Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Guts of a Beggar

Earlier today, as sometimes happens with me, I was thinking about one of my dead crushes: Buster Keaton. (Keaton died in 1966, a terrible, terrible year of loss for me, despite the fact that I was not born until 10 years later....Frank O'Hara also died that year). It wasn't a random thought (though I do sometimes randomly think about silent film stars); it came from a gchat conversation I was having with my friend Lauren. We were discussing her natural optimism and my natural pessimism and how she thinks the universe has meaning and so do our lives whereas I think the universe is basically indifferent and that our lives have no meaning (in the very large and grand sense of the word). And I don't honestly see that as something negative because it doesn't affect the way I live my life. I still pursue happiness and practice things I am passionate about. I still give and love and laugh and all the platitudes that people hang on their living room walls and tag each other in Facebook memes about. I just always know in the back of my mind that ultimately, as soon as the last person I knew in my life dies or loses his/her memory, I will be confined to oblivion, as will we all. But I'm not really that disturbed by it because I will be dead and I'll care less about someone reading something I wrote than I will about...well, anything, because I'll be dead, whatever that will end up meaning. And that's the human experience and all the good stuff that happens in between birth and the moment of death is the only thing that truly counts.

Anyway, we were discussing all this, as one does on a slow Wednesday morning, and as I was explaining what my views were, I started to remember a Buster Keaton film I saw a few years ago called "College". It can be seen here on YouTube in case you are interested. It runs at a whopping one hour and four minutes. It features the inimitable Keaton as a newly graduated high school student getting involved in hilarity and falling for a girl who he thinks is out of his reach. It is funny and cute and romantic and all the things I love about silent comedies and in particular about Buster Keaton (who I also consider foine) and you spend the majority of the hour feeling good and laughing and being involved in what's in front of you. So, spoiler alert, he gets the girl. And in the last minute of the film, maybe less, you see them walk out of a church after getting married, sitting together in their living room with small kids in the background, then growing old in the same chairs (as he hilariously looks at her, annoyed) and the final scene of the film is a shot of their headstones, side by side. Even as I type this I am laughing because this is one of the funniest sequences in any film I've ever seen, and it is mostly due to its total unexpectedness. The entire film is a slapstick comedy and a romance and you are feeling good and happy by the end. Then in the very last frames of the film, you are reminded...oh RIGHT! THIS is how it all ends! It is totally unexpected but also, universally expected: everyone dies at the end. (Another fantastic example of this kind of hilarity/brilliance is Atwood's Happy Endings) "College" isn't even one of Keaton's most critically acclaimed films but had he never made anything else, I'd love him for that alone. And also for his face. Anyway, that's kind of a perfect example of my philosophy about life and its meaning and/or lack of purpose...kind of like this whole post.

Side note: who knows where the title of the post comes from? Let's hang out.

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