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I've been thinking about death lately. I can't say there's been any specific reason. I don't recall any specific trigger such as the death of anyone I know that started it, but it occurred to me that death has been on my mind for some time now. Sporadically, though often enough that I've begun to think not only about death but I've also to think about thinking about death.
A couple of weeks ago I saw the old Italian film by Vittorio De Sica " Bicycle Thieves " on the TCM network. I can't say it was particularly compelling. It seemed strained....contrived. Probably that it was filmed in 1948 and was subtitled didn't help. Probably that it was intended for a post-war Italian audience didn't help.
One thing it definitely was - nihilistic.
I'm not nihilistic, but these thoughts I've been having regarding the nature and implications of death from both personal and influential perspectives certainly seem to be. Bicycle Thieves makes no bones about nihilism. De Sica might just have well ended the film with a graphic that said "what's the fucking point" instead of "Fine" (that's pronounced "feen-ay" for you English-only types).
From time to time, I look at my life and everyone else’s on the planet in the context of the implications of the consequences of our actions 100's of millennia from now. Realistically, it won't fucking matter. It won't matter to anyone (if anyone is still alive) 10,000 years from now if I'm rich or poor, altruistic or greedy, industrious or lazy. It doesn't make any difference to me now if Oog drew a woolly mammoth on his cave wall in Lascaux 20,000 years ago, and it won't matter 20,000 years from now if I publish this blog post or not.
In Bicycle Thieves, Antonio Ricci is scrambling for a job to support his family in post-war Rome. He gets one as a bill poster, but it requires a bicycle to get to the job locations. His bicycle is broken, and in order to pay for the repair he is forced to sell his wedding linens. The first day on the job his bicycle is stolen and the rest of the movie is spent on the recovery effort. His relationship with his young son is pushed as he tries to maintain a sense of morality for his sons benefit in the midst of the sinking depression that he knows he might not be able to feed him tomorrow. In the end, in order to keep his job he attempts to steal a bike, but is caught immediately. He is surrounded by friends of the owner of the bike, ready to beat him to a bloody pulp at the word of the victim. The victim orders them to let him go, as he can do no more harm. I got the impression that De Sica was trying to evoke the sentiment that Antonio was already dead inside, and the owner of the bike knew that. Antonio started the movie living as an inconsequential member of the nameless masses, and that's how he ended it, if you can call that living.
I'm not dead inside. I realized that when I watched the movie. I have a sense of purpose, regardless of whether that sense has any long term implications or not.
Now, I suppose the argument could be made that Oogs cave drawings did indeed have a bearing on humanity 20,000 years hence. One could argue that Oogs drawings were created with a sense of purpose, much like the sense of purpose this blog is written with. One could argue: as Homo sapiens sapiens evolved, the expression of daily life in cave drawings evolved into art as it is known today. One could argue that Bicycle Thieves had a critical influence on modern cinema. These things may be true. This is why I’m not a nihilist, still, I’m hardly an optimist.
One day this drifting mass of rock mostly covered with water and suffering from an infection known as the human race will be reduced to its constituent elements as our sun transforms into a red giant and engulfs all the planets in the inner solar system. We'll be long gone by then, and any mark that any one of us is arrogant enough to consider to have been relevant will cease to be. At that instance, the shit I left in my toilet this morning will be roughly equivalent in importance to the entire works of Shakespeare and Mozart, and Oog combined.
But I have a sense of purpose. To be honest, I have no idea what it is. I know it’s what gets me up in the morning. I know it’s what makes me want to draft trucks at 46 MPH (NSFW), or drink the occasional toxic distillate. It's what makes me know I'll be an emotional wreck when the day comes that I'll have to put my dog into her final sleep. I am alive inside.
I may be cynical and pessimistic, and I may not get the point of it all, but I’m not a nihilist. I’m not dead inside…….yet....but one day I hope to find paradise, be it here or in any possible existence after.