I watched the movie "the fault in our stars" late last night. It was a tearjerker no doubt. But I did not cry as expected. I did something far worse. I wrote. It was literal tears translated into literary ink. I wrote about love, life and death. I wrote about the enduring love demonstrated in two young storied lives who were both dying from cancer. I wrote about how love cannot cheat death but yet it can transcend it to live forever in our hearts. I wrote about how love cannot cure cancer but it can make one forget about its daily afflictions - if only for a moment. And I wrote about how love cannot stop the pain; in fact, it only worsens it when death beckons. But nevertheless love can deepen a life and in deepening it, love breathes life into life.
The movie taught me about the limitation of love but it also taught me about its power. The power of love is not about adding hours or days to a life ravaged by the intemperate fits of cancer. Time is in fact blind to one's tragedy. It cannot and will not empathize. It is uninterested in how humans conduct their affairs amidst the pain; however valiantly and courageously they brave through it. Time is in this respect emotionally challenged. You cannot bribe time with everything you have and expect it to hold the inevitable for you for longer than you wish. Neither will time wait for a man or a woman, or in this context, two star-crossed lovers destined to die young. When it is time to go, you go. It is clearly non-negotiable.
But for what time would not do for us, love would willingly step up to the plate. Love changes things. Love is a faithful companion in tragedy and a comforting refuge in the tent of hope. Love would hide passing time from us. Love would merge a moment with eternity and give us the impression that time has stopped just for us. And love would fill each second and minute with compelling meaning that demands time to take stock. Love gives. Love serves. Love sacrifices.
Of course, death comes to all and no amount of wishful thinking can detour or delay it. Life and death have already entered into a pact and it is an unbreakable bond, timeless and blind. It is a covenant of mutuality of responses. It is a sacred duty to be honored without exception. Where life starts, death will stand back in respect. Death will allow it to run its course. It will abide by its gentleman’s agreement. But where life ends, death will take over in studious succession. Where life yields, death seals. Seen in this way, the heir to life is death and the legacy of death is life.
The movie challenges me to think about love, life and death not as separate conflicting parts but as a continuous – though sometimes disharmonious - whole, flowing like a searching river and navigating by the sails of our collective choices. The young protagonists in the movie (only 16 and 18) knew very well that their love cannot flourish without the shadow-and-light dance of life and death. It is an existential collaboration that boldly tempts fate and yet in tempting fate, it brings out what is most treasured and admired in love, that is, timeless passion. It is this miraculous suspension of fate that only those sharing such intimacy can ever experience. And it is in this experience that love, life and death are united in one congruous flow.
So, if life makes love obvious, then death makes it urgent. Impending death somehow sharpens the focus of what is important and what is not. It throws caution to the wind (to really live) and diverts what needs to be diverted and joins what needs to be joined. For I will never know what it means to love in my life if I have, in my invulnerable youthfulness, thinks that I have all the time in the world to love. The irony in that statement is deepened by the enemy of love and that is to take our loved ones for granted.
Imminent death will make sure that this will not happen because the greater irony for the living is to be numbed to this urgency to love deeply and be lulled into a state of believing that somehow this love is missing something - somehow it is not enough, somehow it doesn't satisfy. To the person who has all the time in the world - so he/she thinks - love takes secondary role to ambitious striving, aimless possessing. This then turns us into wandering, insatiable spirits looking for that defining and meaningful connection in our life when it has in reality never left us. She or he has always been there - within reach. Alas, it often takes death (or dying) to remind us to love, not so much life (or living). And it often takes death to teach us what life is too forgetful to teach and that is to treasure it.
So, as I rest my thoughts and salve my tears, I am admittedly a restless beneficiary to the enduring message of this heartwarming movie “the fault in our stars”. And the message is best summed up in this poem by William Blake, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower. To Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour.” And love keeps a remembrance. It is a remembrance that lasts for an eternity. Cheerz.