“I don’t want to survive! I want to live!”
– Captain B. McCrea, WALL-E
This is one of my most favorite quotes.
Disney’s Wall-E depicts a humanity that would be the envy of many. No one has to work, to do the hard and dirty things involved with surviving. Indeed, no one has to do much of anything at all, it’s all taken care of by robots. Everyone is free to be idle, just relaxing, with all the shiny toys and games. And apparently this prosperity is inexhaustible, or at least it hasn’t run out in so far, in seven centuries. There is absolutely nothing to worry about.
It’s really quite horrible.
It’s like Neverland, where no one ever has to grow up, but that idle bliss comes at a cost far higher than is obvious at first, until one sees it, and then one can’t not see it.
Humanity’s freedom from struggle and hardship has made it stagnant and weak. People don’t think or do or even feel and dream as they used to. They just get born, eat and breathe for awhile, until they don’t do that anymore. They just exist, nothing more, all within a tiny metal shell in the void of space. And even within that tiny space, they are blind to half of the wonders right there next to them, which their ancestors built, like a pool or a running track.
Humanity is surviving, and in comfort, but not really living. And not really in charge of themselves and their own lives. They don’t know it, but they are at the mercy of the machines that take care of them.
It’s an easy life, but not a happy one.
Then the captain of the ship has his eyes opened, and he chooses a different course. He, and humanity, chooses to stand up and take charge. He chooses a more difficult path, filled with hardships and unknowns. He chooses to do more than merely survive, he chooses to live.
There is more to living than just staying alive.
That cuts both ways, of course, including, at one end of the spectrum, those who need not concern themselves with the needs of survival, and, at the other, those who are entirely concerned with such. Some people, most people… in fact, quite nearly all people in the history of the world have fallen into that latter category. They have lived their entire lives locked in the struggle to survive. That has been the great bulk of their existence, simply making it to the next day, the next year, the next week. Yet even when such is driven by necessity, it can still become an all-consuming obsession. In fact, maybe that is how obsessions are made, through what we think is necessary, and thus we go terribly out of balance.
There must be more to one’s existence than merely continuing to exist. There must be balance. There must be joy. Else, what is life worth living for?
Now, exactly how that manifests in anyone’s life is up to them to decide. For some, it’s working hard, and then playing hard. For others, it’s the quiet dignity of hard work itself and job well done. It could be maintaining a hobby that one is passionate about (like, for instance, me and my blog). It could be finding new friends, or falling in love, or having a family. It could be the dream of traveling the world, or the act of doing good, unselfish works. It could be the order of knowing one’s place, and knowing that one has a place, in the world, or the absolute chaos of knowing that one is free to go and do whatever one chooses. It could be making and telling stories around a fire late into the night.
Whatever the shape it takes, there is more to living than just surviving. There is more than “nothing” to do with life.
Something tells me we’re going to need to remember that very soon.
I haven’t seen Wall-E, but I do know about the movie and the depiction of the humans in that film. That quote is certainly hard to argue against. For me, I have the opposite problem since I’m not a complacent person. It gets frustrating working hard and doing the right thing, but not progressing. Regardless of this COVID time period we’re in, I do want to do great things with my skills, but I don’t know what it looks like.
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