Friday, 23 April 2010

I Am Larry Gopnik

How's that for a new heroic figure?

Perhaps this is not the best possible example of what I'm talking about. I'm not a Job figure. My life is okay. But this happens to be what's occasioned this thought. Not the story, but the actual character himself.

I have spent most of the previous years trying to be a good person. Largely succeeding too. Big whoop.

Having the appropriate, "gracious" emotional reaction to people and events means very little when they are background noise to you and you are background noise to them. It's an assumption that if you are "okay" somebody will make things turn out right for you.

The only thing that can be reasonably expected of life is that it will go to hell in a handbasket. You can hope you'll get lucky but you can't expect it.

I think this is what's at the bottom of the differentiation between religious and secular (truly secular) thinking. It's not up to you to be a good boy so that somebody up there will take care of things for you. It's up to you to take care of things. All of them. All of what matters to you.

Larry Gopnik is comfortable in his job, in his marriage, in his pretty suburban house. But he doesn't bother to publish any work to further his academic career, neglects his wife and doesn't lift a finger to try and stop the divorce once the ball starts rolling, and then lets her and her disgusting new boyfriend smother him in their collective slime, humiliate him and send him out of his home - all with unending graciousness and with all the good humour he can pretend to muster.

Throughout all of this Gopnik will occasionally throw up his hands in exasperation and demand of the universe, "But what have I done???" Very little, Larry - in fact virtually nothing. It's not that he isn't a good person. He is. But shit happens. And he does nothing to prevent it.

Even without shit happening on a massive scale, if you watch life go by you, life will watch you go by it. It's not a question of avoiding sin. It's a question, if you will, of achieving virtue. And more than that of making your own way.

It's not about understanding the universe and thereby finding your place in it. It's about creating your place. Finding somebody to love, as this movie keeps implying, and telling anybody who gets in your way to go fuck themselves, as this movie appears to completely overlook.

I'm not sure if these little vignettes actually serve the inspirational (shaming?) purpose I intend for them, but part of the reason I'm writing is because it suddenly bothers me that I haven't written for quite a long time. I have been busy, in truth, at least relative to myself, but this still indicates a skewed set of priorities. Writing here is the closest I get to a consistent meaningful give-and-take with the universe. Everything else is just passing along time, hoping I don't do anything "wrong", and generally trying to have a quiet time.

So fuck quiet. I hereby recommit to finish my Tao Te Ching summary, for starters. Not because I said I will, and not because I think I ought to, but because I want to. Because being yourself is a constant effort requiring active participation. Because to want to do something and yet not to do it is almost a logical contradiction. It's possible, thanks to our wonderful human capacity to ignore practically everything about ourselves and the world at our convenience, but it is a silly thing to do.

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