Thursday, March 13, 2008

The meaning of life?

Watched "Bringing Up Baby" --an old hollywood comedy from starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in their prime. It's amazing how funny it still is, after all these years, those two racing around after a leopard. Kate Hepburn loses one of her heels so she's walking lopsided, "I was born on the side of a hill," she says, and I laugh. This is a comedy from 1938. In the whole big scheme of things, 1938 is not that long ago.

Which gets me thinking: Everyone involved in that picture is dead. Some died just a few years after filming. Others, like the late great Kate, died only a few years ago (although she wasn't really on this planet for years before that) but all, every last one of them, are undeniably dead.

Did they ever stop to ponder death in their prime? Did they really. seriously. ever think about it? Realizing we all must die is really a thought we prefer to ignore. When I think about it too much, I begin to understand why most people believe in an everlasting life in heaven because then you don't have to worry about ceasing to exist. Because when you cease to exist, there is nothing left. Poof! You vanish.

So what is legend? What does it matter to a dead Katharine Hepburn that she won four oscars or that AFI named her a top screen legend of all time? It only matters that she still makes people laugh. What does George Washington care if we still talk about his wooden dentures? It only matters I am free. Conversely, iron fisted rulers insist streets and countries and warships be named in their honor...but what good is legend for the dead? It means nothing.

And living? I wonder what's important. What truly matters? Anything? We're here, we race around in a comedy, we accumulate, we "accomplish" and we're gone. If once we're dead, we're just...gone, then the only real purpose in this life is to help other people through it.

It's the only thing I can figure that actually matters. How can I do that better? How can we do that better?


Anonymous said...

We should remember that Cary Grant gave his entire salary from "The Philadelphia Story" to the British war effort. It was his part in fighting Hitler. Leslie Howard, of "Gone With the Wind" fame, fought and died in North Africa fighting against the Nazis. One wonders if Hollywood's spoiled, self-centered stars of today would do the same.

You said...

I see that someone had lots of thinking time whilst flying 20 hours over the Pacific... Thank God for those Khakis! It's exactly what Kate would've done! A big welcome home to my favourite Movie Star!

Tony said...

Your meaningful post today got me to looking up what other people have said on the subject (always dangerous when that happens - but this won't be too bad). Here are a few quotes:

First, gloomy old Sartre: "Existence has neither cause, nor reason, nor necessity."
Or Henry Miller: "Life has to be given meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning."
Hence, as you point out, the belief in everlasting life as an antidote. Or,
"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval." (Am. philosopher, George Santayana)
But how about:
"Life is not meaningful ... unless it serving an end beyond itself: unless it is of value to someone else." (Abraham Heschel, an eminent 20th cent. Jewish philosopher) Or,
"There is a land of the living, and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." (Last line of Thornton Wilder's "Bridge of San Luis Rey," which maybe you read in high school.)
And of course, " your neighbor as yourself."
Nice post, Jesse.

Randy G. said...

Or the inimitable Mae West: "Too much of a good thing... can be wonderful."

Terrific post Jesse. By the way, I don't think Cary Grant ever looked sexier than in "Bringing Up Baby."

Sterling G. Smith said...

Great post! I have been inspired by "the big give' to make a difference in peoples lives. That is the only way to make a legend real!

damedaxx said...

Emm. Who's been hitting the drinks trolley when he was coming down from happy pills?

Bob said...

"...the only real purpose in this life is to help other people through it." Yes, that's exactly it.

mich lyon said...

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. (Emerson).

Jesse Archer said...

Thanks for sharing, guys. Love it.

Anonymous said...

George Washington's dentures were actually made of Hippopotomus ivory and gold.