Most people are familiar with Woody Allen, the movie actor and director who has adoring fans all over the world. In fact I know someone who traveled from Europe to New York just to visit the locations of his movies! No other reason than that. Woody Allen seems to have it all. Millionaire, fame, assets, wife, family. But just as Siddhartha struggled with the meaning of life before becoming Buddha, celebrities struggle with the meaning of life, too. Below is a segment of an interview with Woody Allen that highlights his struggle to find meaning in an existence that is destined to vanish in the end.
Q. Have you found of the meaning of life? A. “No. The problem is that as you get older, things get worse. Things get more and more depressing. They are depressing at first, but they become even worse when you get older.”
Q. But you make a new movie every year, you have a lovely wife and kids, and everything would be seem to be working well for you. Life has been good for you, hasn't it? A. “Yes, within a scenario where every living creature is moving toward meaningless eternal annihilation, some are luckier than others: some have a terrible life, and some have a better life. I've been lucky. But in the end, it's like the first scene of Stardust Memories: all trains go to the same junkyard. So the poor homeless man has a terrible life, and I have a much better life, but in the end he vanishes, and I vanish, you vanish and the planets vanish, all the stars vanish and eventually there is absolutely nothing. All the struggle, the phone calls and all the nonsense that we say - everything vanishes.”
Q. So you think that you've never been happy? A. “You know, there are few moments of pleasure in life. For example, if you and I were in a concentration camp together, we could be hiding in a corner because we'd found a cigarette and we would have 60 seconds or two minutes of pleasure. But that's what it is. In the end, you're in a bad situation and I'm in a bad situation. Life is a very tragic, meaningless, brutal thing.”
Woody Allen seems to be someone who has thought deeply about the reality of life, don’t you think. In fact this interview reminds me of the passage from You Were Born For A Reason, and the quote from the writer Leo Tolstoy. When Tolstoy saw clearly the future that awaited him, he could no longer take enjoyment from life.
Leo Tolstoy, You Were Born For A Reason, page 68 “I simply felt astonished that I had failed to realize this from the beginning. It had all been common knowledge for such a long time. Today or tomorrow sickness and death will come (and they had already arrived) to those dear to me, and to myself, and nothing will remain other than the stench and the worms. Sooner or later my deeds, whatever they may have been, will be forgotten and will no longer exist. What is all the fuss about then? How can a person carry on living and fail to perceive this? That is what is so astonishing! It is only possible to go on living while you are intoxicated with life; once sober it is impossible not to see that it is all a mere trick, and a stupid trick!”
Maybe both Tolstoy and Allen are sensitive artists who are sensitive to life, too. When we look squarely at the certainty of death, the question of the meaning of life comes to the fore. “Since everything I have must eventually vanish then why am I struggling so much to live?” After 6 years of seeking an answer to this issue, Siddhartha Gautama found the answer, and then as Shakyamuni Buddha, shared it in his teachings for the next 45 years.
In the webinar lectures, we can learn the essence of Buddha’s deep teaching and know the universal meaning of life that transcends time and place.