Life is very much like a movie. A bad movie. A movie we have made the effort to schedule time out for and paid money to attend. Money we can’t be refunded just because we dislike the storyline or one of the actors. It is an investment of sorts, one we make in expectation of it all being 'worthwhile', however we personally define or calculate it.
The lives of others, albeit the most entertaining, dramatic or heart-warming highlights have served as the trailers, and given us an unrealistic taste of what to expect. They project the all the best scenes, the funniest jokes and most romantic moments, and to top it all off they edit it to a fitting soundtrack to stir your emotions and help paint the picture they desire.
Yet regardless of how many inaccurate images we view throughout our lives, we consistently revert to our hopeful selves upon seeing a new trailer, as if this time things will be different. As if the techniques employed by the advertising department would have changed.
Upon realising that we have wasted both time and money on such a disappointing production, instead of leaving to avoid wasting any more of our precious time, and suffering unnecessarily through such a banal and often excruciatingly cliché plot, we decide to stay. Not just in the hope that things will get better if given the chance, but because we stubbornly want to receive our money’s worth, no matter how bad it may be. We wish for things to improve so much as to even things out, because that’s how it’s supposed to work, right? The movie just has to get better.
We have a curious way of remembering the past, because no matter how bad the reality was we only seem capable of recalling a dumbed-down version. Conversely, when we think of events that were in reality more positive, or even emotionally-neutral, we may apply a positive feeling across a much greater area than it actually covered. Read the entry on Hindsight Bias for an interesting look at the different ways in which our memories can be distorted.
We see the past less as shades of grey or even black and white, but as mostly pale.
When I finally die (as I keep having to remind myself) I don’t want people to lie about me in romantic speeches or within the privacy of their own minds. I don’t want to be Ghandified and for people to credit me where it’s undue, simply because they’re fragile and need a suitable story to support their difficult-to-fathom emotions.
Even the worst criminals seem to be remembered more fondly and innocently than should be warranted.
What’s the purpose of deliberately choosing a grimmer outlook over a sunny one, however more accurate the former may in fact be? Isn’t it just better to be happier and feel good about life, than it is to acknowledge the unfortunate or less-than-desirable truth? For me the answer is a clear ‘no’. The reason being I don’t believe happiness, or the pursuit thereof, should be placed above all else. Not only is happiness fleeting, but knowing that it is granted at the expense of wilful ignorance leaves me with a potent feeling of intellectual discomfort.
We like to appear clever, sensible, inquisitive and all in favour of uncovering life’s mysteries, but when faced with the task of unweaving the facts from familiar fiction, we fail at the first hurdle. Willing to wear the uniform in order to stand up and be counted, but reluctant to do anything that might get it dirty.
The prospect of uncovering the truth in all manner of ordinary-seeming things is much more appealing than the idea of owning a delicate happiness that we must work to defend and preserve.
Often in life we make choices whilst being unaware that we are doing so. I don’t mean to say that when we sit down of a morning to eat breakfast that we have subconsciously chosen not to assassinate the president instead, but that many choices are made by default.
Our brains don’t have the power to process all of the things we can possibly conceive of but don’t want to do, so it makes sense that our focus is largely on what we do want.
But knowing what we do want isn’t always as easy and straightforward as it seems, and so due to our ponderings we inevitably end up with the results of inaction and indecision. Choosing to ‘do nothing’ or refusing to choose one way or the other is essentially deciding to leave things up to ‘fate’, but it is initially a conscious decision, however ignorant of the consequences or potential outcomes you may be.
Imagine a friend offers you a brand new, shiny 21 speed road bike for less than half of what you would expect to pay for it in the shops. You already have a well-worn BMX sitting in your garden shed, but you know if you had a new bike you’d be out and about on it at every available opportunity. You have enough money to make the purchase, but you were saving up to buy shares in Chicken Cottage, and you know that at this price the bike on offer won’t be around forever.
There is much to consider and you remain divided.
The money you saved is safely in your safe (of all places), and after a week or so your friend is arrested for handling stolen property. Effectively you have chosen to keep your money, to change nothing as it were. Regardless of whether the acknowledgement of this choice entered your awareness or not, it was a choice you have made.
Life is very much like the above scenario, but played out on a much bigger scale. I don’t see people so much as choosing to live, but rather living by default as a result of being born.
Your birth is the biggest and most significant choice you have no control over. This is one reason at least, why I feel the decision to create life is too weighty to take lightly – perhaps we should just leave it to default?
On the other hand, suicide requires too much commitment to be a viable option for the majority of the human race.