I was watching an old interview with Robert Mitchum the other day. After thinking that he was still hot even in his fifties, it hit me that he was dead. I mean, it really sank in that he was thoroughly deceased, and therefore, most likely no longer attractive. So, in the self-centered, predictably linear way that we dreary humans relate to everything, it also struck me that I too will someday die. It’s not uncommon that people I admire or respect are dead. In fact, it seems to be the norm. Strangely enough, I don’t really think about the fact that they are dead all that much. I don’t often think about the fact that I will die, too. But then again, who does? Really, it’s impossible to live every moment as if it’s your last. If it really was my last moment, I wouldn’t be sitting in front of a computer right now. Somebody has to pay the bills.
I guess the best that we can hope for is that we leave something behind. I’m not talking about children. Rearing a child is no guarantee that anything about you will remain after you are gone. Children are all fine and well and good, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that just because you managed to connect a sperm to an egg that you’ve done something special. A last name and some chromosomes do not a legacy make. I’m talking about tangible results of a lifetime: art, music, words, causal change, anything, something completely personal, completely you. A lot of the people who have touched my life – musicians, writers, artists, directors, actors, scientists, philosophers – no longer exist on this planet. Yet, they all left a body of work. They left something tangible in their stead.
If you’ve ever seen Akira Kurosawa’s film, Ikiru, it’s the same principle. Spoiler Alert Watanabe knows he’s going to die but before he goes, he decides to try to change the system. He spends all his remaining time as a civil servant trying to build a small park. It’s not much, but it’s something. The thing is, once he’s gone, nothing really changes. His little world still contains the same red tape and the same credit-stealing assholes. But, he managed to accomplish that one thing in the time he had left. I have yet to build my metaphorical park. Not that I’m planning to die anytime soon or that I regret any of my life at all. It’s just that I feel like Watanabe in the beginning. *** End Spoiler *** I don’t feel as if I have accomplished much and that the system is too big for one person. I’ve lived a lot. I’ve packed a ton into this comparatively short life of mine. But have I left an impact on anyone or anything? It’s hard to say.
This life of ours is so goddamn short and so full of nonsensical, man-made distractions that it’s hard to keep perspective at times. Sometimes we lose focus on what actually is important in life and it’s not your bank account or who’s going to win the next American Idol. It’s what you do with the time that you have and what you leave behind you. Have you done everything you could do to make this life worth living? Have you tried everything you could have? Have you been too scared of living to actually live? “If you died right now, how would you feel about your life?” Have you even thought about it? It’s just people out there. People like us. Rocks, water, sky, fish, birds, clouds, grass and trees on a tiny globe wobbling around in infinite space. That’s all there really is. That’s all that’s important anyway. “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”