Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Jacobs Ladder

“If you’re frightened of dying and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away.

If you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth.”

Danny Aiello, speaking to Tim Robbins in “Jacobs Ladder”

This is a wonderfully executed, sad and moving film on dying from director Adrian Lyne released in 1990, starring a very young Tim Robbins with Elizabeth Peña, both of whom give incredibly natural performances. It’s always cool to see directors try something challenging after a huge success (his previous film was “Fatal Attraction”).

The script is well written and superbly directed, which is no small feat for a story with this many layers. It’s one of those movies that didn’t really do that well at the box office, probably because of the intensity of the subject matter and a resolution that is both satisfying and complex, but one you really have to think about in order to arrive at your own interpretation. I love difficult art – art that draws you in while being opaque and mysterious at the same time.

I found watching this film very moving on a deeply personal level, yet I’m not entirely sure why. What happens when you are dying, particularly if you are not ready to go? What goes through your mind? There is something profoundly sad about all this, yet how many of us are really prepared for it?

I know people who say they are comfortable with the idea of their death, but I’m not sure that I really believe them. I was one of those people, until I was suddenly faced with the very real possibility of my own early death. Then I found out I wasn’t really ready at all – in fact, that single brush with my own impending demise changed my life forever. Fortunately for me it was a positive change, but it took several years to get to that point.

One of the profound personal realizations as a result of that experience is a theme that comes up over and over again in this blog.

I came away from it with this: Try to live with an awareness that this existence is a temporary state. Use this understanding to give meaning to every moment of your life, not in a morbid way, but rather to maximize your gratitude for each moment.

This ride might be over sooner than you think.