That very fitting F. Scott Fitzgerald quote was used to close the rerun of Law & Order: Criminal Intent I watched last night. The episode was about a love story that ended with a poor sap being killed by thugs when he tried to be the hero who saved the girl, and the quote stuck in my mind because, beyond being the perfect line to end the show with, it also spoke volumes to me about the emotional roller-coaster I’ve been on for the last few days.
This particular ride started the other night when, while channel surfing my cable TV looking for something to amuse me, I decided to watch a bit of True TV’s World’s Dumbest. All was going well, and both I and my son (who was watching the show in his room) were having a great time laughing at all the silliness. That is, until they got around to this clip:
I don’t know if any of you have read the posts in the My Life volume of this blog, but let’s just say that I’ve had way too much exposure to that kind of violence for me to find anything funny about it at all. In fact, I reacted to that clip just like the stereotypical “shell-shocked combat veteran who’s just heard a car backfiring” would – by flashing back through some the absolute worst moments of my life.
Needless to say, that spoiled my channel surfing fun for the night, and I did not watch the remainder of the program. I had to close the door to my room as well, because I knew that my son would wonder at the extremity of my reaction and I feared that trying to explain would just make matters worse.
Having been witness to so much violence in my own life, and knowing all along that others have experienced brutality on a scale that makes what I’ve seen seem small by comparison, you can perhaps understand why the idea of being the hero who saves the day has such great appeal to me. Which is why the title of Jet Li’s film, Fearless, listed on my cable guide, caught my attention on Friday night. This trailer sets it up quite well I think:
The story itself goes far beyond the martial arts action depicted in the trailer though. According to Wikipedia, the film…
“… is loosely based on the life of Huo Yuanjia, a famous Chinese martial artist who challenged foreign fighters in highly publicised events, restoring pride and nationalism to China at a time when Western imperialism and Japanese manipulation were eroding the country during the last few years before the birth of the Republic of China.”
To me at least, this film says a lot about the soul-eroding effects of living in a culture, not so unlike our own, where the ability to inflict harm upon your fellow man is held in such high regard. And while the end to Huo Yuanjia’s life was indeed very tragic, the road he traveled to reach that end is, quite literally, the stuff of legend. Such an ending, one that somehow gives a deeper meaning to one’s life, even the “epic” tragedy that my own life has become, is something I’d hope we might all wish for.
I’ll close this bit of reflection with a old Pink Floyd song that speaks on the same subject:
I want ice water.
More from the My Life volume