Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Woody's Angst

On April 8, 1966, the cover of Time magazine shouted a question many readers of that time would have considered rhetorical: “Is God Dead?” After all, enlightened mankind had it all figured out, and his growing rationalism had led gradually to a totally secularized view of life. Man was finally free of God, free from the superstition of religion, from its restraints and demands. Man was free to be the center of his own universe, to make his own choices, to construct his own truth.

The problem with this is that man, apart from some centering force, some universal, has no meaning. He becomes an insignificant cog in the great machine of the universe. Yet something deep inside him demands that there must be more. So he searches for significance through philosophy, through drugs, through materialism, through art.

All this too philosophical for you? Think it’s just exaggeration? Here’s how it sounds in real life:

Jennie Yabroff interviewed actor and director Woody Allen for Newsweek magazine. She reports that, “at 72, he says he still lies awake at night, terrified of the void.” He makes movies, “not because he has any grand statement to offer, but simply to take his mind off the existential horror of being alive. ‘Movies are a great diversion,’ he says, ‘because it’s much more pleasant to be obsessed over how the hero gets out of his predicament than it is over how I get out of mine. . . . I can’t really come up with a good argument to choose life over death, except that I’m too scared . . . I need to be focused on something so I don’t see the big picture.” He sums up his lifeview: “Your perception of time changes as you get older, because you see how brief everything is. You see how meaningless . . . I don’t want to depress you, but it’s a meaningless little flicker.”

Contrast that with Paul’s view of life and its inevitable end: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me . . .”

All of us choose a philosophy for life. I like Paul’s better.

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