Life is not safe. We are hurtling towards death, and in the meantime we experience crushing amounts of emotional and physical pain. Most of the time, however, we reside in the illusion that this constant disintegration isn’t happening to us. It’s a partial illusion, mostly, because we are constantly made aware of suffering and decay even when we aren’t feeling it ourselves. We gossip, watch the news, scour the Internet, read books. In general we are fixated on what’s going on with other humans. We seek out something, anything, about what we are, and how we behave, because even the smartest among us can’t seem to find out why we are, why existence has happened to us.
Sometimes, I get into sequences where I feel guilty for feeling comfortable and happy because there are people in the world who are not these things. At any given time there is a great deal of misery going on in the world, and that is significant. It should not be forgotten, but if I (or you,) in this moment, have a bit of joy or peace, that is of great importance, too. Happiness is part of this thing we’re all doing, and if you get the chance to feel it, let yourself feel it, and perhaps it will be more quick to return.
Just as we get caught in an illusion of comfort, we can get caught in an illusion of discomfort. Everything we think or see is like this, a tapestry we weave with our minds, pulling in outside threads, often not realizing that we have the choice to pull in different threads than the ones with are pulling, and that one thread is not less a part of reality and existence than the other. Half of the time I am trying to teach myself that it is ok to not be ok, and the other half I am trying to teach myself that it is ok to be ok. And that’s what I love Don Hertzfeldt, and am so delighted that his feature animated film It’s Such a Beautiful Day is on Netflix right now.
I’m not a spiritual person, not in the way most people talk about spirituality, but this film is a very spiritual film for me. It captures both the irritating horror AND wonder-filled beauty of our mundane, dripping days. It’s shot through with the fragile dream of living, and our conception of our self is at the mercy of a strange and complex physicality we are constantly trying to separate ourselves from. We know we are our body, but it still seems foreign to us, a decaying betrayer.
Danger lurks all around us, in the lack of love we think we deserve from others, in cars, and wars, and, ultimately in our own bodies. Our own genes are at once creating us and destroying us. We were never even asked to be born in the first place, not one of us. But once we are here, we are expected to take care of ourselves with little instruction or direction. Many of us meander into jobs we find tedious and/or horrendous, that often seem to be stealing the dream of ourselves away piece by piece. Our relationships are difficult, often disappointing, and sometimes tortuous. We find it so hard to get along with these other fragile humans sharing our time with us. Our moods shift and struggle, our circumstances can change unexpectedly no matter how much we worried and planned.
And yet, it’s just a lovely thing to be alive, as bitter and mysterious as is it. It’s a folly to trick ourselves into hating it.
That’s sort of what It’s Such a Beautiful Day is about.
Hertzfeldt is debuting a new short film, “The World of Tomorrow” on the opening night of Sundance this year.