Hindsight’s 50/50: You Choose to Either Focus on the Positive or the Negative Memories

No, I didn’t mean to say “20/20”.

It’s easy to look back at when life was a bit easier (AKA “the good ole days”) and compare it to now.  There’s a 50% chance that life seemed better a year ago, two years ago, or five years ago.  But, there’s also a good chance (let’s say 80%) if that’s the case, that you’re choosing to focus on the best parts of that time in your life, and for the most part, forgetting about the tough parts.  Hindsight’s 50/50 because you either romantically focus on the ideal parts of the past, making your present life the short straw compared to it, or, you don’t, and instead make an effort to choose the bad parts of that ideal year too.

In a sense, everything in life can be broken down to the statistical chance of 50/50.  Either you will get that one thing in life you’ve always wanted, or you won’t.  Either you win the lottery, or you won’t.   Either you will live to be 100, or you won’t.  One of the few events in life that can’t be assigned the 50/50 status is whether or not you will die at some point; No matter what the percent chance is how you leave this world: by cancer, by car accident, by heart attack, etc.

Last night I watched the final episode of Lost again.  One of the most memorable scenes for me was when the protagonist, Jack Shephard, technically in a flash-forward of the future after he had already died, meets his father in the afterlife.  “I died too,” Jack says to his father.  His father reassures him with a smile, “It’s okay, son… Everybody dies sometime, kiddo.  Some of them before you, some of them long after you.”

Whether you ever watched Lost or not, I’m not giving away anything by telling you what happened in the last scene. Because really, for any TV show or movie, ultimately everyone does die- it’s just that that’s never included in the episode.  Does Marley die at the end of Marley and Me? Whether he does or doesn’t die at the end, he still has to die sometime.  But it’s when a protagonist’s death is included in the script that we are forced to be reminded that beyond each “good time” and “bad time” in our lives, there ultimately is a bigger picture.

We have to choose to focus and dwell on the good parts of life now in this moment.  Otherwise, we end up psychologically living in the past when things appeared to be better than they are now, or we live in the future when things will hopefully be better, which is again focusing on a potentially imaginary life.  Because at this point, the glorious past and the perfect future are both impossible now.  The only thing possible is what is happening right this minute.

Hindsight really is 50/50.

Here is the final scene of Lost; the conversation between Jack Shephard and his father:

If you enjoyed this post, there is a 50% chance that you will also like these ones too:

The Good Ole Days: Past, Present, or Future?

and

Sounds Like Someone’s Got a Case of the What If’s?

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dad from day one: He Who Dies Happy in Old Age, Still Dies

Thirty weeks.


Ironically, while waiting for my first child to be born I am accompanied by thoughts of the finality of my own life.  Having a baby is such a huge milestone, such a life-changing event, that my mind skips decades ahead to when my kid will graduate high school, to when I will be a grandparent, and ultimately, to my inevitable passing into eternity.  In my mind, all those big events are strung together like bubbly Christmas lights from 1988.

My wife and I have this agreement that concerning our own inevitable deaths, we will die healthy but of “natural causes” in our sleep, both at age 92, holding hands.  And I would assume that most happily married people would wish for the same thing- to be able to raise their children with their spouse, to grow old with their family, and to pass this life in our right minds – not lonely and suffering in a nursing home.  I don’t consider a sudden brain aneurism, a car accident, or being mauled by a bear while hiking through the woods.  No, you see, I have carefully planned out my own “natural causes” death in a romantic and perfect way.

And that’s the only way I can think about the end of my life- with optimism.  Assuming I will live a long, happy life, giving all I can to my family.   It’s the only way I can think, because even now, two months before Baby Jack is scheduled to arrive, I am responsible for another life.  I have to be here to take care of him.  And my wife.

I truly am incapable of trying to fathom how so many people in the world don’t have a solid understanding (or at least some kind of basic perspective) of what happens after this life, and that they don’t think about it on a daily basis like I do.  How the afterlife is completely something to be considered, how beyond heaven and hell issues, this dream of life is the prequel to eternity.  And now, already, a new soul has been created, and I had something to do with that.  I have changed the course of eternity.

This baby is not just a body; he’s got a soul.  A soul that will need guidance for this life and the eternal one.  And I have to be here for that.  Even if these thoughts may seem dark and depressing to some, I refuse to ignore the reality that life and death are intertwined.  As much as I “try not to take life too seriously” like all those stupid bumper stickers and annoying e-mail forwards tell me, I still take life seriously enough to think about this stuff.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Russian Roulette with a Made in China Cap Gun

I’ve heard the phrase “we’re not promised tomorrow” enough throughout my lifetime that it’s become a cliché. And what else can I really do to truly “live my life” and “make the most of it”? My issue is that I’m too aware of how short and precious life is.

