The Blue Plaque theory of life

For those of you that don’t live in London, the lives of the ‘greatest’ people who lived in this fair city are commemorated by blue circular plaques that are attached to the houses they lived in. Regular readers will know that I can’t grace my blog with pictures, so here’s an explanatory YouTube clip:

Several years ago I noticed that I had very rarely heard of the people featured in the plaques. For every Jimi Hendrix there’s a few dozen Ira Aldridges, Thomas Arnes or George Basevis. The more I noticed this the more it dawned on me that our lives are utterly ephemeral. Even if you are one of the most celebrated people of your lifetime there is a very good chance that an university graduate with a few decent A-levels and more than a little curiosity about life in general will not have heard of you in any way. Not ‘Oh, hang on… She rings a bell’. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bupkiss.

And those are the best of the best of the best of the best of the best. If you applied that criteria to this industry I’d have thought no more than a couple of pure advertising people (as opposed to people who first worked in the ad game then went on to direct movies) would make the grade (I’m talking about Hegarty and Abbott). So if you’d like to be not-really-remembered by the vast majority of people who have lived in your country, you’d have to either build one of the biggest and/or best agencies of the last fifty years, and create a shedload of award-winners along the way. Juan Cabral will not be getting a blue plaque unless he returns to ‘adland’ and builds up some shop into fifty years worth of brilliance. And even then, probably not, because I might have neglected to mention that neither Sir Hegs or Lord Abbott actually has a blue plaque, and as blue plaques take three years to happen after shortlisting and have now been suspended through lack of funding, they almost certainly never will have.

So embrace the minuscule blip your presence on this earth will create. No one beyond your friends and family will give the tiniest toss a toss about you while you’re alive, and after you’re gone that number will dwindle to the square root of fuck-all. And that’s fine. It is the case for all but the smallest percentage of us. If you think anyone will give a shit about Vampire Weekend or Colin Farrell in 100 years time (when the planet will be under the water generated by the melting of the polar ice caps anyway) you are unfortunately quite wrong.

So what’s the point? Well, at times like this I like to call on Dead Poets Society:

Keating: “Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Why does the writer use these lines?

Charlie: Because he’s in a hurry.

Keating: No. Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die… To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Perhaps it could be bigger and brighter than the kind of thing that gets you a blue plaque. You could start here.