05 June 2010

Please Give

It was almost a sad film, but not quite, really. Actually, it was film about crisis: everyone in the film experiences existential doubts. What is an existential crisis? One in which the individual confronts existence. What am I doing here? Is there a purpose to existence at all? If I am only for myself, what am I? How can I go on relatively content with all of the misery when I daily confront the misery that exists in the world? I am all that I can look to for an answer, but I don’t know where or even how to begin?

These are basic questions, I think, and I don’t have an answer to a single one of them, though I do often pretend to know something. I think for those of us who think about these questions we mostly survive by repressing our ignorance. Though I suspect that our repression is mostly unsuccessful, or else we wouldn’t really care about the questions at all. Even Abby, who is only fifteen years old and is consumed by her image, suffers from existential crisis: is this horrible acne all that there will ever be of me?

It was painful to watch each character live through their crisis, probably because the questions they face are so basic to my understanding of life. That is, I live the questions daily—have lived them every day of my life, even when I was not conscious of the questions. And I do work too hard at repression. We often feel along in our doubts, and the film comforts me to know I am not alone.

And yet the resolution of the film was so reassuring. By the conclusion, every character seems to arrive at some understanding of his/her place in the world. And from that knowledge there occurs some reconciliation with existence and the possibility for some happiness in the future. The film does not end happily but it does conclude contentedly.

For a long time I have thought about the contradiction between the Stones’ statement, “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need,” and Dylan’s assertion, “Your debutante just knows what you need, but I know what you want.” For a long time I have thought the sentiment in the Stones’ statement was the truer one, but tonight I think I have traded sides. What I want exists on the existential level, and what I need remains on the superficial. When my need is satisfied I still have want. But when I get what I want, then I have no need.

In the film, the characters discover what they want, because pursuing their needs gets them no satisfaction.


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