Monday, November 10, 2003

The Abyss

The Abyss

I have been watching Oliver Stone's Wall Street regularly since my university days and I never seem to get bored with it. Besides Michael Douglas' now famous "greed is good" speech, there's a scene near the end that I am very fond of: When Charlie Sheen walks into his office to find law officers waiting to arrest him for insider-trading, his colleague, played by Hal Halbrook pulls him aside and gives him a philosophical piece of advice:
"Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss. "
That I think expresses succintly the feeling of isolation and helplessness a person feels when faced with the prospect of having to face a great difficulty alone. One's whole being is consumed by the utter terror of loneliness--of staring into an empty abyss.

Life feels a bit like that sometimes. We look ahead, and we see nothing staring back. We are terrified. And we want to cling to someone or something. The terror increases when we find that there is no one we can turn to; everybody has abandoned you or are too busy to care. At times like these we begin to truly value friends or a life companion who will stick with us through thick and thin. Some turn to God.

We all know the feeling. There are ocassions when we all would catch a glimpse of the Abyss. The loneliness and the terror are too much for us to bear and we end up making panic decisions. We grab the most convenient means of escape. For some, it is drugs and intoxicants. Others dive into reckless relationships.

The terror of the Abyss is so great that we prefer to endure failed relationships than to face life alone. The messy entanglements of life are better than the Abyss: That dreaded fall into nothingness filled with the echoing howls of despair of one plunging further and further into interminable depths of loneliness.

It is important that we build and keep friendships, nurture family ties and intensify our faith in the Almighty. In the end, we all help keep each other out of the Abyss.

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