“I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbor said, ‘Are you going to help?’ I said, ‘No, Six should be enough.’” – Les Dawson
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel
“A man only becomes wise when he begins to calculate the approximate depth of his ignorance.” - Gian Carlo Menotti
“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.” – George Carlin
“All generalizations are false, including this one.” – Mark Twain
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams
“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” – John N. Mitchell
“What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.” – Linda Ellinor
“The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.” – Chuck
“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”― Franz Kafka
On the surface, ‘nothing lasts forever’ sounds depressing. The saying is often employed with a connotation of hopelessness or lament. It reminds us of the inevitability of loss and pain and of our own mortality. It makes us feel ineffectual, powerless, insignificant. Usually when we hear those three words, it’s about as helpful as ‘life sucks and then you die.’ But that association is a matter of perspective, and therefore, it’s within our control. We can choose differently. We can choose better.
I don’t remember a lot of my childhood prior to age eleven. Most of it’s just a warm, sunny blur. It’s as if the lights in the camera were on, but the film wasn’t running. I call those my ‘pre-sentience’ years, the time before Life shocked me to attention.
In 1999, life dealt me a handful of shitty cards in rapid succession. My parents separated. I’d never even heard the word ‘divorce’ before my Dad told me they were getting one. It was messy, too. My siblings and I got caught up in our parents’ ensuing battle and were divided between them.
My grandfather, the funniest and most high-octane babysitter I’d ever had, became untreatably ill and died. His passing was my first major experience of the reality of death. It felt like the death of fun altogether.
In the midst of all of this, I began my 6th grade year at a new school. I went from being the popular big fish in elementary school back to the bottom rung in junior high. Never before or since had I seen such a drought in friendliness and non-douche-tasticism in my peers. It was a miserable experience and it kept getting worse.
Probably to help me make friends, my body kickstarted the chemical machinery of pubescence, which gifted me with spectacular B.O. and boners pretty much all the time. Looking back, I seemed especially afflicted with them just before a teacher would call me up to the whiteboard. I had to do the tuck-and-shuffle on a near-daily basis.
In short, times was tough and I’s handleds it rough.
One morning, I woke up in dread of going to school. I didn’t want to face the other kids because they treated me like hot garbage. I didn’t want to face the teachers because I couldn’t bring myself to care about the work. My world felt like a whirlwind of chaos in which I had no control, no power over anything. I wanted to hide. So, I tried coming up with a good excuse to stay home. I simulated vomit by pouring Italian dressing and other condiments onto the kitchen floor, then tried to convince my Dad that I was sick. Of course, he wasn’t fooled for a second. Angrily, he made me clean it up, and got me to confess what I was really feeling. And his reply is still to this day of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve ever been given:
“Nothing lasts forever. All of this pain, it’s temporary. One day, none of it will matter. All you have to do is get through the time and it will pass. Everything’s going to be okay. You don’t have to be afraid. Nothing lasts forever.”
When I heard those words from my father, they didn’t take full effect right away. I only found small comfort because I didn’t yet understand how to take the reins of my own perspective. It wasn’t until some time later that I figured it out, but when I did, I felt as if I’d just grown three feet taller.
I realized that it’s not worthwhile to try controlling everything that happens in my life. It’s not up to me to decide what I get to keep and what I don’t. Nothing lasts forever. Friends can outgrow each other. Lovers separate. Our environments and bodies change. Eventually, people have to die. Great shows like Firefly and Frisky Dingo get cancelled after a cliffhanger ending. And all of that is perfectly okay.
It’s okay because, out of the dissolution of one relationship, the opportunity for a new one is created. The world around us changes and we have to change with it. People die because life is not a guarantee. Life is just a loan. And sooner or later, we each must pay the Creditor what we owe. We must spend our loan well, stretch every penny of it, so that when the time comes to settle our arrears, we can look back on our time with satisfaction and gratitude.
Civilizations rise and fall, allowing new ones to flourish in their place. Frisky Dingo gets cancelled and the creators move on to bring us Archer. Stars go supernova and eject the material necessary to form planets, to create life. This is the way of nature. Beginning and end are synonymous with each other. An end is never truly an end. What we perceive as an end is just an actualization transforming back into a potential. It is the circle beginning anew.
Accept that none of us truly owns anything. Not our property, our relationships, living conditions, or even our lives. At best, we just rent these things for a short while. And that’s a good thing. It’s humbling. We humans need to be reminded that we are not as central as our Egos tell us we are. Maybe if we are humbled enough, we will appreciate our lives and each other a little more and really put this time to better use.
Sometimes, life just hurts. That’s perfectly natural and totally necessary for our growth. Life rarely happens on our own terms, because Life is much bigger than us, and we need to know that in order to become stronger, wiser, better people. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we do have power over what it means and how we’re changed by it. And that, in a way, is controlling what happens.
Enjoy what life is available to you, and appreciate the people with whom you have to share it. Your life is just a loan. It is never guaranteed. Nothing lasts forever. All things in existence obey the same majestic cycle of beginning, end, and back again. What an incredible honor it is to be a part of it at all.
