ad astra per alia porci

something meaningful from a (probably) meaningless movie
December 12, 2007, 3:04 pm
Filed under: diary


It is unusual for one to derive some sort of deeper meaning and significance from a phrase or even worst a song in a dated Hongkong movie starring Stephen Chow and Andy Lau but this is exactly what happened to me with regard to this short clip from a movie that I have not even watched in full before. I quote the particular portion of the song which I found to be of great personal meaning:

young man has to work hard
I have to be decisive
with my strength
to cure my sadness, and be happy

This song was performed by Stephen Chow and Andy Lau who are presumably playing the roles of young yuppie upstarts trying to build their careers with the help of various anonymous background “dancers”. I have to say that given that I have not watched the entire movie, I cannot describe for sure what the characters are but this is rather immaterial as to what I feel was meaningful in the song, which is embedded in the words that I have quoted above.

The deliberately mousy and geeky way in which the song was performed did affect my response to the lyrics but I have to say that the words touch my heart. It sort of reflects my current situation and my aspirations simply yet accurately.

It reflects the situation that most young men starting out working life or trying to get something started in their lives find themselves in, doesn’t it? At least from an Asian, Singaporean perspective, we are expected to work hard and bury our noses in our work in order to achieve something in our lives and provide for ourselves and our families, future or current. We need to make decisions and be firm in our beliefs and our actions.

I particularly liked the last line, where I sense a tension between overt and superficial happiness expressed and achieved through the fulfillment of what one thinks is supposed to be the conventionally and socially-accepted “right” and “accepted” thing to do and the underlying unhappiness and emptiness that one is left with at the end of the day.

Presumably we work hard in order to achieve all the things that conventionally anyone would want in life; cash, a house, good food and a car are prime examples. However clearly one must question what is the point of it all. There is something existentially meaningless about working in a 9-5 job and going through the motions of conventionality; I can draw a parallel between my study of the law and my purpose for it and the idea of existential meaninglessness. There is some conflict between one’s actions and one’s inner feelings; somehow my actions do not measure up to what I expect or truly want in my heart of hearts.

That, I think, underlines the essential meaning of that line. On the surface one pursues the good things in life earnestly and with full heart through honest hardwork. However, there is this niggling and persistent feeling that something is missing, that there is an emptiness under the veneer of rationality and conventionality. I cannot say that I have fully resolved this question myself and I feel that perhaps I can never stop grappling with this issue in my life; I wonder if this is true of many others too.


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