Dagdha's Blog

Carpe Vitam

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on August 22, 2011

Perhaps more than any other art form, movies have always had a profound effect on me.  When I was young, they stimulated my imagination and entertained me for countless hours as I pretended to be a rebellious Rufio fighting off the vile Captain Hook, or a Ghostbuster brazenly trying to trap my phantasmal mother in a toaster hastily laid by my brother and me.  As I grew older, they inspired me to work hard so that I could go to Princeton like John Nash, or  not to care what other people thought like Stevo and his close friend Bob.  And when fairytale romances like Ariel and Eric didn’t work out, Rob Gordon was around to remind me that others have been where I was and things get easier with time.  Some might consider it foolish to take inspiration from improvised works of fiction, but film has an undeniably unique power to inspire, comfort, terrify, and educate its audiences.

Three years ago I saw the movie Yes Man.  I went into the theater simply expecting the classical slapstick humor for which Jim Carrey is known, but I walked out of that cinematic tabernacle with a new existential outlook on life.  With disgusting, uncanny accuracy, I saw myself in Carl, the self-loathing protagonist whose introverted tendencies had taken over through overwhelming fear of rejection following a breakup.  In the short course of two hours, however, he transformed himself from an agoraphobic hermit to master of his universe, simply by saying yes. Inspired by Carrey’s performance, I decided to apply the same philosophy in my own life, and I hardly recognize the person I am today.

I made a lot of interesting friends, shattered my world view on everything from politics and religion to the nature of philosophy and consciousness, and fortuitously experienced life in a whole new way.  None of my circumstances changed – still had the same job, made the same salary, still lived at home with my parents – but I forced myself to accept any new opportunities (as long as they didn’t hurt anyone), and it drastically changed my perspective.

In another one of my favorite movies, Into the Wild, Chris McCandless forsakes society and all his worldly possessions, adopting a nomadic lifestyle in the vain of Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau.  He lives a life most people would admire (but very few would ever dare attempt) before making his way to the wild north of Alaska’s wilderness.  Due to poor preparation and a series of unfortunate circumstances, Chris eventually succumbs to starvation, but not before recording his last thought about the uselessness of happiness if it can’t be shared with someone.

If anything, the only regret I have from my existential lifestyle would be a shared sentiment with Chris McCandless.  Time and again I have tried to share things with people, but I have discovered that most individuals hesitate to stray too far from social norms.  Even the self-proclaimed rebels and deviants dare not stray too far from cultural castes.  Unfortunately I have learned the hard way that even close friends will judge you if you’re not careful about what you reveal to them, though I take comfort in the words of Bernard Beruch: “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

I started writing this as a reminder to myself that I should seize every new opportunity that comes my way and not apologize for I who I am because of it – Life is too damn short.  I don’t usually offer unsolicited advice, but I would encourage anyone I know to do the same – it will change your view of the world.  And if you ever feel like going on an adventure or trying something new, let me know.  I’ll almost always say Yes.


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