Am I the Man On the Moon?

Two films have greatly been relevant in the existential/midlife crisis I’ve been going through: The Last Jedi (perhaps you’ve heard of it; it’s a little known and obscure sci-fi movie) and Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, a Netflix documentary about Jim Carrey’s experience portraying the late, brilliant Andy Kaufman in his biopic. I understand if you are confused by the seeming lack of relation here, so I’ll explain.

The Luke Skywalker as portrayed by Mark Hamill was obviously a significant departure from the character I grew up with. Seeing him as a broken hermit, a shell of his former self, wrought with feelings of fear, failure, self-doubt and disgust with the world around him, was NOT by any means what I needed to see at this stage in my life. It all hit too close to home. It is too easy for me to empathize with that path of thinking. Whereas I would have loved to see Luke as a beacon of wisdom, hope, goodness and/or, at least, serenity, that wasn’t what Rian Johnson gave us. There’s nothing I can do to change it, so I should probably just accept this thing as one of those I cannot change. It wasn’t my movie to make or my story to tell and screaming at the wall will do nothing to remedy the situation.

I did at least manage to take away a little helpful advice from Old Man Luke: “Breathe. Just—breathe.”

Quite unexpectedly, the now older, wiser and (also) bearded Jim Carrey spoke to me in a positive way. Jim seems to have become a wise hermit who is mostly at peace with himself and his place in the world. He’s all but disappeared from entertaining and spends most of his days painting. I imagine some people are quite sad about the disappearance of their favorite, rubber-faced clown, and I can see where they would be coming from. But much like “TLJ”, Jim Carrey’s life is not anyone’s but his to make, and his story is his own to write.

It occurred to me when watching Jim and Andy that Jim realized the extent of his unhappiness and/or sense of being lost in life when (basically) losing himself to portraying one of his idols, and one of mine as well. Andy Kaufman was humanity’s martyr to the absurd. He found places in comedy as an art that few knew existed or understood. He pushed the boundaries. He was in practice, if not attitude, fearless. And it seems to me, a casual but earnest observer, that when Jim was forced to portray Andy’s life and death, that something inside him died as well.  

In the words of Jim: “Where did this character come from? What is the dirt that the pearl is built around? And the pearl is the personality that you build around yourself as a protection against that thought: ‘If they ever find out that I'm worthless, if they ever find out that I'm not enough, I'll be destroyed.’”

I don’t know what this all means, or even the point I’m trying to make. I’m still looking for it in the rough. I don’t know where I am going. I might change careers or I might buy a van and spend my days surfing up and down the coast. I don’t know what kind of old man I will be: the sad, bitter hermit or the enlightened, serene holy man with the spark still burning behind his eyes. I am still writing the script scene by scene. If I look too far back or too far ahead, I’ll be overwhelmed. So I do my best to live in the now.

A few days ago, when I was thinking about the “Luke v Jim” title bout being fought in my psyche, a third wise man came to mind, someone who I’ve also come to understand on a deeper level, a man whose philosophy on life I quite believe in: The Dude. The Dude is a man who does not take anything too seriously, says yes more than no, is open to all possibilities, and does not envy. The Dude just wants to have a White Russian and go bowling, which frankly sounds like a fine way to live.

Maybe I’ll get there. Maybe I will be able to live so peacefully and simply. In the meantime, I’ll try to be open to what the universe has in store for me.

I’ve taken this to heart: “The Dude Abides. I don’t know if you take comfort in that, but I do.”

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