“What do you want a meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning.”
It's a fascinating and inspirational quote, but what exactly did the great clown mean by it?
It is I believe, a central tenet of Buddhism that desire is the cause of suffering, The Buddha himself came from a background of great wealth and luxury, but realized that such things did not hold the key to inner peace and happiness. I am a Christian, and whilst I have always had enormous respect for the Buddhist philosophy, my faith is in the Creator of the Universe, whose path of perfect peace, that which a Buddhist might call ‘Nirvana’, I chose to abandon when I trod the path of sin. But like a Father who has momentarily lost his child in the supermarket, I believe that Creator is broken hearted at the thought of losing me, and sent Christ to save me from being lost forever.
There are of course, many different faiths, but they all have one thing in common. A DESIRE to be reconciled to the Creator, and to find MEANING in this journey we call life. And I respect all of them, believing they all seek truth with sincerity, and are only blown off course by the evil diversions taken by their human followers.
And of course, in this increasingly secular world, there are those who claim not to have a faith, who accept what they perceive as an objectively provable reality, and dismiss the Creator as a fanciful superstition invented by Man. But if that were true, what do we have left?
Without a desire to achieve, to excel, to find meaning, why would people seek to learn? Why would humans strive to acquire material things? Why would the football team take to the field and seek to score more goals than the other team do? Without desire, without conflict and competition, without meaning, we have nothing. We have ceased to exist.
And in that case, we no longer need Actors, Musicians, Singers, Sculptors, Painters, Writers… Artists of any kind. Because all art is ultimately an expression of Man’s desire to find meaning in his life. When we read the story of Romeo and Juliet what is it we see and feel? The bitter struggle of two houses, in the midst of which a young couple desire one another, and seek meaning somewhere amidst the madness. Or Scarlett O’Hara who desires Ashley, who doesn't desire her, but Rhett does desire her, although at first she doesn't desire him. And as the Old South goes down in the flames and passion of the American Civil War she faces famine and defeat, but WILL NOT be beaten as she seeks to rebuild her family’s life and find meaning… And Love. The great story ends like all great art, with more questions than answers, but I believe she found some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day...
And so I am glad that my life is filled with a desire to find meaning. I may not do so until I reach the Promised Land; but when I do, it will be wonderful, and all things will be fulfilled. Until then I shall try to enjoy the adventure.
I recently attended a brilliant workshop in which I performed one of my favourite monologues, the closing piece from an iconic Science Fiction movie in which the Leading Man realizes that however small he is in the vastness of Creation, he still means something, and in that place he finally reaches his Nirvana…
“All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”
From the Movie: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).
Director: Jack Arnold.
Distributed By: Universal International.