During the summer of 1998, right before my senior year of high school, I spent a few weeks at a music camp in which us kids stayed overnight in the dorms of the college at Snead State in Gadsden, AL. I wasn’t the kind of kid who looked for trouble when not supervised. So instead of sneaking out at night, one of the things us teenage boys did in that dorm was play Russian Roulette, with a toy cap gun that was made in China.

Because, what else would we do?

In other words, the seven of us staying in that hall gathered in one room around a toy gun that we loaded with its accompanying ammunition, the equivalent of Snap and Pops. It had a barrel just like a real gun and we would only place one “bullet” in at a time. Meaning that there was only a one-in-six chance that the toy gun would make a big “POP!” when the trigger was pulled.

We all took a turn, passing the toy gun to the next guy after we pressed it to our own temple and pulled the trigger. If it was just a “blank”, we stayed in the game. If it went off, we were out.

It was a very entertaining game. Actually addicting.

But at the same time, it made us nervous. Our hearts would speed up in the anticipation. All over a popping sound from a toy gun bought at a gas station.

Just a dumb game we played that summer. But for me, it brought some reality to the fact of how true that analogy is in every day life. I do everything possible to eat and drink healthy, to exercise regularly, and to reduce stress. Preventing disease and cancer is a lifestyle to me.

Yet, as people who smoke cigarettes and who regularly eat fast food and who don’t make an effort to exercise daily all tell me, “we all gotta go sometime”.

There are still car accidents. There are still those random deaths like an unexpected brain aneurisms, and I don’t even know that that is.

I am completely over-aware that every morning I wake up, it’s a game of Russian roulette. Maybe not a one-in-six chance of life ending. Maybe more like one-in-a-half-a-million.

But to me, I’m only alive another day because God let it happen. So really, it’s not a matter of any chances. Not one-in-an-anything.

And that truth is one of the most sobering, frightful, and yet grace-filled thoughts I can think of.

Would You Define Your Life as a Comedy or a Tragedy?

The same question goes for the movie Garden State.

I have struggled for a solid ten years trying to figure out what makes things funny. Universally, seeing someone fall down (who doesn’t get hurt) is always funny, but I don’t know why. Defining what humor is, is almost impossible to simply and briefly put into words. What I can do is make a judgment call on whether something as a whole is a comedy or a drama.

One of my college professors taught me there is a clear way to distinguish between the two: Comedy involves a protagonist who in the beginning of the story is standing outside the borders of his society and by the end of the story is accepted into it. Therefore a tragedy is when the protagonist in the beginning is accepted as part of the society but by the end is expelled from it.

To test this theory on comedies, I will take Adam Sandler for example: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Water Boy, The Wedding Singer, and Big Daddy all involve a character who starts out as one or more of the following: incompetent, poor, lonely, selfish. By the end of the movie, Adam Sandler’s character is accepted into the fold as these previous attributes are resolved. So I can see how the definition of a comedy works here.

For tragedies, I will take some horror movies for example: The Blair Witch Project, Skeleton Key, The Strangers, Quarantine, and Carrie. The protagonists end up either dead or in a really bad situation by the time the credits roll. So I can see how the definition of a tragedy works here, as death or loss of freedom is a way of being ousted from a society that the protagonists were once a part of.

The end of a movie ultimately defines it as a comedy or tragedy. Garden State, which is more a drama than anything, ends with Zach Braff’s character being able to overcome his dependence on his doctor’s/father’s misdiagnosed prescription of anti-depressants and feel alive for the first time as he moves back home to New Jersey, making new friends and finding love: That’s a comedy.

Using this theory, these other genre-vague movies would also be considered comedy: Fight Club, Forrest Gump, and Elizabethtown. And these would be tragedy: Into the Wild, Vanilla Sky, and One Hour Photo.

Life is comprised of rotating moments of comedy and tragedy. Times where I’m on the outside looking in and I get in (comedy) and times where I’m inside but am pushed out (tragedy). In ways big and small. But a person’s general perspective will cause him or her to see it ultimately as one or the other:

If life is comedy-in-progress, then life is me trying to figure out how to be normal enough to succeed in being accepted by my immediate society, eventually dying satisfied, knowing I’m surrounded by those who love me.

If life is tragedy-in-progress, then life is me already having everything I need and want in life but having it all taken away from me in the end, eventually dying sad and alone.

Big decisions, big decisions. I’ll go with comedy-in-progress.

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