Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I've been watching the wonderful two-part portrait of Woody Allen on PBS' "American Masters" series.

It perplexes me that someone so evidently miserable, who lives his life in such a grim and stand-offish manner (friends who've played in his band report that he's performed with the same musicians for decades without ever uttering a word to most of them, not even "hello" or "goodbye") would be so deeply fearful of death. One would think he'd be chomping at the bit for release from this contract!

I kept remembering this line from his own "Annie Hall":
"Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of them says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions!" Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly."

While I certainly recognize the ills of the world quite keenly, I'm far less negative than he appears to be. Yet if I were run over by a bus tomorrow, it'd suit me as well as anything else. My feeling is that we're all very bit players in this cooperative theater project, our roles forgotten soon after we leave the stage. We inject what's uniquely ours to contribute and we make room for the next guy. We're verbs, not nouns. With that view, you do your very best even when no one's watching, you try to unlock the succulence in the seeming mundane, and you do what you can to help those trapped in the hell of taking it all too seriously - who've utterly lost themselves in their roles. And that's about it, really.

When it comes to existence, I can make equally good cases for it or against it. But why would I want to live forever? What purpose would it serve? I honestly don't get it. Is anyone out there really having such a great time that they couldn't bear to see it end?

There are those who bask in the living, and those who are locked into conceptualization - expectation, labeling, etc.. It's surprising that the latter, who seem less than fully alive, are most fearful of death. Those who actually enjoy are often (though certainly not always) more blasé about it all.

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