Sunday, August 2, 2009

One Life to Live

I watched the Curious Case of Benjamin Button in which Brad Pitt plays the role of a man who is younging instead of aging. He's born old and gets younger as the years go by.

It's a thought provoking and touching movie and ultimately I found it very sad but not for the reasons you may think. While my daughter was crying because he died a baby in the arms of an old woman who had been the love of his life, I wasn't really touched by that (it was a pretty obvious conclusion), I was greatly sadden because here was a man who had lived a truly unique life, held a unique view of the world, unique experiences and challenges and although he had done and seen a great many things in his time, once he was gone, there was nothing left of him except a journal which because of it's inconceivable tale would probably never leave his daughter's care. A daughter that had never even know him. Really, when the old lady passed away so did any last trace of Benjamin Button. Like vapour in the wind.

What a tragic waste. Yet, it is any different than you and I? If you were to die, right now, what mark will you have left behind? Think about it. Most people will at least live on through their kids, somewhat, and hopefully they were a positive contributor to their child's psyche and didn't instill unwittingly a lot of their own limitations into their children's lives (got you thinking now, didn't I). But once those who knew you die, what's left? Anything? Will it have mattered at all that you ever lived? Does that even matter to you? Perhaps you're content to just go through life, experience it and then when it's up it's up. Like a day in school, and you're just another student passing through for a few years.

But the greatest thing we bring to this world, is our diversity, our individuality, our unique outlook on life. We are all Benjamin Buttons. We all go through life on our own unique journey, gaining experiences that while maybe shared, still hold a unique meaning to us, developing our own unique outlook on life. And while it was tragic to lose Benjamin Button's perspective because of his special circumstances, is it really any less of a loss to lose your special perspective? Of course, none of us live forever, we are all but passing through. While we are here, we have an opportunity to shape this world, to craft it in our own image, our own vision and leave a lasting impression on this world that will signal out to generations yet unborn and be a warning, an inspiration, a statement, a question or a general betterment of life so that because you suffered, you have made sure no one else will ever have to suffer again.

Everyone who has left their imprint on this world from Napoleon, to Shakespeare to Nelson Mandela to Alexander Graham Bell have all been great men but they are still just people, exactly like you and I, no different, no better, no greater except they determined that they wanted to make the world a better place (from their perspective and in their own method) and didn't allow the general river of life to pull them along. Instead of going with the current they stuck their paddles in the water and made their own way charting a new path for all to follow or learn from.

Benjamin Button did touch on a couple of interest life points too, like you never know what tomorrow may bring. At one point Benjamin is just a happy crew member of a tugboat company, a comfortable if unambitious position but one day, that boat is commission by the navy as they enter the second world war. For the most part life continues as it had before, only what they were hauling changed, until they come across a u-boat that sinks them and destroys the life Benjamin had taken for granted.

Despite the fact that the last 5 years have been rout routine does not guarantee that tomorrow will be. You could win the lottery or be shot. You could find true love or get into a violent quarrel that ends it. You don't know, so you have to work on today, making the most of it, being the most of what you can be and doing what you can to make this world a better place, now, while you still can.

On the flip side, Benjamin meets a woman who had a dream, to swim the English Channel and she tried as a young lady to do so only to fail because of inclement weather. She had always meant to try again but her faith was crushed and instead she fell into a life of comfort and quiet desperation. However before the end, she somehow regained her faith and tried again as a mature woman and succeeded.

In the same way, it's never too late to realize your dreams. Certain opportunities may pass you by never to return, you cannot become a star Olympic athlete at 80... unless you switch from being a gymnast to being an equestrian jockey. Unless you change from being the star to coaching the star or sponsoring the athlete. As long as your alive and of right mind, you can still find a way to make it happen and you absolutely have an obligation to yourself to do exactly that.

We are here, with but one shot at this thing called life, even if you believe in reincarnation, do you really want to do all this over and over again until you get it right? My son had to repeat grade 10 math three times and trust me, he never wants to do it again. He'd have been much happier if he had applied himself the first time and never needed to repeat it at all. So commit yourself to live the life you truly want to live and be the person you truly want to be. You will not always succeed, sometimes inclement weather will scuttle your swim across the channel but take heart, if you're alive then your dream is alive too and you have but to try it again, and this time you'll give yourself the grace to postpone a day or two if need be to get the right weather. Nothing is ever a failure as long as we do not fail to learn. Any experience from a failed relationship to a fail business is not a failure in our lives or out character as long as we've learned from it and can apply that knowledge going forward. There are always more people to love and more business opportunities to try one's hand at and if you stick with it, you will succeed. Successful people don't fail less, they fail more and learn from each misstep how better to proceed.

You are your own unique creation. You are your very own Benjamin Button or Edward Scissorhands. Embrace that, don't follow the wide path but strike out on your own in a direction that seems best to you. Win or lose, the world is better off for your endeavors and so are you. Find a better route and suddenly the world will stop calling your crazy for going into the harsh bush country and call you genius for having the foresight and fortitude to find a better way. In doing so you'll leave a legacy for the world will be forever altered for the better by your presence.