Slumdog, experience and fate

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 28, 2009, 8:11 PM | comments: 0

We saw Slumdog Millionaire today, and it was exceptional. It totally deserved best picture. It broke out of that mold of Oscar movies that are dark, serious and, well, largely uninteresting to me.

India has fascinated me since college, and I've been very fortunate to know a great many natives since then. The culture is interesting, the women are arguably the most beautiful in the world, and it's such an interesting mix of historical influence. It's also a bizarre mix of a nation on the cutting edge of industry and technology on one end, and one of extreme poverty on the other.

The movie tells the story of a very young man's life by way of his appearance on the Indian Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, kind of a more realistic variation on the way Forrest Gump is told. What I started to get out of it very early on is that the experiences you have in life, no matter how terrible they are, ultimately come to serve you in some meaningful way. They kind of wrap this in a notion of fate, the old "everything happens for a reason" thing that I tend to believe is nonsense to a large degree.

The experience thing I get. Your experiences shape you in a way that may be beyond your control, but ultimately you do make the decisions on what to do with those experiences. And it got me to thinking about how different I would be if I didn't have my experiences. Nowhere is this more obvious than in my relationship experience. In fact, I often wonder what I'd be like if I would've had the experiences of the last four years, ten years prior.

For example, before I met Diana, I briefly went out with a girl a few times from out of town. The first time I met her, I thought she was very sweet. The second time, it was nice, but there were things that I found difficult to work with in terms of her approach toward life. We went out another time, and she asked to come with me on a long weekend in Orlando. By that time, I started to realize that she let life happen to her instead of owning it (surprising as someone with a graduate degree), and her self-esteem and indifference toward her own sexuality made her seem so broken. If we had met ten years earlier, I probably would have wanted to "fix" her. But my experience led me to realize that I just couldn't do that at my own expense.

The difference in perspective is kind of frightening to think about. Not so much for me, because I can't go back in time any way, but more because I think we're all doomed to do a lot of dumb things and have difficult experiences. It saddens me to think that if I have a kid, they too have to endure a certain amount of suffering. Is that our most true fate?

Regardless of the pain, there's little doubt that the experiences were ultimately worth it to me. I didn't have to grow up in a slum, obviously, and I'm at a place in my life now where I can make better decisions because of all that life has thrown at me. I don't think moving my experiences to an earlier part of life would've had much impact.

That's my final answer.


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