Charlie Kaufman & The Meaning of Life

Just a few minutes ago I finished watching the movie Adaptation written by Charlie Kaufman, one of my favorite films; it’s caused me to feel self-reflective, so if you don’t want to wade in a pool of existentialism then I recommend you stop reading this now and, instead, play croquet or draw sloths on a napkin or whatever else you feel like doing.

The movie got me thinking about memory, and how we forget most of our lives.  What did you do three months ago on Tuesday, March 10th?  Do you remember?  I’d assume not.  What were you thinking about last Wednesday at 2:15?  You, again, probably don’t remember.  You probably remember a couple of moments from a few conversations, maybe you remember generally how you felt, you have a few snapshots, but, the texture belonging to the day-to-day minutia has been let go of; you have some broad strokes, but you don’t remember the entire painting.  And since most of life consists of minutia, of small decisions and experiences between big memorable events, most of your life isn’t remembered.  Once something is experienced, time pushes you forward, and like time itself is armed with a big pink eraser, it starts to rub away all of your small moments, like we’re Indiana Jones, running across an old decrepit bridge, and as we lift each foot to take another step, the bridge crumbles behind us.  Experiences, it seems, are mostly borrowed; reduced to nothing; inevitably eroded by ticking clocks and crawling sundials; and if life is celebrated as a conglomeration of experiences, a tapestry of cherished memory, but most of those experiences are forgotten, and most of those memories dissolve, then this view of a rich life being one filled with unique experiences is baseless.  Some people, in their old age, completely forget their lives.  They no longer can pull meaning from past experiences because they don’t remember any.  Some people are disabled, paralyzed, or otherwise impaired so have very limited life experiences.  So, are these lives, then, without value? 

I don’t think so.  I don’t think the point of life is to collect experiences like they’re trading-cards and display them in photographs and post them like trophies for everyone to see.  If memory was so important, our minds would do a better job of keeping them around.  And, I’m aware, this point that I’m about to make is tired, but I think, rather, life is more about how you feel right now.  Your current attitude, world-view, disposition, character traits – these combine to form the sculpture that is your soul, and it is our job to do the sculpting.  The goal shouldn't be to merely collect experiences, because most will be forgotten, but, instead, to become the best version of ourselves, in the present moment, regardless of what we are experiencing.  To be, even in prison, even without vacations and new cars and unique or expensive meals, satisfied; to be content; to be peaceful – that, to me, is the goal.  I view that person who, at the end of his or her life, who has developed an unwavering satisfaction with his or her existence, I view them as having won.  There are so many messages spewed about the importance of diverse life experiences, but, there are many who cannot afford to experience much – and I believe they have the same shot at happiness as anyone else, because that isn't the route to fulfillment.  Fulfillment is something curated in the mind, in the present moment, a process of sharpening ones perspective, so that we can, eventually, be absolutely satisfied with anything life throws at us.  In the end, if there were to be some kind of divine judgment on our success or failure in life as a whole – I think it would be based on who we became, the person that we carved from whatever we were given, how we, in the end, decided to view the world and our place in it.

The man on the mountaintop is overwhelmed with the beauty of existence; but the man who feels the same, and who has lived a very small life - his accomplishment, to me, is incomparably profound.  And about the old man or woman who has forgotten everything, but still decides to smile, who has manifested a relentless, unreasonable, illogical joy – they are as close to perfect as we can get, I think.  Even when facing the abyss, they are satisfied.  Without reason, they are satisfied.

Anyway.  I don't have time to edit this thing as much as I'd like.  We're going out for my dad's birthday dinner right now, and I have to go.  But, I just hope, whoever you are, whatever your life circumstances may be, I hope you know that you can be happy, you can be satisfied.  

Goodnight.  And good luck.

- Kai

In a comment below, answer this [I love hearing from you]:  Do you compare your life experiences to others'?  Are you satisfied with your life?  Why?  Why not?

If you missed last week's blog.  Read it here.