It’s always so hard to understand when a person takes their own life. It’s more so when that person seems to have everything going for them, success, popularity, wealth. What reason would that person have to feel so low? It’s a reminder that success is not the cure for all that ails a person. Achievement is in the eye of the beholder, you can never know the workings of another person’s mind. Sometimes, no matter how great your status, you can still feel alone, hopeless. You still struggle to understand where you fit in the world.
Events like this are also a reminder that reaching your dreams won’t necessarily ‘fix’ your life. To me, this was the underlying message of Darren Aronofsky’s film ‘Requiem for a Dream’. In the film (and Hubert Selby’s book), we start out with the main characters, Harry and Marion, breaking into a building to get up onto the rooftop and look out over the city, flying paper planes along the wind. It’s a beautiful scene, simple, there’s a perfection to that moment they share, their life together. From there, Harry seeks to make something of himself, to build a better future for them, and he starts dealing drugs and getting more involved in the drug trade. His mother, too, dreams of being on a game show, her one driving passion in life. She starts taking pills to help her lose weight so she can fit into her dream dress for her pending TV appearance.
As both storylines move on, their situations sink further and further down. Drugs get harder to come by in the city, making it more expensive to buy product and stay in business. Harry eventually convinces Marion to sleep with her psychiatrist for money, which she does, but after another deal goes bad, Harry has to head interstate to buy more drugs, leaving Marion adrift. This leads to one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen in a film – Harry, his arm now amputated due to an infection stemming from drug use, and in jail after being reported by the hospital who admitted him, he calls Marion, who’s turned to prostitution to feed her own habit:
It hurts to watch, I still get emotional seeing it, but this scene, to me, is the film. All she wants is for Harry to be there, nothing else matters, not money, not where they live. All either of these people want is to just be together again, to go back to that one moment, on top of the building, throwing paper planes across the blue sky. And they both know it’ll never happen. His mother, too, descends into amphetamine-induced madness from which there’s no escape. In the end, they all dream of returning to their lives at the beginning.
Requiem for a Dream, in my view, is a story about the pitfalls of ambition, of ‘the grass is always greener’ mentality. These people were not rich, they didn’t have everything in life. But they were okay. Things were good, there was a beauty to what they had. But none of them could see it, all they could see was that they didn’t have all they wanted, so much so that it consumed them and they lost everything in their attempts to achieve their notions of a better life. But they failed to recognise the good things that they already had. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but they had all they needed. They could’ve been happy, had they been able to take into account the good aspects, rather than just seeing the disappointments.
This, of course, is not to say ambition is bad – everyone needs to have dreams, things they aspire to beyond their day-to-day, they’re the things that drive us on. But at the same time, people need to take stock of what they do have, right now. Family, friends, a comfortable place to live. We all want to be financially secure and have the best of things, but it’s worth noting that even if you did have all these things, if you’d achieved everything you ever wanted, it still might not be enough. You’ll still see and feel things the same. Your problems might be different, but nothing’s ever perfect. Achieving your goals might not deliver you ultimate happiness.
I guess what I’m saying is, it’s worth taking note of the things you have in your life, rather than obsessing about what you don’t. Think of things you love and appreciate, things that make you happy that you’ve achieved or gained. Take note of where you are, of what you like and what you can do, right now. Because life ain’t so bad. And no matter what, every day you get a chance to try something new.
Photo credit: Jonas Ahrentorp, flickr