No one wants to die Harold. But unfortunately, we can’t avoid it. Harold. Harold, listen to me: You will die, someday…sometime. Heart failure at the bank, coke on a mint, some long, drawn out diease you contracted on vacation. You will die. You will absolutely die. Even if you avoid this death…another will find you. And I guarentee it won’t be nearly as poetic or meaningful as what she’s written.
–Professor Hilbert, Stranger than Fiction
There are some fantastic things going on in the story in which this quote appears, things which are wonderfully relevant to the life of a Lover.
For one, it captures, what might be, the two main conflicting elements of my soul: desire vs. meaning. Harold does not desire death, but the death that has been written for him, although untimely, is the death with the most meaning. Similarly, I do not want to die, yet I do want a meaningful life. I want to avoid death not just in a literal sense, but also in an ethical sense. In other words, I am not comfortable with this statement, “Whoever looses his life for my sake will gain it.”
Is there something to be explored here regarding the connection between literal death and meaning? At first glance, the two do not seem to be logically connected, and thus, meaning does not seem to be the redeeming factor of death. Moreover, meaningful death seems to be a compromise: “Even if you avoid this death…another will find you.” So pick a death that is meaningful.
But something more important is going on here with Harold, and to see this we have to bring in what I have called ethical death, which is a destroying of an old self. (Ethical death probably corresponds to the type of death I was referring to in this post.) Harold is not faced with merely a choice between meaningful death and a less meaningful death. Instaed, he has to chose between a less meaningful death + the desire to live and the most meaningful death which necessarily involves an ethical death.
If Harold chooses the most meaningul death, he must destroy his old self. He must rid himself of the desire he had to live a longer and even a more fulfilling life. What a terrible task! But this is perhaps the task that is faced and completed by the greatest human beings that have ever lived. Indeed, it is a task that we are called to by the Crucified One. If this is true, then Harold is without a doubt a better Christian than I am.
At the end of the film we see a painful destruction of Harold’s old self/desires (an ethical death) followed by a beautiful sense of submission to the perceived will of his Author,
I read it. And I loved it. And there’s only one way it can end. It ends with me dying…I think you should finish it.
This way is a higher way than what I currently understand eudemonia to be. It does not seek fulfillment directly, but instead, through meaning. It seeks beauty instead of utility. Meaning and Beauty become the new currency of utility in the mind of a Lover like Christ.
Perhaps the very goal of my life is in need of reworking…and this will have profound implications for what kind of life I live.