaving the house, the flap of the mailbox opened, and I looked in. I saw a name on a random ad letter: "Charlotte Zutrauen". Since I am German, I knew immediately what it meant: "Confidence", "Trust yourself" - and I did: I ended up buying the house from her trust.

    She was born in the same year as my grandmother who I was very close to. Two incredible women. I wished I had met CZ. Thank you for your blog.

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  7. Anonymous, many thanks for that wonderful little anecdote from life. I am not surprised that Charlotte continues to do her magic. And I remember the house high up on Hollywood Hills, also the scary road leading there. Very symbolic, that too. Facing one's fear, one is generously rewarded.

    I'm sure you'll have a marvelous adventure unfolding from that location, but you know it already.

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