Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lust For Life

The striving to live, what George Bernard Shaw called “the life force,” is not as obvious a drive as it might sound. It's the most elemental urge of the species, accounting for procreation and host of other processes including destruction and dissolution. The Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter,  for example, invented the term creative destruction in talking about one of the forces at work in a capitalist economy. But the inertial force of existence itself may be a mysterious as death. You see it most clearly in those for whom there is no seeming hope, those who have lost everything and still want to continue on through a barren landscape which is often devoid of familiar faces. It’s easy to see why a young person with all of life before him or her wants to live and all the more disturbing when a youthful person succumbs to an illness or takes their own life. However, you really see the life force at work amongst those elderly people for whom work and love, two elements of life which Freud identified as central, no longer hold sway. Most people are not about to start a new career at the age of 90, though in a New Yorker piece about his aging process Roger Angell did talk about a nonagenarian pursuit of love and companionship and even his use of on line dating sites. A Rage to Live was the title of a 60’s movie about a nymphomaniac  and then there was the famous biography and movie about Van Gogh, Lust for Life. Yet no one has ever accounted for what makes people want to hold on to life, after all hope for any palpable rewards has passed. It’s like the notion of art for art’s sake. In those people who want to live, with no strings attached, for as long as they can, you see the life force in its purest form.


  1. Francis, It's interesting that you should post this today because this morning, an elderly cast member was doing his morning exercises in the living room (I was in the adjoining room studying my script) and I started to get a little irked by the noise he was making as he went through his exercises. It wasn't very loud...just consistent and rhythmic and it annoyed me the way a tree branch that keeps lightly scraping your arm as you sit quietly reading a book in the park might. Then, the beauty of what he was doing finally occurred to me and I found myself smiling in spite of myself. We all die, that's a given, but like the noble tree that keeps growing upward despite in it's silent duel with gravity, weather, entropy and age, this man keeps fighting to retain his health and mobility. Sickness, disease, sudden fate or just plain old age will eventually win, but I find myself inspired and touched by his strength and courage. Sly Stallone delivered a great monologue in his latest installment of Rocky. It gives me goose bumps ever time I watch it.

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  3. Hi this is beautifully said. I am of two minds about this whole matter. Sometimes I look at the desire to live in those who are a burden to others as a form of gluttony (and it’s something I hope I have the courage to somehow elude) and other times, as reflected in the post, I look at it as the purest form of the human spirit,human will distilled to a potion we might call Essence of Life.


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