Home  |  Life  |  Family  |  Interests  |  Views  |  Gallery  |  Contact 

The Bohemian Way of Life

Bohemians, as depicted in most popular forms of entertainment, including within the pages of Victor Hugo's immense work Les Miserables, are care-free, poor and worshipful of their art.

CK Stead, the legendary writer from New Zealand wrote: "They had the insecurity of the rich who are poor, not of the poor who are poor."

The tradition of Bohemian "experiments in living" flourished in Britain from 1900-1950. The group of artists was part of the tradition, some of whose lives ended in suicide, fatal illness, alcoholism, drug addiction or the despair of late middle age, fates that befell poets, painters and writers.

The term Bohemian, as it refers to lifestyle, seems to have begun in France with the term La Boheme. It started as a way of describing bands of carefree 'gypsys' that came from Romania; possibly originating in India. As they traveled through Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), the reigning royalty gave them letters of safe passage. These letters indicated that the Bohemian royalty condoned their practices and lifestyle, which afforded them a sense of prestige in western Europe at the time.

Henry Murger's Scènes de la Vie de Bohème first brought blushes to British readers in 1845. But in the 1890s Puccini seized upon its tales of free-loving, carousing students burning furniture to keep warm amid poverty in the cause of art.

Today, Bohemian is used to describe free-thinking, free-living people - usually artists. Its modern roots are with the Beatniks of the 1950s. Their poets now stand as icons of progressive libertarian thinking.

Being Bohemian is all about living in an alternative space. Bohemians express themselves without regard for social convention. They attempt to experience the mysteries of life through their unique perspective.

Many of our present assumptions about life have originated from people who, sometimes in very small ways but motivated by revolutionary ideals, hope and defiance of convention, challenged the establishment 100 years ago.

In a way, we're all Bohemians now. We can conduct relationships with people from any social class without fear of ostracism, while deploring oppressive, stratified societies.

Our choice of friendships and love affairs is our own. The idea of chaperonage makes us laugh; women are independent. We recognise that children have potential which must not be squashed.

We take it for granted that society is fluid, that informality will prevail. We do not expect to behave like marionettes at any social gathering. We are hatless, relaxed and on first name terms with people we barely know.

We live in a society that most people's grandparents would hardly recognise.

It is this intensity - the friendship, fun, colour, above all the freedom of that life - which despite all the hardship make our lives worthwhile.

The Bohemians have a very strong psychic distaste for money, for lucre. When they have it, they spent or give it away.

Today's life has lost some good qualities, partly through the influence of Bohemianism, graciousness and sobriety perhaps, and the measured graduation from formality to intimacy in human relationships. Sex often precedes friendship rather than the other way round.

Copyright © 2007 Jishi Samuel