April Fools! Got you, didn’t I? But that’s not the point. The point is the world has been celebrating April Fools Day (All Fools Day) for centuries. Its beginning is shrouded in hysterical mystery. Historians believe many theories about the creation of the April 1st holiday, but one idea seems to stick for some historians: it’s the French’s fault. Around 1582, under the rule of Charles IX, the French calendar changed to the Gregorian calendar. This calendar changed New Years’ Day from March 25-April 1st to January 1st. With communication extremely slow during those days, many didn’t know about the change till years later. Still there were rebel French who decided to still celebrate New Years’ on April 1st. These people were labeled as “fools.” Though there is still some debate as to whether this calendar switch is the real culprit for this insane holiday, the fact remains that pranks are a vital and traditional part of the day’s success throughout the ages. Practical jokes were played on these fools, who were sent on ‘fools errands’ or given fake invitations to nonexistent parties. In France today, the term that was coined in the 16th century still describes the French April Fools as “poisson d’avril” meaning “April fish”. As a tradition, paper fish are taped onto the victim with the name of whoever “fished” them. Occasionally, some pranksters (my high school friends) go too far and place a real fish outside someone’s door.
Another theory for the origin of this holiday is that April Fools started out as a prank. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, the ruler of the Roman Empire, Constantine, handed over the empire to King Kugel, the court jester. The original plan was that the jester, as a joke, tried to get the ruler to let someone of his court become king for a day. And the jester’s prank backfired as he was the one chosen. During his reign as king for a day, he declared the day he ruled, April 1st, as a day of absurdity. Or did he? This explanation was actually a prank itself, given to us by Professor Joseph Boskin from Boston University in 1983!
This tradition has lived on for centuries, spreading across Europe then into the Americas by the British and French during the 18th century. In England, jokes and pranks are played only in the morning hours, for it’s said to be bad luck if a bad joke is played during the afternoon. In Scotland, it is called “Taily Day” and focused around butt jokes and is consequentially the origin of the “Kick Me” sign.
No matter where you live in the world, don’t be the fool of your friends on this April Fool’s Day! Anyone and everyone is a target on this day of trickery!
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
2011 was probably not a good year for many. With most people suffering under the economic turmoil, the perpetuation of the debt crisis, the tsunami that hit Japan, and all of this on top of personal tribulations probably made 2011 a frustrating year to those that try to keep up with the world around them. As for myself, the year was a bit of an odd duck. So why am I associating nostalgia with 2011? What about the movies of this past year make it worth the energy to remember what happened, especially this long after the Academy awards have been handed out?
I feel the more apt question is “Why were the movies of 2011 either tinged or saturated with nostalgia?” Those who observed the ritualistic process of awards season probably noticed that three of the big movies–The Artist, Midnight in Paris and Hugo–had nostalgia as a major thematic element. Beyond these three, we had many other movies that fondly remembered the past or used memory as a narrative device. Super 8 yearns for the days of Spielbergian filmmaking of the 1980’s, the films of J. J. Abrams’ youth, while Steven Spielberg’s war epic War Horse was made with an affectionate touch of the films of Spielberg’s childhood days: the epics that he would have seen on the big screen. The First Avenger: Captain America also follows this pattern of using an older style of filmmaking for a superhero movie while looking fondly on the forties. Finally, you have movies like Tree of Life, Beginners, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that used the memory and its anachronistic way of moving through our minds.
So… why? Why all of this remembering and yearning for the past? Sure there is coincidence involved. Something this massive in terms of connection can never be truly planned. But something had to make the filmmakers look back into the past, right? As mentioned before, 2011 was an odd year. The turmoil over many aspects of life is enough for people to look back at what seemed to be simpler times. We want to be back to a time when things made sense.
We want to be like George Méliès in Hugo when he was making movies in his glass house where our dreams are alive and coming true. We want to be like George Valentin in The Artist: on top of the world and larger than life, before sound came into world of film. We want to be a child and watch movies on a gigantic screen and become mesmerized by the worlds created (hell, I still do this), stunned by the beautiful imagery of a sprawling epic (War Horse) or the innocence captured by the director and writer (Super 8), and not have an idea about the world I have to return to. And even if we never have been like either of the two Georges or that child watching movies in the theater we have still had experiences in life where we know we have felt what they have: that we are in control of our dreams. Anything is possible. We are larger than life and on top of the world.
In the movie, Woody Allen exams that everyone wants to live in the past. In doing so, Mr. Allen comes to the conclusion that those that live in the past are doomed to be blind in the present. Likewise, those that have no reverence for the past are doomed, which is the case with Inez, who cheats on Gil, and Inez’s family, who don’t like Gil because he is “too old fashioned.” The only direction to move is forward, into the darkness of the present while having respect for the old. Woody Allen’s fable on the dangers of nostalgia does not end in tragedy, however, as Gil finds happiness in the end of the movie.
And like that, we must find that balance between past and present. We can find happiness and a sense of meaning and clarity in our lives even when nothing makes sense during our lives. As mentioned, the lenses of retrospect allow us to make sense of life, and this is because we are removed emotionally from the experience. This does not mean, however, that we can throw away the bad, morose parts of our life. Like Jack in Tree of Life or George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy looking back in the past can help us realize where we are in life. We can then use that piece of wisdom to move forward and find clarity in life.
So if you have had a bad year, dear reader, don’t try to forget what just happened. Embrace the past and reflect on its complexity. It still may not make complete sense now, but thing will be more clear than what they were. The knowledge you will gain is going to be invaluable to finding meaning.
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