About Schmidt. About You.

In the movie, About Schmidt, we meet Warren Schmidt when he is 66 years old, and retiring from a career as an actuary at the Woodman Insurance Company. He has lived an unexamined life, which Socrates reminds us, “is not worth living.” In retirement, Warren finally begins examining his life and doesn’t like what he sees. (One cynic said of Socrates advice ¢â‚¬Ëœthe unexamined life may not be worth living, but the examined life makes you want to kill yourself. Schmidt may validate that notion.)

Schmidt’s daughter, for whom he has great affection is about to marry someone he thinks is a complete loser. Warren can’t convince her to break it off, because he has been uninvolved in her life for so long, he hasn’t ‘earned the the ¢â‚¬Ëœright to be heard.’ When his wife unexpectedly dies, he discovers letters revealing her affair with one of his best friends. Again Schmidt feels he is helpless because, as he says, ¢â‚¬ËœI wasn’t always ¢â‚¬Ëœthe king of kings¢â‚¬¦I let you down¢â‚¬¦,’ asking, ¢â‚¬Ëœcan you ever forgive me?’

Schmidt pours his heart out in writing to Ndugu, an African child he has sponsored, and near the end of the movie Warren asks, ¢â‚¬ËœNdugu, when I am dead and gone, and everyone who knew me is dead an gone, what difference will I have made? None. None at all.’

How would you answer that question?

Today’s headlines feature Steve Case resigning as AOL chairman. Another headline details the demise of Jerry Levine, one of the architects of AOL’s merger with Time Warner, revealing he is in the midst of divorce and deep in debt. In today’s news we read about the downward spiral of once-hot Diana Ross, there is a story about Madonna, who we are told, removed all TV’s from her house three years ago, so she could avoid all the negative news about herself! These stories remind us that fortune and fame can be transitory and may not give life the meaning and purpose people think they will find if they achieve them.

As I left ‘About Schmidt,’ I asked my friend Dave about the message of the movie. Dave responded, “I think it asks the question: at the end of it all. What if I totally missed it? In the end what if all my decisions were the wrong ones?”

We’re told “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” When you are dead and gone, and everyone who knew you is dead and gone, what difference will you have made?

What really makes the difference? If fame and fortune are so fleeting in their rewards, why do so many pursue them? What is the alternative? How do you live a life that matters?

“Life is short and I can’t afford to waste another moment. I know we’re all pretty small in the big scheme of things and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference. But what kind of difference have I made?” Warren Schmidt.

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in January 13, 2003 by | No Comments »

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