I was extremely grumpy this last Good Friday. I was so sorry for myself, in fact, that I spent most of the day sulking in bed. There could be a number of reasons for this, particularly since I was stuck in Auckland while everything was closed down for the weekend, but I think it probably had a lot to do with what happened the night before. For one thing, on Thursday I asked a guy out. His eventual reply was a gentle, polite yet quite definite “no”. Now, I’ve been rejected many, many times before but somehow this affected me more than usual. It may have to do with the movie I was watching at the time.
The movie was “A Serious Man”, which is a black comedy that essentially retells the story of Job. It relates the story of an ordinary man; a good, honest, upright Jewish man who tries to do right by his family and his community. There’s not much of a plot so I don’t think I could spoil it for you. Essentially, during the course of the movie his life caves in on itself. His wife wants a divorce, he’s kicked out of home, his finances are ruined, his career threatened and the selfish people around him demand more than he’s able to give. It gathers up steam at the frantic pace of a black farce, his life is running headlong for the gutter. All of this is made even more tragic by the fact that he’s actually a good man, who tries his best to be good to those around him. It’s like watching a puppy get kicked over and over again, for no good reason. At the same time, there are various sub plots: his wayward son’s life is pretty complex for a 13 year old and his autistic brother lives a life of perpetual despair.
It’s a macabre movie, a realistic movie that depicts life as pain punctuated by brief moments of guilty respite. Larry (the protagonist) turns to his faith, to God and his Rabbis to help him unravel the meaning of it all. Why, in a world of cause and effect, of just and unjust, do bad things happen to good people? What is the message in all this? What is God saying? My favourite answer to this question came from the second Rabbi in the story of the Goy’s teeth. Why does He give us the questions if he’s not going to give us any answers? The Rabbi shrugs “He hasn’t told me”.
Finally, an answer is revealed, through the wisdom of a song we heard at the beginning of the movie:
“When the truth is found to be lies
and all the joys within you dies
don’t you want somebody to love
don’t you need somebody to love
wouldn’t you love somebody to love
you better find somebody to love”
Life, as they say, is a shit sandwich. For many people it’s a hard, painful process. I know rich, popular people who live furtive lives of futile pleasure. Independent, intelligent, loving people caught in loveless relationships. Beautiful people who suffer unbearable emotional turmoil. Good people who contract nasty diseases through no wrong-doing of their own, and nice people condemned to a wheelchair for life. Life really is pretty hard and there’s nothing you can do to ensure that your lot in life is any better than anyone else’s. At any moment you may be struck down to nothing, your life taken for no apparent reason. The best you can do is be a good boy, and you better find somebody to love!