"There comes a time in man's search for meaning when one realizes that there are no answers. When you come to that horrible, unavoidable realization, you accept it or you kill yourself. Or you simply stop searching." - John Hurt as The Priest, Jackie
This cheery piece of wisdom is delivered to Natalie Portman's version of Jackie Kennedy as she's grappling with the trauma of watching her husband's head explode. Jackie is trying to deal with her own grief while also deciding on the most historically appropriate manner of commemorating The President's death for the country. She's never allowed the simple kindness of privately mourning her husband's murder, except the night she spends drinking heavily and staggering around the residence.
Given all of that, it seems especially brutal to tell a newly widowed mother of two there's really no point to anything, so she should stop looking for a point at all.
Way harsh, dude.
Of course, I'm befuddled as to why anyone would go to a member of the clergy seeking comfort. How religious am I? Well, for this post, I had to check to see if the proper spelling was "priest" or "preist." I was raised to be suspicious of organized religion and it's served me well. I wasn't especially shocked when a friend who was being battered by her husband went to their minister for guidance, and was told that, if only she was a better wife, her husband wouldn't beat her. Then as an added bonus, the minister proceeded to gossip about her with other members of the congregation, called her husband to tell him what she'd said about him, and her husband beat her again for "airing out their dirty laundry in public." By "beat, I mean, "put her in the hospital for a few days."
Thanks for the help, padre.
When Jackie, in her darkest hour of need, seeks counsel from the priest and is given the theological equivalent of, "Nothing we do matters," it's less than helpful. This demotivational man of the cloth then goes on to talk about still getting up in the morning and making the coffee, which is just another way of saying trite pap like, "Life goes on."
Here's the worst part. Are you ready?
The longer I'm alive, the more people that I get to know, and the more episodes of Vice News that I watch, the more convinced I become that everything that happens in life is random. It would be a relief to believe in karma, but I've seen some truly fabulous people suffer through horrifying experiences, and I've seen some horrifying people enjoy some truly fabulous experiences. I've seen bad people go unpunished for their misdeeds, and I've seen kind, generous people get punished for just existing.
I've heard it said that, without religion, the globe would collapse into violent anarchy. That's possible. However, what if - on a solely individual basis - we decided to just behave ourselves? What if, instead of expecting some omnipotent father figure to punish us for our misdeeds, we just decided not to do dumb, ugly shit because it's dumb & ugly? What if we stopped hoping for a heavenly reward and just tried not to be a jackass? Is it possible for human beings to just decide to do good, to be good for the sake of being good, without the expectation of a divine pat on the head? If there were no supernatural consequences for our actions - no fire, no brimstone, no demonds dragging you down to hell - would we be able to decide not to hurt each other?
If heaven did not await as an inevitable, just reward for a life well-lived, could humans decide to avoid their baser impulses? Could we prevent our own descent into hell on earth if we had no better angels shouting down our worst demons?
I'm certain it's possible.
I'm just not sure it's likely.