Taking a break from my usual environmental rantings, today I’m going to write about some philosophy… movie-style.
Let’s start with a not-to-old movie, “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise. If you’ve seen the movie, think about the ending for a second; at the very very end of the movie, the narrator explains about where the lead character ends up and he says something about him perhaps “finding the peace that we are all searching for.” Well, I don’t know about you, but that resonated with my simple mind. Ever since reaching adulthood, I think “peace” has been on the forefront of my mind. Essentially life has seemed a non-stop struggle since… well, forever I guess… with school, work, relationships, finances, and so on and so forth, on top of the ever-present challenges faced by cities, states, countries and communities, in the forms of poverty, homelessness, health care, safety, etc., on top of geo-political challenges like war and terrorism, on top of more menial challenges like getting to work on time, paying the bills, and fighting with traffic. The struggles never seem to end, thus it seems only natural to seek “peace” at the end of the tunnel.
But, the other night watching an anime series, of all things, I was presented with a new argument or idea… or philosophy, whatever you want to call it. The main character–a bad-ass sword-fighter–was for all intents and purposes, tired of fighting. He wanted peace. And since he wasn’t getting it, he was on the verge of giving up–which would have cost him his life or at least his sanity. So, in an epic struggle with himself, he gets into a debate–a sword-fighting, action-packed debate–with one of his defeated enemies (this is in his head remember). He goes on about how he doesn’t want to fight, and fighting isn’t the way, and so on and so forth, to which his enemy argues that you can’t escape from it. After all, once you defeat one enemy, a stronger one will undoubtedly appear; if you defeat him, then another, and another, and so one–there is no end to the process.
And suddenly this all made sense to me, not just as a fight for this embattled warrior, but as an analogy to life itself. There’s a reason why you never seem to be able to have a minute’s peace; as soon as everything is in order something else has to come up–once you’ve gotten a good groove going at your job, say, something has to mess it all up! It’s because that is the way of things; there is no light at the end of the tunnel–there is only the tunnel that is life. Life is a journey, not a destination–I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. And it’s not an easy journey. But, you should slide into the end with cuts and bruises and warrior’s tales to tell, rather than in one piece–you’ve probable heard the cliché that goes with that one too. But now all these clichés make a little bit of sense. You have to enjoy the ride, not just be on it; you have to BE happy, not just strive for happiness. It’s actually too bad that the Founding Fathers of this country said that we all have the right to the “pursuit of happiness.” We have the right to BE HAPPY, the pursuit be damned.
No matter what, your happiness is up to you, not your experiences, not what you own, not your career, and not your so-called accomplishments. Being happy means being happy despite the bumps in the road; it means facing those challenges as they come along, as they undoubtedly will, and facing them with strength, courage and dignity (whatever all that really means). And it means all the hogwash about being rich, being successful, or being accomplished, doesn’t mean a damned thing–because the struggles that really matter are those within.
How’s that for a summary of movie-style philosophy?